What is Quinoa?

What is quinoa - gluten-free & quinoa recipes from Queen of Quinoa

What is quinoa? It’s a question I don’t often get (hopefully because you’ve visited this page before), but I feel like I should take some time to explain since it’s the focus of all of my recipes.

First I want to start with the history – we’ll get into the nutrition and cooking parts in a moment. I’m going to take you on a quick journey to South America to start the quinoa story…

Quinoa, which was referred to as the chisaya mama or “mother of all grains” by ancient Incan societies, is the healthy little grain-like plant that has become the center of my gluten-free diet. Although often times referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually not a grain and is really a seed and is the same family as beets and spinach.

(Your first clue right there that quinoa is a superfood!)

Quinoa hails from the Peruvian Andes where it was loved and cherished by the Incas over 5,000 years ago. The crop was sacred and even considered the “gold” of their society. When the Spanish arrived, everything changed. They looked down on quinoa as “the Indian’s food” and suppressed the cultivation of the crop. It has been shown that the conquerors actually forbid the planting of quinoa and forced the Inca to grow wheat instead. Kind of funny for those of us on a gluten-free diet, isn’t it?

But that’s all ancient history. Quinoa has overcome the obstacles and made its way onto millions of plates across the world (at least I hope that much!). Although it may not be mainstream yet, quinoa’s popularity is growing, and more and more people are realizing the amazingness it brings to life.

How amazing you may ask? Visit my quinoa nutrition page!


image source: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

86 Responses to What is Quinoa?

  1. Pingback: How I Released 20 Pounds (by Tammy Bolt Werthem) « iwokeupyesterday

  2. Esther Urrutia says:

    Thank you Alyssa for sharing the quinoa recipes. I too, am now G.F. and it has been challenging to find quinoa recipes. Thank you so much for your great quinoa recipes.


  3. Kelly Kurcina says:

    Hi, I just discovered your website! I really want to try quinoa. Question, how will I know if the quinoa I purchase has been pre-rinsed or not?

    • Typically most quinoa sold commercially in the US has been pre-rinsed. If you buy it in a bag (which I don’t because I can buy it in bulk) it should say on the packaging :)

      • msjodi777 says:

        Wow! Where do you find quinoa in bulk? Guess I should ask my single local health food store whether they have it in bulk… getting the itty bitty bags and boxes gets really expensive! But rice raises my blood glucose levels to the stratosphere quinoa doesn’t…. guess which one I prefer… now guess which one I eat… and yes, while I do still prefer the rice, I like the quinoa enough to keep eating it, and it’s growing on me… <

  4. Marlene Newell says:

    Can you use raw quinoa in a green smoothie? I add soaked steel-cut oats to my green smoothies — makes it thicker, but very good. I use 1/4 cup as that is the single serving. I also put in 2 tbsp or nuts or 1 tbsp of seeds. Would I use quinoa as an alternate to the oats, or as an alternate to the seeds. Would I need to soak the quinoa? If so, for how long.

    My daughter just sent me some organic quinoa so I’m anxious to start using it.


    • Hi Marlene,

      Thanks for the note! I think you could absolutely use quinoa as an alternative to the oats in your smoothies. I would suggest soaking them first, since the uncooked quinoa is quite hard, and then blending them into your smoothie. Personally, I would not use them in place of nuts and seeds since seeds add such tremendous flavor and nutritional value to smoothies. Quinoa is higher in protein than oats, which is also great.

      Please let me know how it turns out for you!!

      xo Alyssa

  5. Marlene Newell says:

    Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve already started oats soaking for today’s smoothie, but I’ll soak some quinoa tomorrow and try it out and definitely let you know.

  6. Carlos says:

    I wish you would stop, you always make me so hungry. Just playing around. I share the same kind of passion for food as you do. I love to eat healthy, delicious food. I first discovered Quinoa in a superfood stay young book. When I did a little internet research, I stumbled upon you and ever since then I really like your style. You even make me laugh a little, in a good way. I live down here in San Antonio TX. Do you do any mexican cooking?

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thanks for your nice note!I love that you enjoy my recipes, and that’s part of the point of me posting, to make you hungry :) Quinoa is amazing and I love it so much! I do experiment with Mexican cooking (if you look in my Recipe Index > International > Mexican – you will see all my Mexican inspired dishes) and quinoa is a great substitute for rice. In fact, I might be moving to Austin soon, so I’m sure I will get even more inspired to share more Mexican dishes.

      Have a happy Friday!

      • DEBBIE says:

        Since quinoa is a seed can one sprout it for quinoa sprouts?

        • I don’t think you’d get quite the same result as you might from other seeds, but yes you can sprout quinoa. I had another read chat with me about this too on Instagram and it’s making me realize I need to do some experimenting :) I’m going to do a little testing in my kitchen and will be sure to post my findings!

  7. E. Pulley says:

    I don’t understand your post about cooking quinoa in the slow cooker. You put the quinoa in at the halfway point of cooking? If the quinoa isn’t already cooking, what is?

    • So sorry for the confusion with this! This part of the post is referring to how you can cook quinoa when you add it to a soup or stew (which is cooking in a slow cooker). I recommend adding it to the soup halfway through the cooking process – so if your soups cooks in the crock pot for 6 hours, add the quinoa at the 3 hour mark. You just need to make sure the soup has enough liquid to have a 1:2 ratio. If you’re adding 1/2 cup of quinoa to the soup, just make sure there is AT LEAST a cup of liquid/water/broth in the soup to cook the quinoa. Does that make sense? I have never tried to cook quinoa by itself in a slow cooker, so can’t vouch if that would work out or not. Please let me know if you have any other questions!!

      xoxo Alyssa

  8. Tracy says:

    Hi Alyysa,
    I have found your sight very interesting; was wondering how I go about making my own Quinoa flour?Look forward to trying the muffins:) yum!

    • Hi Tracey!

      Making your own quinoa flour is surprising easy actually. All you have to do is grind the grains in a coffee grinder or high powered blender. I would suggest toasting the quinoa beforehand (in a pan over medium heat), so that the flavor is less bitter. Now, I must warn you, you likely won’t get the same exact texture as you would from buying commercially ground quinoa flour, but I’ve cooked and baked with my own and it’s worked for me.

      Hopefully this helps!

      xx Alyssa

      • Tracy says:

        Thanks Alyssa! I will give it a shot! :)

        • Tracy says:

          Hi Alyssa,
          The flour turned out great; and the banana muffins are delicious!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for your help and receipts.
          This is a whole new world of cooking; enjoy it a lot! Thanks

      • Amy Messick says:

        I have to soak my quinoa for digestion issues, so if I want to make flour, how do I do it after soaking? Thanks!

        • Susie says:

          I made a chocolate cake with Quinoa and used my immersion blender on it after it was cooked instead of grinding it into flour. It worked great. It also mixed the rest of the ingredients at the same time.

  9. Fiorella says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for this info, I’m completely new to quinoa so this helps a lot! Say I cook 1 cup of quinoa (which yields 3 cups), and I’m just serving myself so I have leftovers, and I put it in the fridge (in the original pot or a bowl with saran wrap, etc.). What is the best way to reheat it when I’m ready to eat it again?

    • Hi again!! Okay so I’ve honestly found that a great way to reheat quinoa is just in the microwave. But I usually am cooking it with something warm like a stir fry and toss it in at the end. That heats it up nicely. You can also use your leftover quinoa in baked goods or thrown into some yogurt for a quick breakfast or snack. I have a bunch of recipes that use leftover quinoa, so take a look and please let me know if you have any other questions along the way!! Yippee for quinoa :)

  10. Marnie Britcher says:

    Alyssa-You ARE the queen in my eyes. I just recently discovered quinoa, and it’s wonderful taste and texture. Now I definitely am a big fan and groupie of you and your blog. I also going GF so this will make my breakfasts so much easier and tastier. Thanks for your addition of MY world. God’s blessings-Marnie

  11. Pingback: Get to Know Quinoa « Cuenca Gluten Free

  12. Donna says:

    I would definitely NOT reheat or cook anything in a microwave! It kills all the nutrients. Here is just one source to check out the dangers of microwave cooking.

  13. Dana says:

    Hi Alyssa,
    To save time, I want to cook my quinoa in bulk and store it in the fridge. Any tips on containers/storage advice/how long you can keep it?
    Thanks so much! I love your pinterest wall and your blog :)


    • Hi Dana -

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m so happy you’re enjoying the site!

      I always cook my quinoa in bulk, so I highly recommend it :) I usually store mine just in a plastic tupperware and use it for about 5 – 6 days. Another thing you can try is actually separating it into batches and freezing part of it. Just take it out of the freezer the day before and let it thaw and you’ll be ready to go! It keeps in the freezer for months, but it never lasts that long for me :)

      xx Alyssa

      • steve says:

        Hi Alyssa,

        I’m starting with the Body Ecology diet very soon ( as soon as I can get myself organized with a schedule for shopping/prepping/cooking).

        How much quinoa do you cook in bulk? I’d love to get as much of the prep work done as I can, on Sunday, and have it last for a while through the week.
        I don’t want any to go bad, of course, but I’m thinking at a cup a day of consumption, I should be able ok.

        steve recently posted..Leaving a concrete trail of Manifesting WinsMy Profile

        • steve says:

          so I noticed your part you mentioned about the freezer.. so that gives me a hint I could probably just make as much as my pot can handle.. thanks for this post!

  14. Pingback: Chocolate Zucchini Breakfast Bread (gluten-free, dairy-free) | Celiac Disease and Gluten Free Diet | Celiac Corner

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  16. Owen says:

    Hey I like your site, pretty cool.
    Not sure if you already do this, but once I’ve cook my Quinoa I put 2-3 teaspoons of coconut oil (for about 1 cup of Quinoa), and let it sit for around 10mins while covered. Gives it a nice kick.

    Cheers, Owen

    • Thanks so much for the tip Owen! I haven’t tried adding coconut oil after it’s done cooking, but it sounds delicious. I’m in love with coconut oil (and quinoa!) and couldn’t imagine a better combo. Will definitely give this a try!

  17. Donna Goggin says:

    You referenced quinoa crispies in your chocolate peanut bars you made. where would find something like that or is that something you made? I am trying to find low carb alternative desserts for my diabetic husband and it is not easy. I thought I might try a couple of your recipes and see what he thinks and those bars look like something he might go for. Thanks for the info in advance.

  18. Diana says:

    How do I make toasted quinoa flour or do I buy it?

    • Toasted quinoa flour is actually very easy to make at home. You simply toast the regular quinoa flour either on the stove top in a dry skillet until it turns golden brown, or in the oven on cookie trays at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, also until golden brown.

  19. Jody Ledezma says:

    I’ve been making steel cut oats for breakfast for years, but am considering switching to quinoa. Do you have any information on which one might be better? Thanks

    • They’re different products. Both contain good amounts of fiber, I believe they’re similar caloric wise, but I would venture a guess to say that quinoa likely has a higher protein content. I would suggest just giving quinoa a try, and see how you feel for the day. If it keeps you full, gives you energy, etc. Just see how your body responds. It might be a nice thing to give it a little bit of variety :)

  20. KE'HLEY says:

    Can I just eat my organic Quinoa “Milled” and then add it to my smoothies and salads or should it always be soaked or cooked first?
    If yes to Milling..How much of Milled should? A TSP or TBS???
    Thank you.

    • Hi there – I sent you an email last night, hope that was what you were looking for. You can mill as much as you would want, it’s really up to you. I would mill a bunch at a time so I could use the flour for baked goods! Enjoy :)

  21. KE'HLEY says:

    Yes. Thank you. You are very fast!! Today I’m Toasting my Quinoa first then milling after it cools. I also found it loses many calories if it is cooked before consumption. I’m so glad I found your site :)

  22. Alyssa says:

    Have you Guys tried a pizza crust made of quinoa ?? It’s AMAZING! If anyone is interested in it ill try and find the link I used.

  23. emily says:

    Have you ever looked into how the globalization of this food is affecting the livelihoods of the people who grow it? Quinoa is indeed an amazing grain for so many reasons, but creating markets for it here (the United States) and other developed nations is not only making it unaffordable for the people who have survived on it as a staple for centuries; the practices that must be adopted to produce enough of it to satisfy our privileged appetites is severely disrupting the Andean agroecosystem. If you’re concerned about hunger on a global scale (not just poor malnourished children in the U.S.) and environmental sustainability, I strongly urge you to read about the quinoa industry and engage with these issues on your blog.

    • Lauren says:

      Yes, thank you for mentioning this! I was about to say the same thing…but I’m glad I read the previous comments. Please PLEASE look into how quinoa’s popularity has impacted the native populations. I love me some quinoa, but I use it as a treat now instead of a staple.

  24. Lolita Gahm says:

    People often add too much salt in their recipes without realizing it until it’s too late, but do not worry. There is a way to fix this! Add two peeled and chopped raw potatoes to the dish, and then allow it to simmer for around 15 minutes. The potatoes help absorb the extra salt. For a dish that is tomato-based, just put a few more tomatoes in and let them cook until they’re tender. These will dilute the extra salt…*

    Latest write-up provided by our blog

  25. Aimee says:

    Hello Alyssa,

    Is it necessary to let quinoa cool off and fluff before adding it to a recipe? I just sautéed a variety of veggies and I added the cooked quinoa while it wa still warm. Is it only necessary to cool off and fluff when adding to a cold salad? Help?

    • Hi Aimee! It’s not totally necessary to cool it off, especially with a warm dish. However I have noticed that when you add warm quinoa to a dish that you’re cooking, like a stir fry or something like that, it can become over cooked fairly quickly. I suggest if you’re going to do that, just add it at the very very end of your prep. With a cold salad on the other hand, I would definitely suggest cooling it first :-) One tip is to pop your quinoa in the freezer for like 10 minutes and it will start to cool off more quickly.

      Enjoy your cooking!!
      xo Alyssa

  26. Pingback: How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) | Two Healthy Kitchens

  27. Joanne Nagoda says:

    Please help! I am newly diagnosed with celiac – and purchased a bag of pearl quinoa – but I can find any recipes that will really tell me what to do with it! And everything I seem to find in contradictory! Can you give me some ideas, pointers? Thanks so much – I really hate being this “lost”!

  28. Maria says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ve been on a gluten-free diet, and been looking for some recipes using quinoa :)
    Maria recently posted..Coconut Flour Pancakes with a Tropical Mango TwistMy Profile

  29. Peggy says:

    Alyssa, thank you so much for making all your knowledge and experience about quinoa available to everyone! I’ve tried the quinoa with black beans and corn recipe that you have and it is delicious. I just added some cooked salmon to some of the leftovers and it was really good also. I guess I’ll have to create a toolbar link to your website so I don’t miss anything with this wonderful superfood! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes! Thanks again!

  30. Hope Hedrick says:

    is it ok to grind quinoa to a flour? , I do this in my nutri bullet for mixing in with meats.. salmon, ground beef for burgers or meatloaf

  31. Shirley says:

    I hope I have the right Queen of Quinoa. On 7/14/13 I ordered 4 e-books . I did not realize they were e-books. I do not have a printer, to print them. I am requesting a refund if I have the right “QUEEN”. Thank you kindly

  32. Susan says:

    What is the difference between quinoa and quinoa crispies?

  33. Julie says:

    I overcooked my quinoa this mornin!! My question is, is it possible to overcooked it so much that it loses all or most of its nutritional value? I’m just wondering if I should still eat it. Thanks for your help!

  34. Abi says:

    Can Quinoa be heated in the microwave, similar to that of a rice heating pad? Not to eat.

    • I don’t see why not! I’ve never tried that, but I imagine it would act similarly to rice. Maybe try a small amount at first so if it doesn’t work, you don’t waste all your quinoa :)

  35. Pingback: Quinoa for Breakfast! | VIOLET'S EVERYDAY ADVENTURE

  36. Rachael says:

    i accidentally cooked red quinoa with the water ratio 1:1 and it didn’t sprout. it tasted fine but have only just read it’s meant to sprout before you eat it. Is there an issue with eating ‘undercooked’ quinoa?

  37. Sheryl says:

    What’s the ratio for substituting quinoa flour for regular flour, is it 1:1?

  38. Spight says:

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  39. Maria says:

    I was wondering if cooking or sprouting the quinoa first, then dehydrating it (I have an Excalibur Dehydrator and I just love it!) and then grinding it would make it more nutritious and digestible as well. I know that some grains and seeds become super grains and seeds when sprouted. What are your thoughts on this?

  40. Sue says:

    First ‘thank you’ Queen of Quinoa for all the time and effort that you have put into educating and opening a whole new world in the taste of quinoa! I have been following you for a short time, probably a month, but I am very pleased with the information and recipes that you post. Even my husband does not look at me weird anymore when I say it has quinoa in it! One question that I do have is, do you have any suggestions as to where the most reasonable place(s) to purchase quinoa is? Do you purchase online or ?? Is there a big price difference in purchasing the flour packaged as opposed to grinding your own? I live in a small town so it is more costly to purchase quinoa and any other gluten free flour – but I am thankful that I am able to purchase it. Also the same question applies to other gluten free flours also. I could do the research myself but why if I can get the information from a reliable source! Thanks for any insight you can provide.

    • Hi Sue, great question and it’s one I get a lot! Honestly, I think the cheapest way to go is to buy in bulk online. I use Amazon or nuts.com. I prefer amazon for the quick shipping and low pricing, but it usually comes in packages rather than a large bulk bag like you would get on Nuts.com. I recommend you check them both out and compare prices, but yes, definitely online!! :)

  41. Susie says:

    Hello QOQ!
    I too LOVE quinoa and just printed a bunch of your recipes which I’m really excited to try! I LOVE to bake and love trying different options to make food healthier! Just ordered the ‘crispies’ and cant wait to try the Reese’s treat recipe!
    Thanks for your Quinoa passion!

  42. Cyndi says:

    What are the measurements to substitute quinoa flakes for part or all of the flour in my favorite banana bread recipe? Any suggestions? Thanks :-)

  43. Emma says:

    My, Need to start my I was told it is a grain. Just yesterday I told my daughter it is a grain. Now I find out it is a seed. It is soo yummy. I need to start trying out some new recipes on your web site. Thanks,


  44. Lottie Parker says:

    I have recently been introduced to SPROUTED QUINOA and they are wonderful.

  45. Sheau says:

    Can I cook quinoa into porridge? Can overcook quinoa loss it nutrients? I’m planning to over cook it some broth so the texture is mushy and serve it as baby food..

    • You use cooked quinoa in this recipe. And yes, I think you could overcook it, but they won’t get soft like oats would. You might want to put it in a food processor before serving it to a baby.

  46. Hello I am doing veggie and fruit juicing which I got from the video fat sick and nearly dead. Now my question is can I grind quinoa raw and add it to my daily veggie and fruit drinks. I am needing protein with my juicing. I’m am using ground flex seed as well.

  47. Marie says:

    Everyone keeps thanking you for the recpes, but can someone post the web site address please, please?

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