3 Ways to Use Quinoa

Stuck on how to use quinoa? These simple ideas for using quinoa are tasty, protein-packed ways to change things up using this versatile seed. If you want quinoa meals without the hassle, start here!

  • By Jess Dang
  • April 13, 2020

Quinoa has soared in popularity in recent years, and with good reason: This powerhouse of a seed packs a serious nutritional punch. It’s a complete protein — meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids — is high in fiber, is chock-full of essential minerals, and contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect against everything from heart disease to diabetes to skin cancer. 

But serving quinoa on its own can quickly get boring. That’s why we wanted to share a few of our favorite couldn’t-be-simpler ways to change things up. But first . . .

How to Cook Quinoa

Have you ever made quinoa that came out mushy? Much like rice, it’s hard to come back from overcooking quinoa or starting with too much water. Here’s how to ensure it comes out perfect:

Check the label on your bag of quinoa to see if it’s been pre-rinsed; if not, put one cup of quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and run it under cold water. This will reduce the natural bitterness of the finished product. Drain it well, then put the rinsed quinoa, two cups of water or broth, and a quarter teaspoon of salt into a pot and bring to a boil uncovered. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and you start to see little white tails appear on the grains. Turn off the heat and cover the pot for about five minutes. Then proceed with your favorite recipe or our suggestions below!

1. Quinoa + Spices + Sheet Pan = Taco “Meat”

Leftover quinoa is ideal to use as vegetarian taco “meat.” In the oven, it gets crispy and delicious. And it even looks a little like ground beef! (Okay, maybe from across the room.) 

To make this tasty faux meat, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment. Stir your choice of spices into the quinoa. Our favorite spice mix includes the following, but feel free to adjust to your taste: 

  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crispy and fragrant, stirring midway through. Check frequently toward the end of the cook time so that it doesn’t burn. Then use it as you would ground beef on tacos (or feel free to experiment with tostadas, burritos, nachos, or even quesadillas!). 

You can also skip the oven and just stir spices into fresh quinoa (or reheat leftovers in the microwave).

2. Quinoa + Avocado + Egg = Grain Bowl

Simple, classic, tasty. Quinoa grain bowls can be adjusted to use any veggies you have on hand (think zucchini, grilled bell pepper, eggplant, carrot, or kale), and we’re partial to some creamy avocado slices on top. A fried or soft-boiled egg makes this easy dish even better. Then pour some vinaigrette over the top, or try one of these combinations:

  • Sriracha mayo: mayonnaise + Sriracha + lime juice
  • Cilantro lime vinaigrette: cilantro + garlic + olive oil + lime juice + honey + Dijon mustard
  • Sesame soy vinaigrette: soy sauce + rice vinegar + toasted sesame oil + brown sugar + cooking oil

3. Quinoa + Tuna + Kale = Salad

A scoop of quinoa can dress up an otherwise boring salad, or elevate a side salad into a complete meal. We love adding it to kale salad with canned tuna (or for a treat, fresh seared tuna). These three ingredients plus vinaigrette is a meal all on its own, or you can add roasted root vegetables, diced celery, nuts, berries, or a crumbly cheese. For vinaigrette, we like:

  • Balsamic shallot vinaigrette: shallot + balsamic vinegar + Dijon mustard + maple syrup + cooking oil
  • Orange vinaigrette: shallot + orange juice + red wine vinegar + soy sauce + mustard + honey + olive oil
  • Sherry vinaigrette: garlic + sherry vinegar + lemon juice + Dijon mustard + honey + olive oil

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3 Ways to Use Quinoa | Cook Smarts3 Ways to Use Quinoa | Cook Smarts3 Ways to Use Quinoa | Cook Smarts


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