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All About Quinoa: What Is It and How to Cook It

Have you ever wondered what quinoa is, what it tastes like, and if it’s healthy? If you have, then look no further! Here are the answers to all your quinoa questions, and 15 recipes to get you started cooking with this awesome ingredient.

A measuring cup full of quinoa, surrounded by quinoa

Quinoa has become such a popular ingredient in the last few years. It used to be a mostly unheard-of ingredient in America, but now you can find it on the shelves of every grocery store. It’s even featured in recipes at a lot of restaurants! Suddenly it’s one of the hottest ingredients around.

I love quinoa, so it’s easy for me to see why it’s exploded in popularity. It’s a super affordable ingredient with a ton of different health benefits. It works in a million different recipes and is a great replacement for rice. 

It’s one of my go-to ingredients, which you probably were able to figure out from the name of the blog! And I wanted to share some of my all-time favorite quinoa recipes. They’re all healthy, easy to cook, and utterly delicious. I think you’ll like them as much as I do! 

A blossoming quinoa plant.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa seems like it should be a grain, but it’s actually a dried seed. The quinoa plant is native to South America, and the seeds from it are harvested, dried, and then cooked by people like you and me!

What Does it Taste Like?

The flavor of quinoa is mild and pretty similar to brown rice. I like it because it tastes earthy and a little bit nutty. One great thing about quinoa is that absorbs a ton of flavor when you’re cooking, so you can really make it tasty. Here are 6 of my favorite ways to season it.

A graphic showing the the health benefits of quinoa that reads "Quinoa nutrition facts (serving size: 1 cup, cooked): 4g total fat; 39g total carbs; 8g protein; 0g sugars; 5g dietary fiber; 222 calories," with the vitamin and mineral information below it

Is it Healthy?

I eat quinoa almost every day, because it’s just as healthy as it is delicious. Don’t believe me? Check out the nutritional data for a cup of cooked quinoa! 

Nutritional Info for Quinoa:

  • Calories – 222
  • Total fat – 4 g
  • Total carbs – 33 g
  • Dietary fiber – 5 g
  • Sugars – 0 g
  • Protein – 8 g

Quinoa Vitamins and Minerals: 

  • Vitamin E – 6% of the daily value 
  • Thiamin – 13%
  • Iron – 15%
  • Magnesium – 30%
  • Phosphorus – 28%
  • Zinc – 13%
  • Copper – 18%
  • Manganese – 58%

Is it Gluten-Free?

Another reason that I love quinoa is that it’s gluten-free. I like to use it as a substitute for grains! In fact, I use quinoa flour a lot of times in place of all-purpose flour. It’s a great way to make gluten-free baked goods. 

Does it Have Protein? 

Yes! Quinoa has a good amount of protein. That’s part of why I’m a big fan of eating quinoa in place of meat. A cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, but that’s not even the best part. Because quinoa is packed with different amino acids, it’s considered a nearly complete protein

A bowl of breakfast quinoa topped with banana slices and slivered almonds, with a spoon in it

Is it Healthier than Rice? 

I almost always opt for quinoa instead of rice because of the health benefits. Quinoa is a little bit healthier than brown rice and a lot healthier than white rice. Most importantly, quinoa just has a lot more protein and fiber than rice does. 

How to Store Quinoa

Don’t worry, dried quinoa is so easy to store! The only thing you have to do is keep it out of direct sunlight, and sealed in an airtight container or bag. As long as you do that, it will last for 2-3 years before it expires! Cooked quinoa also lasts a pretty long time. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it will last for a week. I love to make a big batch of it on Sunday so that I have quinoa for all my meals throughout the week.

Do You Have to Wash it? 

Here’s another reason to eat quinoa instead of rice: you don’t need to wash it! Unlike rice, quinoa doesn’t have any starch that needs to be washed off. Plus, it’s clean! You do have to cook quinoa with the right amount of water though, so check out my guide for finding the right quinoa-to-liquid ratio

Is Quinoa a Superfood? 

Yep! Quinoa is generally considered a superfood because of the large number of nutrients and vitamins combined with the low number of calories. It’s a great combination! 

Healthy Quinoa Recipes to Try

Sure, quinoa is super healthy, but it’s also fabulous tasting! And to top it all off, it’s easy to cook with, too! Here are a few of my favorite healthy quinoa recipes to get you started with this awesome ingredient.

cooked quinoa on a spoon

How to Cook Quinoa

Before you start making recipes with quinoa, you need to learn how to cook it. Cooking quinoa couldn’t be easier. This recipe walks you through the whole process. You’ll be making quinoa like a pro in no time!
Check out this recipe
Vanilla Almond Overnight Quinoa Recipe

Vanilla Almond Overnight Quinoa

People usually think of quinoa as being a savory food. But it can work wonderfully in sweet recipes, too. Quinoa replaces oats in this simple breakfast recipe, which is tasty and incredibly nutritious.
bowl of easy quinoa fried rice from the side with sesame seeds on top

10-Minute Quinoa Fried Rice with Vegetables

One of the most common ways to use quinoa is as a substitute for rice. It works well in most rice dishes, including fried rice. Quinoa goes so well with eggs and vegetables, so it’s a perfect fit in this recipe.
Check out this recipe
Superfood Quinoa Porridge with Berries

The Ultimate Superfood Quinoa Porridge

This is one of the healthiest breakfasts I’ve ever made. Not only does it have quinoa, but it also has oats, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, almond milk, bananas, and blueberries. Can you imagine a healthier breakfast? And just as importantly, it tastes delicious!
Check out this recipe
Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls

Healthy Quinoa Bowls: 6 Delicious Ways

Bowls are one of my favorite ways to eat quinoa. They’re such a good base for veggies, sauces, beans, and more. These are 6 of my favorite quinoa bowls that I never get tired of eating.
Check out this recipe
Wild Rice Quinoa Salad with asparagus and tossed in a lemon-turmeric vinaigrette - simple, healthy and super refreshing!

Wild Rice Quinoa Salad with Asparagus and Lemon-Turmeric Vinaigrette

This dish will leave your body feeling great. It has both quinoa and wild rice, with a large amount of asparagus and spinach. The tart vinaigrette pairs perfectly with all the ingredients, making this a healthy food you’ll want to eat every day.
Check out this recipe
Vegan Quinoa Salad for Summer

Herbed Spring Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salads are popular for a reason. They’re as delicious as they are nutritious. This salad also has chickpeas, as well as a few fresh veggies, and a lemon salad dressing. It’s fresh, filling, healthy, and also a lot of fun.
Check out this recipe
creamy vegan broccoli quinoa salad with sliced almonds

Creamy Vegan Broccoli Quinoa Salad

Broccoli and quinoa is one of my favorite flavor combinations. They just taste so good together. But the star of this dish is the garlicky, lemony creamy cashew dressing that tastes very similar to a caesar salad dressing.
This summery Zucchini Quinoa Salad is light, flavorful and packed with healthy ingredients!

Summer Squash and Zucchini Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

This is the perfect healthy summer salad. The flavors are so bright and vibrant, with lemon juice, lemon zest, and dill bringing out the flavors of the squash, zucchini, and quinoa. It’s fun, fresh, and super healthy.
Quinoa Pad Thai Salad found via simplyquinoa.com

Quinoa Pad Thai Salad

Quinoa goes really well with a lot of Asian flavors. It replaces noodles in this pad thai-inspired salad. It’s spicy, tangy, and loaded with fresh vegetables to complement the protein-rich quinoa.
overhead of a plate with six slices of pizza made with quinoa crust and melted cheese with tomato sauce topped with fresh basil and red pepper flakes

The BEST Quinoa Pizza Crust

I’m always in search of the best gluten-free pizza crust. This recipe just might be it. This recipe starts by soaking uncooked quinoa and then blending it into a paste. It makes for a restaurant-quality pizza crust.
Check out this recipe
quinoa bowl with roasted vegetables and chickpeas

Winter Quinoa Buddha Bowls

This is one of my favorite ways to eat quinoa. Just throw it in a bowl with a bunch of other healthy ingredients, toss it with one of your favorite dressings (this one uses lemon juice, tahini, apple cider vinegar, and miso paste), and enjoy. This recipe is hearty, comforting, and perfect for a winter night.
Check out this recipe
Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Peppers

The ingredients in this dish go so well together. It’s full of rich Mexican flavors like black beans, corn, bell peppers, chili powder, and cumin. Those ingredients and a few others are mixed with quinoa and stuffed inside a sweet potato. What more could you want?
Check out this recipe

Need More Quinoa Recipes?

Hopefully you enjoyed these healthy quinoa dishes. If you need more, make sure to check out my recipe page, where you can search for all of my quinoa recipes.