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How to make quinoa taste good? I should have probably searched that very phrase around the age of 13 when our family bought a 50lb bag of this incredibly healthy, protein-rich grain called “quinoa.” Let’s just say it wasn’t what we expected.
I’m not an incredibly picky eater, but I abhorred quinoa for quite a few years. It took us a while to work through that 50lb bag, but I still remember the nasty flavor. Ick.
What is Quinoa?
In case you’re unfamiliar, quinoa is technically not a grain, but rather a seed from Chenopodium quinoa plant, in the Amaranthaceae family. That means it is in the same family as spinach, chard, beets, and yes, amaranth. Quinoa is gluten-free and makes a good substitute for rice in cooking, plus it has a reputation for being incredibly nutritious since it’s high in protein and fiber.
If it’s so good for you, then how do you make it taste better? Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way…
Tips for Making Quinoa Taste Good
Choose the Right Color of Quinoa
Did you know…there are actually several colors of quinoa? Lucky for us, we tried the red variety, which in our experience is actually one of the strongest flavored quinoas available, LOL. We prefer the white quinoa now, because it has a much lighter flavor.
In addition, we also discovered a mix of multi-colored quinoa in the store a few years back. When we cooked it, we realized they didn’t cook at quite the same speed or texture, with one color in the mix being a bit softer than the others. We avoid the mixed quinoa for this reason.
Rinse Your Quinoa Before Cooking
This was another BIG mistake we made at first: not rinsing the quinoa. There’s actually a strong coating on the outside of the quinoa, so rinse it in a strainer before cooking.
The biggest challenge is that uncooked quinoa is quite small, so it falls through many mesh strainers (or gets trapped along the edges). I gifted my Mom this fine metal strainer for Christmas, and so far, it has worked better than some of the other strainers she’s used in the past.
Cover the Quinoa Flavor with Something Else
Quinoa is, shall we say, an acquired taste. It isn’t quite like rice, with a pleasantly sweet/starchy aspect to it. It’s difficult to describe. Maybe earthy fits?If you don’t like the flavor of quinoa, you might want to pair it with something stronger, to cover it up.
Meat or meat broth works very well. We primarily cook our quinoa in pork broth with bits of leftover pork chop in it, and the rich flavor from the meat tones down the flavor of the quinoa.
Strong flavors like onions or spices work too. In a soup, you can add spices and other flavors like celery, carrot, etc. We make an amazing fried quinoa recipe that includes lots of green and white onions, which covers up the flavor of the quinoa. It tastes much better than if we’d cooked it in plain water.
Overcook the Quinoa
A lot of recipes will cook quinoa just long enough, but before it goes mushy. I actually prefer my quinoa cooked a bit longer and with more moisture, somewhat like sticky rice. This is a preference, but it is worth knowing, since many recipes cook it “correctly” and don’t let it go mushy.
Don’t Use Quinoa Flakes…
Finally, a bonus tip. There’s such a thing as quinoa flakes (kind of like oatmeal, but made from quinoa). I’d imagine it’s quite nutritious, but it is quite strong in baked goods, so beware!
FAQs About Quinoa
Is Quinoa a Protein or Carb?
Quinoa contains both protein and carbs.
Can Quinoa Be Eaten Raw?
I wouldn’t recommend it. I can’t imagine it would be enjoyable. Plus, how would you digest it?!
Are Quinoa & Couscous the Same?
No, quinoa is a type of seed, while couscous is a wheat-based product.
What Should Quinoa Look Like When It’s Cooked?
When it’s cooked, the quinoa will separate into two pieces, the soft interior and a wormy-looking (sorry, I didn’t know how else to describe it!) exterior ring. It will get softer the longer it is cooked, providing there is plenty of cooking moisture, that is.
Have you found a way to make quinoa taste good? Share in the comments! 🙂