It’s a delicious and nutritious grain! It’s gluten-free! It’s quinoa! (That’s “KEEN-WAH.”)

Many people don’t try quinoa until they’ve started eating gluten-free. A “pseudo cereal” harvested for over 6,000 years in the Andes and recently popularized as a healthy alternative to white (and gluten-containing) starches, quinoa has a unique consistency somewhat akin to that of couscous. Quinoa, once considered “the gold of the Incas,” opens a new window of culinary opportunity for those on gluten-free diets. This tasty, hardy food is 100% gluten-free, and can be used to make everything from salads to baked goods. Here are a few ideas about how to integrate quinoa into your gluten-free diet!

First things first. How do you make quinoa? It’s not rocket science, that’s for sure. Despite its fancy name and relative scarcity, making quinoa is just like making rice or lentils. Even I can do it, and I’m far from a gourmet chef. Here’s how:

Just put your quinoa in a pot, and add 1 ½ cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. Some recommend soaking the quinoa for a few minutes first in order to loosen the outer shell of the grain. (I’ve made quinoa before without doing this, and everything turned out fine). Bring the water to a boil, and then turn the stove down to simmer and put a lid on the pot. Let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes, or however long it takes for the water to get soaked up, and then voila! Your meal’s gluten-free grain is good to go. You are now free to add myriad veggies, nuts, berries, spices, and general deliciousness to make a well-rounded quinoa meal.

Here are some ideas about how to make your quinoa gluten-free and tasty:

Eat it Cold. Some of my favorite cold quinoa salads include:

  • “South of the Border” style with corn, black beans, chipotle spices, cheddar cheese, and cilantro.
  • Quinoa with edamame, cranberries, and pistachios.
  • “Mediterranean” style with tomatoes, feta cheese, onions, and black olives.

If you’re not sure which spices, cheeses, and other ingredients are gluten-free, consult The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, which lists 23 brands of gluten-free spices alone.

Eat it Hot. Quinoa makes a scrumptious side dish for any meal. I have found that spices commonly used in Indian cooking, such as cumin, take well to this grain. I found one of my favorite hot quinoa recipes on the New York Times website a while ago. It uses red peppers, onions, cilantro, cumin, and garbanzo beans. The New York Times has tons of other amazing gluten-free quinoa recipes, and you can follow this link to explore the possibilities, from baked quinoa with spinach and cheese to Andean bean stew.

QuinoaPasta_06_28Use it as Pasta. Quinoa pasta is one lesser-known but equally (or more) satisfying gluten-free quinoa food. Ancient Harvest sells 12-packs of corn and quinoa pasta on their website. Check it out next time you’re in the mood for some Italian, but want a change from the gluten-free brown rice pasta you normally buy in grocery stores.

Use it as Flour. Make awesome gluten-free baked goods! Quinoa flour has become a favorite of gluten-free bakers around the world. And it just so happens that many of our favorite gluten-free baking mixes here at Triumph use quinoa flour!

Quinoa is an excellent food to introduce into your gluten-free diet. It’s rich in amino acids, magnesium, and iron, and it’s a complete protein. Besides all that, it’s delicious.

Know a use for quinoa that I haven’t mentioned here? Let us know in our comments section!

Note: Top image courtesy of www.deladietetique.wordpress.com.