Whole Grain Wise: Quinoa

In this blog series, Anne explores the world of whole grains, one at a time. A whole grain is one in which all the essential parts (bran, germ and endosperm) and naturally-occurring nutrients are in tact and in their original proportions. These grains are unrefined and have been only minimal processed, i.e. cracked, rolled, crushed.

We love whole grains for their nutrition and so much more! They're affordable; they make excellent pantry staples; and they're delicious! Read on for how we work with whole grains in the Red Stick Spice Company test kitchen.



Quinoa definitely fits the bill when it comes to the term "ancient grain." This andean crop dates back to the Inca and is prized for its complete nutrition and ability to grow in harsh climates. Quinoa is not a "true" grain and falls into the category of "pseudo cereal." It is technically a seed and is related to beets and chard. It's claim to fame is its status as a complete protein: quinoa, unlike other grains, does not have to be combined with another food to provide complete protein.

Quinoa's popularity surged in recent years, and as a result, concerns about negative effects on the Bolivian agriculture industry made headlines. Several experts came forward to point out that many of these reports were over sensationalized. We do, still, feel it's best to look for Fair Trade quinoa when shopping to assure the farmer is treated responsibly. For more reading on the subject, we point you here and here.

Quinoa is available in several colors and is a snap to prepare. Give it a quick rinse to remove its naturally defensive, bitter outer coating saponin. Saute the rinsed quinoa in a little oil with some aromatics like onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Add stock or water, bring to a boil then simmer for 12-18 minutes. We love our quinoa al dente which means a shorter cooking time. If the quinoa didn't absorb all the water during cooking, simply drain in a sieve.  

Quinoa is gluten free and boasts a high ratio of protein to carbohydrate which can help you feel fuller longer. It's also very high in potassium. Oh, and it's SCRUMPTIOUS! Try Anne's Mediterranean Quinoa. This dish uses our Mediterranean Spice Blend and savory Garlic Olive Oil. For a refreshing salad that perfect for a party plus lunch box packable, turn to our Rosemary Peach Quinoa Salad with Summer Vegetables. Yum!

Tried Quinoa? Tell us how you use this ancient grain in the comments below.

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