We may always be looking ahead to discover new food trends but sometimes it’s better to look back at what our ancestors were eating. Ancient cultures like the Incas knew that quinoa was a superfood long before it became the “new” grain everyone is eating now. Quinoa is super-healthy! It’s a complete protein, has lots of vitamins and minerals, is packed with fiber and helps us maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Quinoa is fast and easy to cook and best of all, it’s delicious. But if you think quinoa is just a side dish, think again. Quinoa can be the foundation of a complete meal that is filling, healthy and tastes incredible. Its versatility lets us use quinoa in soups, salads, burgers and more. We can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert.
Here are some ideas of how to turn quinoa into a delicious, satisfying meal:
1. Basic Cooking
As mentioned, quinoa is quick and easy to make. Rinse the quinoa well before using to get rid of any bitter flavor from the outer coating called saponin. Add 1 cup quinoa to a saucepan. You can toast it before adding water if you choose to. Add 2 cups water or broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and/or the liquid is absorbed. Drain any remaining liquid and fluff with a fork. Season as desired. For more tips, see How to Cook Perfect Fluffy Quinoa Every Time.
2. Breakfast of Champions
Let’s start the recipe ideas with the most important meal of the day. Starting the day with a superfood is a step in the best direction. Say “Good Morning” with this Protein-Packed Quinoa Breakfast Bowl that has blueberries, cranberries, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and warm spices. This Wintery Quinoa Porridge has peanut butter, pomegranate, berries, nuts and seeds. Make healthy muffins like these Quinoa, Apricot and Oat Muffin Clusters which are flourless and gluten-free.
3. Satisfying Salads
Salads make great light meals but they are even better when they have added protein. Quinoa is the perfect way to do that. I make a Rainbow Quinoa Tabbouleh which is my gluten-free version of the Mediterranean dish. The rainbow effect is from all the colorful veggies I put into it. Cook 1 cup of quinoa until it is soft and fluffy and let it cool in a bowl. Add to it 2 seeded and diced cucumbers, 3 seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 1 small seeded and diced yellow bell pepper and 5 finely chopped scallions. Mix in 1 cup of chopped fresh parsley, ¼ cup fresh mint and ¼ cup fresh dill. In a small bowl, make the dressing by combining 3 Tbs. olive oil, 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Toss the quinoa salad with the dressing and taste for any seasoning adjustments. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Other quinoa salads to try include Broccoli Salad with Quinoa, Scallions and Roasted Cashews, Quinoa, Lime and Black Bean Salad, Healthy Quinoa Salad, Curried Kale and Quinoa Salad, Quinoa Salad with Figs, Purslane, and Goji Berries, and Quinoa and Beet Salad with Hazelnuts.
4. Hearty Burgers
Quinoa not only makes burgers heartier and healthier but they act as a binder helping the burger to not fall apart as in this Hoisin Black Bean Burger with Spicy Sesame Sauce. Quinoa can also be the star of the burger. Try these Best Quinoa Veggie Burgers with Pumpkin Seed Onion Cream, The Ultimate Vegan Burger, Baked Quinoa Burger Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce, Quinoa and White Bean Burger, Quinoa Veggie Burger Sandwich and these Easy Vegan Sloppy Joes.
5. Soulful Soups & Stews
Nothing is as comforting as a big bowl of hot soup or stew. Turn your soups from meal-starters to complete meals by adding protein- and fiber-packed quinoa. Stews get an added boost from this ancient superfood. My Ethiopian Beans, Greens and Quinoa Stew is spicy and delicious: saute 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger in peanut oil until softened and browned. Add one small diced onion and saute until golden. Mix in a tablespoon or two of Berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend, and toss to coat the onions. Add 1 ½ cups of cooked chickpeas and 4 diced plum tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and break down, about 5 minutes. Wilt in one large bunch of chopped kale, collards, spinach, or greens of your choice, by the handful, stirring often. Serve the dish over quinoa and top with a dollop of vegan sour cream. For more soulful recipes, try this African Peanut Soup with quinoa and mung beans and this smoky, spicy, creamy Toasted Quinoa Mexican Soup.
6. Stuffed Dishes
Quinoa is the perfect food for stuffing other foods and then stuffing your bellies. I make Quinoa, Mushroom and Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes. Cut the tops off large beefsteak tomatoes and remove the pulp and seeds, setting the pulp aside. Saute finely chopped onion, minced garlic and finely chopped mushrooms. Season them with parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Wilt spinach into the veggies and then add the tomato pulp. Mix in some nutritional yeast or vegan grated parmesan and 2 cups of cooked quinoa. Cook for 5 minutes or until everything is heated through and then transfer the mixture to a bowl and let it cool. Stuff the mushroom-quinoa mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes. Pack the stuffing in well. Place the stuffed tomatoes into a lightly oiled baking dish. Top each tomato with bread crumbs mixed with olive oil and fresh, chopped parsley. Baked covered for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and the stuffing is hot. Remove the cover and bake another 10 minutes so the bread crumbs get browned. Serve hot or cold.
7. Extra-Special Entrees
While quinoa makes amazing side dishes, it also works to make incredible entrees. Try this Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa, Quinoa and Sweet Potato Noodle Bolognese with Toasted Crushed Almonds, Cajun Quinoa Cakes with Lemon-Dill- Sriracha Remoulade, and Mini-Quinoa Chickpea Cakes. Red quinoa, beets and red kidney beans come together to make this beautiful Red Quinoa Loaf.
8. Simple Swap-outs
Using quinoa instead of rice or flour is a simple way to make a dish more healthy and filling. I like to skip the rice and make Quinoa Veggie Fried “Rice” with quinoa to up the protein. Quinoa also cooks in half the time of brown rice so it’s a time-saver too. To make it: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a skillet. Saute 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic and 1-inch fresh sliced ginger. Add 2 chopped bell peppers, 2 julienned carrots, and1 bunch chopped asparagus and saute until crisp-tender. Wilt in 2 cups fresh spinach. Toss the veggies with 3 cups cooked quinoa and season with 2 Tbs. tamari and 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar. Serve hot.
For another fried “rice” dish, try this Pineapple Fried Quinoa. Quinoa steps in for rice again in this Seasonal Quinoa Pilaf with Ramps, Artichokes and Peas. Skip the flour and make a flourless pizza crust with quinoa like this Healthy “Digestive-Friendly” Quinoa Pizza Crust.
9. Sides that are the Star
Of course quinoa makes amazing side dishes but because they are filled with protein and fiber, they can easily be the main dish as well. Quinoa is the star of dishes like this Quinoa with Roasted Root Veggies and Currants, Quinoa with Secret Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pistachio Pesto Quinoa, Quinoa with Veggies, Cashews and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Root Vegetables on Quinoa with Yogurt Sauce, Zen Lentil and Quinoa Kitchari, and Delicious Indian Lime and Peanut Quinoa.
10. Guilt-Free Desserts
Quinoa for dessert? You bet! Using this superfood to make desserts will make you feel better about digging into something decadent and delicious. Try these Superfood Cinnamon Rolls, Popped Quinoa Chocolate Crispy Cakes, Quinoa Lavender Cookies, Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Quinoa Date Nut Truffles.
Wow! Those Incas were really onto something with quinoa. It may have taken us a long time to catch on but now that we know how good quinoa is and how good it is for us, we should eat it all the time. Enjoy the recipes!
Lead Image Source: Roasted Root Vegetables on Quinoa with Yogurt Sauce