Quinoa: Grain or Protein?

excerpted from The Family Groove

Believe it not, both! Not only does quinoa have the highest nutritional value of all of the grains but it also contains all 8 amino acids making it a complete protein!

If you are looking for a healthy substitution to some of the fat and sugar laden side dishes during the holidays, for a healthy side dish to bring to a party or even for something healthy to serve to your family, then look no further!

Although quinoa has been a relatively unkown grain until the past few years, it was actually developed in the Andes region of South America and cultivated by the Incas who called it their “mother seed” or “mother grain” 5,000-6,000 years ago!

Quinoa is gluten-free grain that is light-brown grain oval in shape. When it is cooked, quinoa has delicious nutty taste and looks very similar to brown rice. Not only is quinoa very high in protein containing all 8 amino acids (equal to milk and twice that of other cereal grains) but it is also bursting with vitamin B and E, iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium! Quinoa is truly a “superfood” that I recommend everyone should add to their diet!

Because quinoa only takes 20 minutes to cook (as opposed to 50 minutes with brown rice), it is the grain I almost always prepare! With juggling kids, household, job and what else, who has an hour to cook a grain these days?

Quinoa can be cooked in large batches and stored in the freezer to use when needed. Another win-win for saving time! If you were to look in my freezer you would see containers stacked on top of one another full of quinoa that I can pull out and defrost for a main course or side at dinner, for dessert or even for a delicious breakfast cereal.

For those of you who live in New York City, Candle Café has THE most delicious salad with quinoa called the Aztec Salad! Whole foods also has a good quinoa and cranberry salad with walnuts in the prepared section. As you know, I always favor homecooked and below are a few of my favorite recipes but in a pinch it is nice to know somewhere to pick up something healthy and delicious!

For a Side dish:

Quinoa, Cranberry and Pecan Salad
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1 lemon
½ cup olive oil
Sesame oil (drizzle)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped scallions
1 chopped red and yellow peppers
½ cup cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour 2 cups of quinoa into 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Combine all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir well. This salad can be served at room temperature, aside a simple green salad for a healthy lunch or it can be served with a main course for a more substantial dinner.

For a Main Course:

Quinoa and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
2 coarsely chopped apples and/or peaches
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon & nutmeg

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Halve acorn squash and remove the seeds. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, nutmeg and cinnamon and brush mixture on tops and insides of acorn squash. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until done.

At same time, cook 2 cups of quinoa in 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until water is absorbed. In a bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, apples and/or peaches, maple syrup, squeeze of lemon and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Fill the squash with the mixture and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes until done. This is a delicious side dish for the holidays or a meal into itself!

For breakfast:

Hot Quinoa “Oatmeal”
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ cup rice, soy or almond milk
Honey or agave nectar
¼  cup blueberries
¼  cup pecans (or walnuts)
Pour 1 cup of quinoa into 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Add milk and continue stirring. Spoon cereal into bowls, add a squeeze of honey or agave, and top with fresh blueberries and a handful of pecans or your other favorite nuts and enjoy!

For dessert:

Quinoa “Rice Pudding”
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ cup rice, soy or almond milk
½ cup raisons or cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg (to taste)
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
Pour 1 cup of quinoa into 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Add milk, vanilla, spices, agave or honey and raisons and continue stirring until dried fruit is soft.  This is a delicious and healthy dessert and one that my kids love. As a side note, this dish can also be made with brown rice or any other grain you have cooked and have on hand.


  • Tammi Kibler @keenonquinoa
    December 2nd, 2010 at 1:30 am

    You have a nice collection of recipes here. I love quinoa too, and haven’t bought rice again since I first tried quinoa.

    That’s a really big salad recipe, I recommend people trying quinoa for the first time cut that recipe in half unless they are cooking for a big crowd.

  • admin
    December 2nd, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Thank you so much! The salad is large and it is something that I have prepared for groups such a healthy dish to bring to Thanksgiving. Quinoa freezes beautifully, though, so that is something to keep in mind.

  • Everett
    July 26th, 2014 at 7:21 pm



  • adam
    July 27th, 2014 at 2:34 am


    tnx for info!!…

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