What is Quinoa?
Forq serves up an exciting collection of Quinoa Recipes from our Test Kitchen. Vegetarian. GI Friendly. Gorgeous.
Welcome to the world of quinoa recipes! My name’s Becca, and I blog over at Amuse Your Bouche, where I share simple, easy-to-cook vegetarian recipes. As a vegetarian recipe developer, I use quinoa all the time in my cooking; quinoa is easy to cook, beautifully fluffy, and can be used in recipes in a million different ways. Here at Forq, I’ll be producing quinoa recipes from the Forq Test Kitchen, along with thought-pieces that help open up this grain (seed!) to new audiences.
In fact, if I was going to design my ideal food, it would look a bit like quinoa. Quinoa tastes like a straight-up carb, is just as satisfying as pasta or potatoes… but it’s super-duper healthy.
Quinoa is magic food – and I don’t say that lightly.
But, before we get into too many details about how awesome quinoa is, let’s start at the beginning: what IS quinoa?
Where Does Quinoa Come From?
Quinoa may look like a grain, and cook like a grain, but quinoa is technically a seed that comes from a plant in the goosefoot family – meaning quinoa is related to beetroot, spinach and Swiss chard.
Quinoa is grown in various countries across the world, but it originated in the Andean region of South America; between them, Bolivia and Peru still produce 92% of the world’s quinoa. Quinoa has been grown there for thousands of years, originally just to feed animals, but it’s been eaten by humans there for about 3000-4000 years. Quinoa was even viewed as sacred by the Incas! They called it ‘chisaya mama’, or ‘mother of all grains’, and the Incan emperor would sow the first quinoa seeds each season. Can you imagine if the Queen sowed the first wheat seeds every year?!
On its own, quinoa doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour, just a slight nuttiness. Far from being a negative, this means that you can dress your quinoa up however you like, and serve it in any number of ways.
So great is the Andean love for quinoa that they sometimes use quinoa for other things too, as well as for eating. Quinoa seeds are coated with bitter-tasting ‘saponins’ (which evolved to stop birds eating the crop) which we usually rinse off before cooking, but these saponins can be used as a washing detergent and antiseptic.
In recent years, the rest of the world has cottoned on to the awesomeness of the quinoa grain, and it’s popularity has grown, showing little sign of stopping. Whether this has had a positive or negative effect on the Andean quinoa growers is a matter that has sparked a lot of debate; check out my article ‘is quinoa ethical’ to figure out which side of the fence you sit on.
What is Quinoa: Different Quinoa Varieties
I’ve been working here at Forq with the three main varieties of quinoa: red, black and white (well, kind of a pale yellow if you’re going to get technical). Essentially, they’re all the same; you can use them interchangeably and they taste very similar. Black quinoa does take a few minutes longer to cook and has a bit more of a bite to it, and white quinoa is the quickest to cook, with red sitting, well, somewhere in between the two – but really, the differences in these quinoa types are minimal and certainly not big enough to sway you away from using one particular quinoa variety.
As far as I’m concerned, the only reason to use red or black quinoa over the more usual (and more widely available) white version is because they look different; just choose whichever quinoa color you think will look the nicest in your quinoa recipe of choice. Everyone likes a pretty dish!
Aside from being beautifully colourful and useful for washing your clothes (we haven’t tried this yet at Forq!), what’s so amazing about quinoa?
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What is Quinoa: The Nutritional Benefits of Quinoa
Unlike some similar ingredients like couscous, bulgur wheat or barley, quinoa is gluten free making it suitable for people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerances.
Since quinoa is technically a seed rather than a grain, quinoa also has a higher protein content than its closest rival ingredients, at around 14-18%. That’s still less protein than you’d find in beans and other legumes, but unlike beans, quinoa doesn’t feel like a protein-rich food. In fact, it tastes like a straight-up carb, just like rice or potatoes, which contain far less protein (around 3% and 2% respectively). So you can have your carbs and stock up on protein at the same time!
If that wasn’t impressive enough, quinoa actually contains all nine essential amino acids, which are the parts of the protein that we can’t produce ourselves, and therefore have to take in through our food. Although we need all nine of these essential amino acids in our diet, we don’t have to get them all from the same food sources – but it sure is handy when we can!
Quinoa’s also packed with lots of helpful vitamins and minerals, such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate. Those words may not mean much to those of us who aren’t registered dieticians (apart from evoking memories of teenage chemistry lessons) – but rest assured, they’re all things that our bodies need to become healthy and strong, and quinoa has a lot of them!
Quinoa’s low GI (glycemic index) means that it releases its energy slowly. So, not only are you getting heaps of nutritional benefits from eating quinoa, it’s also going to help to keep you full for a long time, and won’t result in an energy slump a few hours later.
What is Quinoa–and How to Eat it!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that quinoa has earned its ‘superfood’ label – but aside from all the health benefits, quinoa is delicious, too.
On its own, quinoa doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour, just a slight nuttiness. Far from being a negative, this means that you can dress your quinoa up however you like, and serve it in any number of ways. It goes well with flavours from any cuisine and can even be used in baked goods!
First, you need to know how to cook quinoa. Forq is publishing a comprehensive guide all about How to Cook Quinoa – read it once to become an expert (it really is easy…), then come back to it again and again for inspiration. We’re also rounding up our favourite veggie quinoa recipes from some awesome food bloggers – including everything from pizza crusts to salads, from pudding to pancakes. Told you quinoa was versatile!
So there you have it! Quinoa, in all its glory. Hopefully by now you understand all about what quinoa is, as well as why it’s such an awesome ingredient to work with. Forq is giving you heaps and heaps of quinoa recipe inspiration, and making sure you’re a super skilled quinoa cooker – so that you can give it a go and go share your Snackshots in the Forq App!
Let us know how your quinoa experiments go, and what your friends and family thought! Share your feedback in the FORQ app!
Low GI Quinoa GranolaThis low-GI version of your favourite breakfast will keep you going all the way to lunchtime, with no mid-morning crash!
Is quinoa ethical?
Is quinoa ethical? It’s a question that has had both organic food lovers and hipster-hating carnivores up in arms ever since an article published in The Guardian newspaper… Read More
How to cook quinoa
if I was going to design my ideal food, it would look a bit like quinoa. It tastes like a straight-up carb, just as satisfying as pasta or potatoes… but it’s super duper healthy…. Read More
Quinoa around the world
I’ve told you time and time again how versatile quinoa is, and I thought it was about time I showed you proof! Here are 23 of my favourite vegetarian quinoa recipes… Read More
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