What's The Deal With Quinoa?

May 16, 2012   37 Comments

Seems like everyone is talking about kale and quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). It only took about 10 readers to ask me about it before I got my butt into gear.

Quinoa Soup Recipe

Quinoa is a seed that has a high protein content and it contains all of the nine essential amino acids which makes it a good choice for vegans. The gluten free community also loves quinoa because it is a good substitute for wheat.

It has a low glycemic load so diabetics like it and - if you get migraines - it contains 30% of your daily value of magnesium so it may help you. Can it clean your house for you? Alas, no.

I found a box of quinoa ($4.79) at my local supermarket next to the rice which makes sense because people make this is as a nutritional alternative to white rice. There was a recipe on the side for "Quinoa Pilaf" which is very similar to rice pilaf. It is easy to cook and will be done in about 15 minutes (same as rice).

How does it taste? Well, here is why it took me SO long to make my own quinoa. The first time I tried it, I decided it tasted like dirt. hmmmm. Since I don't like eating dirt, I avoided it until my best friend made a quinoa salad and asked me what I thought.

I tried the salad and decided that the texture was a bit....strange. My buddy also thought the salad was not a winner.

It turns out if your quinoa isn't rinsed enough it can have a bad flavor - but the quinoa I purchased PROMISED it was rinsed. I went out and found one of the latest cookbooks on quinoa (see below) and decided to try a soup because I happen to love barley soup.

This soup has 22% of your daily value of iron and 180% of your daily value of vitamin A per serving and it tastes yummy. The ground cumin and coriander give it a real depth of flavor. I know it can be tricky to find ground coriander, but it makes this soup POP! so include it if you can find it.

I made this with regular chicken stock and I think the sodium is a high per serving. Next time I will use low sodium chicken stock. You can use vegetable stock to make this a vegan soup.


Quinoa, Carrot, and Lentil Soup

1.8 from 16 reviews

adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Super Food

(serves 4)

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1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup diced red onion
2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Mix the first four ingredients in a large saucepan and heat to a boil. While the saucepan is heating start chopping your carrots, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, and cilantro. When the pot reaches a boil reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt and cook for five minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for five minutes. Serve with the cilantro as a garnish. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts

For one serving = 239 calories, 3.2 g fat, 37.3 g carbohydrates, 5.6 g sugar, 15.0 g protein, 11.1 g fiber, 800 mg sodium, 2 SmartPts

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

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I don't rinse my quinoa. I don't know what the boxes I buy say about that. The reason I use quinoa is because I don't have to rinse it and it takes a lot less time to cook than rice. I will be in the middle of cooking dinnner and think, "Shoot, I forgot to put on the rice. Oh quinoa is faster." But I also seem to end up with those little beads all over the place. It is much more seedy --- duh! --- than pasta but ok. I don't like rice in my soup so I don't eat quinoa like that. Welcome to the weird world (I think it is weird) of quinoa! :-)

I love quinoa! I make a dish that has quinoa, corn, and pinto beans -- and chipotle peppers -- that is delicious. I then slice fresh avocados and tomatoes on it as well as diced scallions -- and add some salsa -- it's a great one-pot dinner that is delicious. This recipe is in a cookbook called QUICK FIX VEGAN by Robin Robertson, which also has many other wonderful recipes.

Quinoa is one of my favorite foods! I just love the health benefits and I think it tastes better than other grains. One of my favorite recipes is a quinoa egg and spinach casserole. You should try it snack girl!…

We eat a lot of quinoa at our house - have been eating it for years (kale too)! I never trust the "pre-rinsed" claims and always rinse. That bitter coating is called saponin and it's the quinoa's defense against birds eating it. There are a ton of quinoa recipes on my blog, some veg/vegan, some not, but all tasty and very easy.

I mix quinoa into our brown rice every time I make it--one part quinoa to 3 parts rice and everything else the same. Works great!!

If you dry toast the quinoa in a skillet before cooking it, you will notice a tremendous flavor boost. Very nutty. You may never cook quinoa without toasting it ever again. It is worth the extra few minutes.

I had a hard time finding quinoa at first. I'm in a major metropolitan area, so not finding it in a regular grocery store seemed odd. I finally found it at Trader Joe's and Costco.

I've only made it once so far and was completely confused by the rinsing. I didn't know how to do it! I tried a strainer/colander, but of course that didn't work! Quinoa is so small it gets drained right along with it!

Looking forward to giving it a shot again.

I have jumped on the Quinoa bandwagon as an alternative to oatmeal in the mornings. I soak my Quinoa overnight to get rid of the dirt flavor and in the morning, put it in a pan with 2 parts water & cook it, covered, for 20 minutes. Then I mix in some warm milk, a little maple syrup and a handful of frozen blueberries. YUM! Plus - it keeps me full until lunch. Can't beat it!

Oh - I also wanted to mention what I use to strain the water out -- a clean kitchen towel over the bowl gets rid of the water but keeps the Quinoa from falling into the sink. Trader Joe's sells a really reasonably-priced organic version.

I will definitely be giving this a try! Thanks SnackGirl!

I made shrimp fried rice using quinoa. Nothing is actually fried. It was yummy.

I love quinoa. I don't care about rice but love the fact that quinoa is loaded with protein. I eat it daily. I too end up with quinoa everywhere. I find it is better when you toast it first! Yum

I have fallen in love with quinoa too! I just did a cleanse where it was practically a staple most days. I've found that using a veggie soup base (the organic, paste form in a glass jar -- got it at Whole Foods) and a bit of himalayan salt instead of just water when cooking it, it has a rich flavor. I've also used a dab of coconut oil (Trader Joe's brand) that gave it an unbelievable taste. And I'd LOVE to see you do a baked quinoa snack bar (a sweet version with maple syrup and cocoa and milk). I made one from another vegan site (can't remember where right now) that I cut into bars and kept in the freezer, then reheated it in the oven in the morning. YUM! Even my 6yo asks for quinoa instead of rice or pasta now!

I've made it a couple of times and find the texture is similar to squash, which is weird. I expect it to be like couscous. Am I doing something wrong? I have a bag of the stuff and hate to waste it, but I find it is a peculiar texture.

Thanks for the writeup, Lisa. Quinoa has a special place in my life. It was one of the first I-can-make-this-as-a-base-on-which-we-can-build-our-meals decisions I made that put (and, I daresay, kept) my wife and me on our healthy-eating path.

In November of last year, I stumbled on this page:…

and that's when I was like, "Oh, dude, even *I* can make that." :)

FWIW, when we've bought some for friends/family, I find that the little cardboard boxes are very, very expensive. Instead, I buy a big 4# bag of it (and it's the pre-washed stuff, no rinsing required) at our warehouse club for about $8 and make a few days' worth at a time in our rice cooker (also from the warehouse club!).

If I'm feeling frisky, I'll dry-saute some frozen vegetables in a non-stick pan, add them to the cooked quinoa, and make a simple pilaf. It's quite yummy, if I do say so myself. :)

I don't add the veggies to the quinoa while I'm making it (er, while the rice cooker is making it!) because sometimes I'll use it later for a funky dessert (e.g., add cinnamon and honey and stir) or put it into a soup or a tortilla (although that's kinda messy; better with some hummus to hold the cooked seeds in place), whatever, and I may not want veggies floating around my dessert. :)

@Mark- thanks for the suggestion about dry toasting it beforehand; I'll have to give that a shot.

We love quinoa and Costco sells it for a great price. We eat it everynight instead of rice or pasta.

Fry onions and garlic in olive oil

Warm up 4 cups of water put vegi or onion broth in it

Pour 1 1/2 cups quinoa in pan with a couple splashes of rice vinegar let it cook for a few minutes

Add broth let it simmer down
add some vegis towards the end
Simple and good

We tried Quinoa for the first time last night. However, we actually got a box of premade stuff - sun dried tomator flavor. I felt, if we're gonna try it, try something already made and with flavor. Well, hubby hated it (he's a total meat and potatotes guy so I figured he would, but he got props for trying) and I? was ok. I have leftovers for tonite that I may add some chicken too. But I know it's going to be another one of those things that I'll make for myself, while hubby eats his potatoes. Eventually, I'd like to try to make my own, so thanks for the recipe!

Love me some Quinoa ... here's a couple of good recipes ...

The first one is a knock-off of the one sold at Whole Foods.

I've been told that Costco sells a great Quinoa dish. Although, I have not purchased it yet.

Thanks, I have been meaning to try quinoa so now I have some ideas! Do you have any recipes for faro, I recently brought some back from my trip to Italy and have yet to experiment.

You can also rinse it and then "toast" it in some olive oil to improve the taste. For a nutty flavor, toast quinoa before adding water. To toast: Place quinoa in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat with or without a small amount of oil. Stirring constantly, toast until golden brown in color (It will pop while it toasts). Then you can continue on with cooking as directed with water. I find that adding chicken stock instead of water helps too.

Well where have I been all this time? Now I have to go scout out some of that weird sounding name stuff. LOL I'll try anything, as long as it doesn't make me gag, if it's good for me. Thanks for sharing.

I use quinoa in cold salads during the summer, such as a roasted veggie salad or a greek salad. It's divine and you get protein.

I look forward to trying the toasting method mentioned here.

Love to get some salad recipes

I had heard about quinoa and decided to give it a try. I bought a box at the store and when I tried to make it the SMELL WAS SO BAD that I was actually nauseous from it!!!! Does anyone know why this would happen? Can it spoil? I keep reading about it and would like to try it again but I am concerned that it will have the same smell again.

Quinoa is awesome! I use red quinoa quite often as a ground beef substitute (or I mix it in with ground beef to stretch it further). It has also helped a couple of my friends with breastfeeding... amazing! Anytime milk production was low, they would eat quinoa and the next day...viola! Pure awesomeness.

Try putting some in a fry pan with some oil and brown it first. Also try adding some dried fruit after you brown it along with veggies.

I love quinoa in my favorite summer salads. Bite size chunks of watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and quinoa. Salt and pepper to taste. One of my other favorite salads is that of fresh veggies, bite size, in a balsamic dressing or similar, add your favorite cheese (or not), and quinoa. For both salads I add or delete ingredients as they are seasonally available or what I feel like eating that day. Yum!

I am totally in love with Mark Bittman's Sweet Potato and Quinoa salad.…


I make a simple salad with cooked quinoa, drained rinsed canned black beans, chopped red and green bell peppers, chopped red onion, cilantro and lime. It keeps for a few days but I think something absorbs the lime because after day 2, you have to add more lime. It's fast and easy and delicious and you can take it to work without having to refrigerate it.

Lisa - I absolutely love this soup but am confused about your WW point count. 8 points for 1/2 c. uncooked quinua and 6 pts for 1/2 c. uncooked lentils. I can't figure where you came up with a total of 20 points for 4 servings. I try and keep my portions of any food to 4 points or less so I divided it into 5 servings and they were quite satisfying. Next batch will have an extra cup of liquid and an additional 1/2 c. of lentils so, by my calculations, I'll get 5 even- bigger servings for 4 points each. Thanks again, great recipe!

@Robin - could it be the chicken broth that added more points? I run my recipes through a calculator to get the nutrition info. and then I do PP calculation. Sometimes it doesn't work that well. I'm glad you like the soup!

Try Red quinoa... I love it. It has a nutty taste and texture.It also plumps up more than the regular form. I am not crazy about regular quinoa but love the red version.You can toast this also. I buy mine in the bulk area of Cental Market ( a Texas store).

I love this pesto quinoa with
sweet potatoes and kale from
Real Simple. It reminds me of
Pesto Pasta which I love.

It´s pronounced KEEN-O-A not KEEN-wah. Just a little language tip in return for your great recipe tips :)

I also tried Quinoa for the first time last night. However, we actually got a box of premade stuff - sun dried tomator flavor. I felt, if we're gonna try it, try something already made and with flavor. Well, hubby hated it.…

I used to eat quinoa a lot (maybe once a week, mixed with veg, occasionally leftover chicken with a balsamic dressing) but suddenly it started making me terribly ill each time i ate it. Has anyone else experienced this?

What is a serving size? 1 cup? 2 cups? I'm so bad at figuring that out. Thank you.

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