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8 New Ways to Enjoy Quinoa That You May Not Have Tried

author image Morena Escardo
Morena Escardó is the author of "Detox Juicing: 3-Day, 7-Day, and 14-Day Cleanses for your Health and Well-being," and "The Everything Peruvian Cookbook." In her blog, Peru Delights, she focuses on her country’s superfoods, and creates healthy alternatives to traditional dishes. She is training to become a holistic health coach.

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8 New Ways to Enjoy Quinoa That You May Not Have Tried
Morena Escardo/Demand Media

Only a few years ago quinoa was virtually unknown outside its native South America. Now it’s a beloved staple in grocery stores, restaurants and homes around the world. Last year the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, saying, “Quinoa is the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins and contains no gluten.” In fact, because of its great nutritional value ─ and its compatibility with dietary restrictions─ quinoa is being considered by NASA as food for astronauts on long-duration space flights. Quinoa is a complete protein, so it is a wonderful addition to vegetarian or vegan diets. Additionally, it’s gluten-free, so it’s a lifesaver for those with dietary restrictions. With its mild flavor and versatile texture, quinoa looks, feels and tastes like a grain. This makes it an ideal ingredient if you are looking to replace grains in your recipes. You can use quinoa instead of rice or couscous in pilafs, risottos, and salad, or in place of wheat flour in baking. It will even stand in for oatmeal as a hot breakfast cereal. Check out the next slides to see 8 healthy ways to enjoy quinoa.

1. Healthy Quinoa Bars
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Energy bars (a.k.a. protein bars) are popular snacks these days. Many enthusiasts may not realize, however, that some of these so-called health foods are packed with sugar, preservatives and other unwholesome ingredients. So, if you reach for a pre-packaged energy bar when a mid-morning craving kicks in, you may not get the energy boost you’re expecting. The solution: Make your own energy bars at home. Preparing protein bars from scratch gives you total control over what goes into them. These quinoa bars are a great option, as the quinoa, tahini, coconut oil and nuts are full of healthy fats and protein that will help you stay energized and on top of your game throughout the day.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

2. Sprouted Quinoa Milk
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Whether you’re lactose-intolerant, a vegan or even someone who consumes dairy but also likes to try healthy substitutions, your health will benefit from drinking good quality milk substitutes every once in a while. Of course, not all milk substitutes are created equal, but if you make them at home, you have complete control over what goes into them. Almond and soy milk are the most common milk substitutes, but your repertoire of milks can include a varied range of ingredients. Walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, oats, rice, sesame seeds and flax seeds are some possible options. Quinoa should also be on this list. This super seed normally needs to be cooked, but you can avoid this step and make it more digestible if you sprout it first when turning it into milk. Sprouting quinoa also makes it slightly sweet, ideal to be enjoyed as milk.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

3. Savory Vegetable Quinoa Flan
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The basic recipe for flan can be used to make all kinds of dishes, from yummy caramel-covered desserts to healthy and delicious savory entrees ─ like this vegetable quinoa flan. It’s very easy to make: You only need to follow two steps, and it requires just a few ingredients. You can use any combination of vegetables you like, so if you buy seasonal produce, you can have a seasonal dish year-round using the same recipe and simply changing the veggies. You can even use frozen vegetables, if that’s more convenient for you. Serve it with a salad on the side, and you will have a light yet extremely nutritious (and delicious) meal on the table with very little effort.

Related: See complete recipe

4. Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes
Morena Escardo/Demand Media


If you are looking for a dessert that can be made even when you feel lazy, tired or in a hurry, you just found it. These quinoa chocolate cupcakes have a light, spongy texture and a very delicate taste: not too sweet, not too chocolaty, and with a mild hint of quinoa. Making them only requires two bowls and 10 minutes of your time, with another 20 minutes in the oven. Keep in mind that this recipe calls for quinoa flour instead of cooked or raw quinoa seeds, so you need to plan ahead if you don’t usually have quinoa flour in your pantry. These little quinoa cupcakes make a wonderful sweet treat for people who suffer from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Add some dried coconut and cranberries, or pecans and chocolate chips for different variations.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

5. Quinoa and Amaranth Supercharged Breakfast
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Eating something warm in the morning turns your body on from the inside out, and gets it ready for the day in an efficient and stable way. Think of it as warming up a car’s engine after a cold night outside. That’s one reason why a bowl of hot oatmeal is a beloved breakfast staple around the world. But you don’t have to limit yourself to oats. Quinoa will also warm and comfort you when eaten hot and slightly moist. Its taste is mild and welcomes most flavor and texture additions, including spices, honey, maple or carob syrup, dried fruits and flax seeds, as in this recipe. The best part about eating quinoa for breakfast is that it keeps your sugar levels stable throughout the morning, which means fewer cravings, more energy, a balanced mood and a clear mind.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

6. Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
Morena Escardo/Demand Media


Chili is traditionally made with beef, although there are many popular variations, such as chicken chili and vegetarian chili. Vegetable chili, made with only beans and veggies, and perhaps some vegetarian meat to replace the ground beef, is now a staple in most meat-free kitchens, and for good reason. This Mexican-inspired vegetarian quinoa chili has so much flavor, thanks to the vegetables, chili peppers and spices. It’s satisfying -- even for the most passionate meat-eaters.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

7. Coconut and Pineapple Quinoa Pudding
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Rice pudding is a beloved dessert in many cultures. Several countries claim it as their own, although its origin may be tracked back to the Arabs (perhaps the greatest sugar experts in history), who then spread it to new lands. Whoever came up with the idea for rice pudding must’ve been a comfort-food genius. Few things are as soothing as a cup of warm homemade rice pudding. In a way this is the perfect dessert: It’s extremely simple, yet it never gets old. Of course, a little change every now and then is still welcome. Our variation: Replace the rice with quinoa. This also brings down the dessert’s glycemic index, making it healthier for you in many ways.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

8. Quinoa Tabboule
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Perhaps the most common use for quinoa these days is to cook it and add it to salads, just as you would add rice, orzo or couscous. A cup of cooked quinoa brings texture to any salad and makes it more filling. If you use different kinds of quinoa, you can add fun colors to it too. But there’s one salad in particular where quinoa fits so perfectly that it almost feels like it’s part of the original dish: tabbouleh. This Middle Eastern salad is usually made with bulgur wheat, but it’s now often made with couscous. Both of these ingredients resemble quinoa in many ways, so the Andean seed is a natural substitution.

Related: See complete recipe and nutritional info

What Do YOU Think?
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Have you tried quinoa? Why or why not? Do you like its flavor and texture? Which of these recipes are you most likely to try? Do you have other ways you enjoy quinoa that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Related: Quinoa: How to Pronounce It and Why You Should Eat It

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