Cooking quinoa is fairly easy, but like most foods it is not fool proof! Let’s look at some things you need to keep in mind when cooking quinoa perfectly!
What Type of Quinoa are you Cooking?
The big challenge with learning how to cook quinoa perfectly is that there are so many different types. That cultivated in the Andes Mountains is slightly different than quinoa cultivated in Canada or the United States. On top of this, there are three main types of quinoa: red, black and white. To further complicate matters, some quinoa has been pre-rinsed, some is partially rinsed and some has not been rinsed at all. Using the exact same cooking time and methods on bulk quinoa may not yield the same results that you got when you cooked boxed quinoa.
If you want to get an idea at just how much quinoa can vary, consider this. The quinoa nutrition profile can vary wildly! The protein content can range from 10% to 18% and the fat from 4.1% to 8.8%. These are major changes that can impact how your quinoa cooks and this difference is not addressed in any quinoa recipe I have seen.
As a general rule, I recommend you find a quinoa that you like and stick to it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and use all three colors. But, once you perfect cooking a particular type of red quinoa, for instance, stay with that brand. That way you will know what to expect and quinoa recipes will work well for you.
I do not have experience with black quinoa, but I can tell you that from my experience red quinoa is a bit more touchy than white. I am not alone as I just got a message from someone who tried cooking red quinoa unsuccessfully. In general, quinoa cooking time is longer for red quinoa and you need to cook it at a slightly higher temperature. If cooking is new to you and you are likely to get discouraged, I would put off learning how to cook red quinoa.
The bottom line is that if cooking quinoa perfectly is important to you, you are going to need to do a little experimentation with cooking times. Learning how to cook quinoa isn’t hard, you just have to find what works for you! By far, my favorite method is the one I talk about in this cooking with quinoa post. (Just the basic cooking quinoa recipe, not the entire recipe listed here.)
Is Your Quinoa Fresh?
While quinoa has a very long shelf life, it can get old. Luckily, thanks to the high Vitamin E content acting as an antioxidant, it does not go rancid like a lot of other foods. What does happen is that it can dry out making it difficult to cook. Very often, you will cook and cook and it just never sprouts or seems to get done. This is a sign that your quinoa may not be all that fresh.
One thing to keep in mind is that while quinoa is growing in popularity it is still a fairly new arrival and most stores. You have no idea how long something has been sitting on the shelf or in the bin before you buy it. This probably isn’t an issue in high traffic stores in the city, but can be an issue in smaller stores with fewer people that have been enlightened to the benefits of cooking quinoa. J
Despite that fact that it can sometimes be finicky, cooking quinoa grain is well worth the effort!