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Tell me about Quinoa

I have been a lurker for a bit and finally decided I needed to post because I am at a loss.

What is Quinoa and what would you use it for? I have read that it is a seed that can be substituted for pasta or rice but I am unfamiliar with the product and where to find it. I am in the Pacific Northwest so my first stop will likely be Trader Joes or Whole Foods but would love to hear if it is available more generally and cheaper.

Let me know your thoughts and opinions and even recipes for this product.


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  1. Hi. Welcome to Chowhound! This thread might give you some ideas to start:


    P.S. For local sources, you may want to post on your regional board (Pacific Northwest), but Whole Foods should definitely carry it, and health food stores are also often a good source.

    2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        Trader Joes may have the best price - $3-4 / lb v. close to $9 at a local health food shop.

        The boxed version is prewashed; bulk may not be.

        It can be cooked much like rice, either plain or with typical pilaf style flavorings. It is done when the rings separate from grains. Boxes will have recipes, basic and fancy.

      2. Welcome!

        Quinoa acts like many grains that you tend to see in salads - bulgur, wheatberries, etc - but is actually the seeds of a plant related to chard, beets, and spinach. I love it; one of my favourite things to do in winter is make a big bowl of quinoa laced with whatever other veggies I have laying around, and eat it as a salad for lunch. Right now I've got wilted chard and pomegranate seeds with pomegranate vinaigrette; a couple of weeks ago it was roast peppers and onions with a mustard dressing.

        You should be able to find quinoa in the bulk section of any natural foods store.

        1. Trader Joe's quinoa cooked in chicken broth with some of their soycutash thrown in is one of my main backup foods. Very quick and surprisingly good. I use it often in place of rice, just served in smaller portions as it is high in protein and tends to fill you up quickly (learned this the hard way the first time I served a cup of it with a whole chicken breast... )

          1. I make quinoa corn chowder a lot --- it's delicious, fast, filling. I can't find the exact one I use, but this is an approximation:
            I use chicken stock, and mostly use milk, but if I have some coconut milk around, that makes a wonderful soup as well. There are threads on here about quinoa, as MMRuth posts. One hint I got from one of the threads I think is worth passing along: soak the quinoa in cold water for ten minutes or so before using. The box I have doesn't mention this, but one chowhound did, and I like the taste better if I do. Have fun!

            1 Reply
            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

              Tsarina, thank you for the quinoa corn chowder link. I used coconut milk, chicken broth and a diced yam (no white potatoes on hand). We had it for dinner last night and it was so good that I had to have some for breakfast!

            2. Quinoa is awesome! It acts like a grain. You can cook it in water or broth and even saute stuff and cook it along with the quinoa. I usually start off mixing things in and eating it warm, then adding dressing and eating it like a salad the next day.

              I love it cooked and mixed with chopped roasted vegetables and stuffed into tomato halves. My husband loves it with teriyaki sauce and cranberries. I undercook it a little bit so it's clumpy and use it as a base for stirfry.

              I usually get mine in bulk- and if you do make sure to rinse it well, otherwise it will have a weird biiter or soapy taste. Whole Foods sells boxes of it and they carry the regular and the red variety. The red kind is more burgundy-ish and has the same taste but IMHO is prettier.

              1. Hi, Leslie. I can buy Quinoa in my good ole regular chain supermarkets here in Connecticut, even though I'm not really near a significant city. Usually limited to one or, on a good day, two brands, but the point is, its readily available here. In my area, the price runs somewhere between standard issue brands of Couscous and wild rice.

                I like the texture of Quinoa and, as others here have posted, its versatility, re the diverse liquids you can cook it in and the various additions you toss in. I personally have found it to be more bland than Couscous or rices and think it sponges up heavier seasoning, spicing, etc., but that's part of the creative fun. As I understand it, it's one of the most healthful, nutritious grains/seeds/sides/whatever-you-call it. It's fairly quick to cook, too--maybe about 15 minutes...so a little longer than Couscous, a little sooner than white rice, much sooner than brown rice or wild rice. I agree with cheescake; I like the color the red variety adds to the plate.

                1. Quinoa is a great substitute for rice and barley in a lot of recipes that I've tried. Cooking it is about the same water ratio as other grains about 2 to 1.

                  It is high in protein (higher than grains) and has a lot of nutrients. In Whole Foods or Trader Joe's I've seen it for about 4-5 dollars a pound and recently found it in a health food store for about 2 a pound, but haven't used that version. It'll cook in about 15 minutes.

                  Because it is a seed, after you cook it, the germ separates and looks like a little tail giving it an interesting texture, fluffy like.

                  1. I'm a fan of various food blogs, and I've suddenly been hearing about quinoa, too. I looked in my grocery store (a generic chain in a big city) and didn't find any, but maybe I didn't look hard enough. Maybe I'll try something like Whole Foods (a few more blocks and a few more dollars away). Meanwhile, here is a sample of the bloggers that have inspired me to look. (Granted, she's a little hyper, but hey.)


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: weem

                      In my pretty standard and not terribly large supermarket the quinoa is with the "natural" foods (where they have the cartons of soy milk, flax, organic canned tomatoes etc)

                      1. re: DGresh

                        Thanks for the tip. I didn't think to look there. I was looking in the rice/beans/lentils section.

                    2. I haven't tried the recipes in this NPR story, but they sure look good: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

                      I got hooked on quinoa when I was living alone in Paris last year. Cooked and combined with all sorts of veggies, some good green olives, and a little cremre fraiche stirred in. It's good hot that night, and pretty good cold the next day. That kept me full through many afternoons in the library.

                      You've inspired me to start cooking with it again. My husband and I are trying to cut back to ust eating meat a few times a week, and quinoa is hearty and filling. Thanks

                      1. I really like the quinoa that Trader Joe's carries. It's much less expensive than the brand carried at my regular supermarket, and I find that I don't need to rinse the TJ's version. It's a PITA to rinse those itty bitty little buggers.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: modthyrth

                          I don't find it so annoying.. i rinse a few times in a large mesh strainer then dump it into the pot.

                        2. I've enjoyed it most either Greek-style, sort of like a tabbouleh, with cucumber, tomato, olives, feta, mint/parsley, lemon juice, etc, or Southwest-style with black beans, roasted corn (Trader Joe's has perfectly good frozen roasted corn), tomato, cilantro, and lime juice.

                          That can be a fairly hefty meal in its own right, but adding chicken or pork or whatever can make it stretch even further.

                          1. Thanks so much everyone. I found it and now I am going to play with it some this weekend.

                            I can't wait!