Tasty Tuesday: Cooking with Quinoa

Tasty Tuesday Wednesday comes around with alarming frequency these days. My apologies for turning this into a non-alliterative Tasty Wednesday.

I’ve discovered the coolest grain: quinoa. Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-WAH and originating in the South American Andes, is actually related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds! Quinoa looks like little seeds…because it actually IS little seeds. These little seeds are quite amazing–very high in protein for a seed and completely gluten-free. Quinoa has some interesting nutritional value that has made it a staple food in the Andes for millennia.


The quinoa that I’ve found is either dark maroon or tan. If I find other interesting colors, I’ll let you know. I buy my quinoa at Earth Fare from their bulk bins. Most stores in this country process the quinoa to remove the waxy coating called saponin. If, for some odd reason you end up with quinoa that still has the saponin on it, please google how to clean the quinoa. The saponins are very bitter and will ruin the quinoa.

Assuming that you have already-cleaned quinoa on your hands, it’s time to cook the quinoa. This is really easy and takes about as long as it takes to cook white rice. In fact, cooking quinoa is very similar to cooking white rice.

Put one part quinoa and two parts water into a heavy saucepan. (For example, for my family, I used 3 cups of quinoa and 6 cups of water….and my saucepan was LARGE.)


Bring the quinoa and water to a boil. After it boils, turn down and simmer just under boiling point for 15 minutes. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat. Let the cooked quinoa sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and then figure out what you’re going to do with it!


I was very pleased with the two different variations that I ended up with. The first dish used the maroon quinoa. The second recipe, which I will link to, uses the lighter tan quinoa.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Quinoa Salad

  • red quinoa (cook  1.5 c. quinoa)
  • the juice of 3 limes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 T. lime zest
  • 1 pound of shrimp, cooked and peeled
  • 1.5 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c. chopped mint leaves
  • 3 chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • Salt to taste

Stir all the ingredients together and let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.


I served this with a cup of seafood chowder and it was delicious. The mint leaves give your tastebuds a little jolt of surprise. If you can’t find mint you can leave this ingredient out. I liked it because it was unexpected.


The quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor that lends itself nicely to salads and sidedishes. It tends to take on the personality of whichever ingredients it hangs around with.

For another version of quinoa salad, check out Balsamic Chicken Quinoa at My Sister’s Kitchen. (This link will go live on Thursday morning, 10/1.)


If you’ve ever used quinoa and have ideas to share, I’d love to hear about them. Quinoa is my new favorite food!

Barb Kelley