Calling all quinoa lovers! Say goodbye to clumpy, mushy, and bland quinoa forever. I have a simple new trick that’s going to take your quinoa to the next level: Dry Toasting.
All it requires is a few extra minutes at the beginning of cooking to dry-toast the quinoa before adding liquid. That’s it! But the flavor benefits are big.
This simple technique not only unlocks all kinds of umami flavor from this mild and highly nutritious seed, but it also results in the most fluffy individual quinoa grains of all time. They balance atop each other like circus performers defying gravity. Best of all, the taste is surprisingly nutty and way more complex than un-toasted quinoa.
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What is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pron. Keen-wah) is an ancient seed originally from South America. It has been eaten for centuries there and was treasured by the ancient Inca Empire. Culinary legend states that “Inca War Balls” were prepared for Inca warriors going off to battle, by combining solid fats (like lard) with quinoa, and then rolling the mixture into portable balls.
Today, quinoa has gained popularity because of its impressive health benefits, and because of the demand for gluten and grain substitutes by health seekers like us. Although it is often referred to as a grain, quinoa is not a grain, but rather a seed.
Thyroid-friendly Qualities of Quinoa:
- High in fiber
- High in flavonoids
- High in thyroid-supporting minerals like magnesium and iron
- Gluten-free, and not technically a grain
- A complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids
- Plant-based source of protein
- Low glycemic index
- Supports metabolic health and blood sugar balance
- Good for weight loss
It’s no wonder why quinoa has attained the coveted status of ‘Superfood’. While it is high in carbs and oxalates, which some people are sensitive to, it makes an excellent choice for those of us seeking the best, most nutrient-dense alternatives to gluten and other grains.
What To Look For When Purchasing Quinoa
Like oats, quinoa is sometimes processed on equipment and in facilities that are not gluten-free. For quinoa that is 100% gluten-free, I recommend Ancient Harvest or Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa. Both brands are processed in gluten-free facilities. Both brands are also organic which is a great way to minimize dietary toxins.
Also, look for pre-washed or pre-rinsed quinoa. Both brands mentioned above are pre-washed. This is done to remove quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can impart a bitter, soapy taste. More and more brands of quinoa are pre-rinsed, which adds convenience. Unwashed quinoa calls for rinsing with water before cooking. For this recipe, in particular, pre-washed or pre-rinsed quinoa is essential, since the grains need to be dry for toasting.
Some Favorite Ways to Eat Quinoa
In our house, quinoa makes a regular appearance on our dinner table because everyone likes it. It’s super nutritious, and it keeps us all regular—happiness! The leftovers never go to waste and get sprinkled on salads, soups, or even scrambled eggs. I also love it as a base for succulent mains like roasted chicken or fish because it does such a great job of soaking up all that yummy juice…Mmmm…
This blank canvas staple can be served alongside just about anything. It makes a great base for bowls, is a good substitute for rice, and can be seasoned any way you like.
Some favorite flavorings for this blank canvas recipe:
- Toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, parsley, and ghee
- Chopped sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic, and toasted pecans
- Dairy-free Arugula Lemon Pesto
- Chili powder, ground coriander, and lime juice
Chef's Tips: When testing this recipe, the hubs and I experimented with adding oil or ghee to the grains during toasting, and agreed that it’s better without. Just a simple dry toast to the point of golden brown color and toasted popcorn fragrance is all it takes. You may even see a few light wafts of smoke rise from the pan. That’s when you know it's just about ready for liquid. My husband likes to go darker brown for a bolder, more smoky flavor, while I like to go lighter brown for a more sweet and nutty flavor. Cook’s choice!
I hope you enjoy this simple technique for Toasted Quinoa as much as we do. Bon Appetit!