April 3, 2009

Quinoa - Ancient Indian Superfood

There have been many foods touted as "super foods". The list includes food like chia seeds, blueberries, oats, green tea, and acai berries. I try not to get caught up in the hype of these unsubstantiated claims; I believe we should simply try to eat a balanced diet of all healthy foods. There is no "magic pill" in the food world.

Another food that is sometimes placed on this super-food list is quinoa, pronounced "KEEN-wah". This is an ancient grain that was sacred to the Incas as the mother of all grains. It is easily cultivated and it spread throughout South and Central America as a dietary staple until it was largely replaced by maize.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not all that crazy about quinoa. It is a small grain that invariably ends up all over the counter and stovetop whenever I cook it. It has a slightly bitter taste and must be thoroughly rinsed to remove the natural waxy coating that adds to the bitterness. But despite these negatives, it cooks quickly and is one of the few grains someone on a gluten-free diet can enjoy. And if you believe all the claims, quinoa has twice the protein as other cereal grains, and it is a "complete protein", which means it contains all essential amino acids.

If you can't find quinoa, you can order it here: NOW Foods, Organic Quinoa Grain - 1 lb

Quinoa can be used in place of couscous, but the flavor is sometimes not compatible. So I am always on the lookout for recipes that work well with quinoa. Here is one that is not half-bad, probably because the vegetables mask the quinoa flavor.

Quinoa Vegetable Pilaf

This can be served as a main dish, hot or cold.


1 c whole-grain quinoa
2 c water
2 T lemon or lime juice
3 T olive oil
2 T parsley, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 c sliced celery
1 c frozen corn
1 c red bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced


1. Rinse quinoa well before using. In a medium saucepan, boil water and add quinoa. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.

3. In a large skillet, briefly saute all the vegetables in a little bit of oil. Add vegetables to the bowl.

4. Add cooked quinoa to the bowl. Stir until well blended. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.


  1. Yummmy, I love couscous and I must try using quinoa. I must say the pict is reminded me of my favourite Herbes de Provence couscous but without scallions and corn. Thank you for the recipe.

  2. So colorful and healthy! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Quinoa has a very nice taste on it's own. The kids - conservative as they are - refuse to touch them. Maybe because when you cook them they open up from the cute round seeds to look like small parasites of some sort...

  4. Thank you for the informative post about superfood. After reading your post I thought about mentioning about aronia berry even though it is still not popular in US. Aronia contains health properties equivalent to acai or noni or any other superfruit out there.