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Quinoa (Recipe: quinoa salad with tomato, feta and parsley) {vegetarian, gluten-free}


People often ask me what's coming up in the pantry: what's hot, what's not, what's going to be the new must-have ingredient.

What do I tell these seekers of wisdom, these trendsetters who think I am one of them? I run to my pantry and pull out my crystal ball.

Okay, it's not really a crystal ball; it's a Magic 8 ball.

My Magic 8 ball is old, so the little words are fading, but it is still wise. When I asked, "Will quinoa be the next big ingredient?" my Magic 8 ball responded, "Signs point to yes."

Quinoa -- pronounced KEEN wah -- one of the ancient grains along with spelt, amaranth, millet and teff, originated in the thin, dry climate of the high Andean altiplano in Bolivia and Peru. For the past 30 years, it has been cultivated in Colorado, too.

Grown primarily for its edible seed, quinoa is not a grain; it's a green, from the same family of leafy greens as spinach and Swiss chard. The seed, which is the part we eat, has a mild, nutty taste and texture, more substantial than couscous; when cooked, it acts like rice and tastes like barley.

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a "complete" protein without the need to combine it with other grains or legumes or meats. High in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals, quinoa provides a wide range of health benefits, including helping to promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and prevent migraines.

Cook quinoa as you would cook rice, with two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook for 12-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.

In an airtight container in your pantry, it will keep for up to two years. Because quinoa has no strong flavor of its own, it works well with salty ingredients, bold flavors and creamy textures.

What's your favorite way to use quinoa?


Quinoa salad with tomato, feta and parsley

My quinoa take on tabbouleh, with the last of the flat-leaf parsley and mint from the garden. Serves 2-4.


1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp fresh mint leaves
1-2 tsp flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 cup chopped Kirby or English cucumber
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (optional)


In a small sauce pan, bring the water to boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to simmer, cover the pan, and cook 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. In a small glass jar, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Combine quinoa, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and cucumber in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the dressing, and toss gently to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with feta, and serve at room temperature.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Sweet quinoa pudding
Vegetarian couscous with dried fruit
Sweet couscous with pistachios
Curried orzo chicken salad
Mixed grain and dried fruit salad

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I've always wondered what quinoa is and your post is so informative. I love the photo of the quinoa salad ... they look dainty, cute and slightly translucent. Beautiful.

We don't use it often and my husband things it taste weird in his mouth (dork) but I like it.

Quinoa for me is still a hit and miss. I like them in certain ways but not all. Sometimes it can be too 'grassy' for me... But your salad sounds really good for our coming months...

AHHH! I used to have one of those magic 8 balls! I have found a huge passion for quinoa. It's a spectacular grain and so versatile. The fact that it can be used for savory and sweet treats makes it one of my top 10 pantry items at my home!

I think quinoa is so beautiful cooked -- translucent with a little tail. This recipe looks great, especially since you use the herbs from your garden!

Do you wash your quinoa? I've found it tastes a bit bitter if I don't.

I had no idea it was a seed. I thought it was a grain.
I love quinoa, I just picked up the red kind to try for a change.
It is a great ingredient for my sensitive (mostly) veggie daughter.
I'll have to try it in a Tabbouleh some time soon - I have all of the ingredients - thanks!

Just back from Peru, the Quechua and Aymara speakers in the Andes are very keen on Quinoa and it showed up in almost all the dishes we were served. The tiny grained Kiwicha was also common.

I have to admit I'm definitely guilty of thinking that quinoa was pronounced "kwi-noh-ah". Oops. Thanks for all of the education on quinoa and keeping me in line! :) I had a delicious quinoa "risotto" when I was in Buenos Aires.

One of my favorite ways to dress quinoa up is the replace the cooking water with chicken broth. It gives it a richer, chicken soup-esque flavor that can take it from boring to yum.

My other favorite thing to do with it is to make salads much like the one above! Delicious and terribly healthy!

Lydia, I know that quinoa, spelt, amaranth, millet and teff are called "ancient grains" but I've never understood why, since wheat, barley and maize have been cultivated for a longer time.

Here are the dates of first cultivation:
17,000 to 16,000 BCE -- first cultivation of emmer & einkorn. Wheat was developed from these not long after.
6000 BCE: maize and spelt
4000 to 1000 BCE -- teff
3000 BCE: quinoa and barley

I should have said for at least as long a time, if not longer. My point is that they are no more ancient than the more common ones. I think millet is from around 4500 BCE.

Thanks for the introduction to Quinoa. I've never used this seed before, but am apt to try it now because of this post. I just love discovering new flavors and food!

I have tried it only in salads so far, Lydia. And loved it!

I love quinoa and any grains that require little cooking. They work so well in Greek style dishes and were born to go with feta!

I got one cucumber from the garden this week, and some more tomatoes - this might be the dish that marks the slumber period for the community garden!

I keep seeing quinoa popping up, but I still have never tried the stuff. I need to try this out already! The photo looks great--the quinoa is almost ethereal

This sounds really good! I bought quinoa once, never used it, and it got tossed when I moved . I really like lentils and barley - is it similar?

Noobcook, I love how the quinoa changes completely when it's cooked, and looks so much more interesting.

Peabody, maybe have to do what we do with kids, and sneak it into something he will like -- like chocolate cake.

Anh, I know what you mean. I always find it needs strong flavors, like lemon or ponzu.

Meeta, I hope readers will check out some of the wonderful and creative recipes on your blog -- you do much more interesting things with quinoa than I do!

Julia, washing the quinoa sounds like a great idea -- I've never tried it.

Natashya, I've been looking for the red quinoa but haven't found it in my local markets. Maybe will have to look at Whole Foods.

Rupert, I'll have to look through the Peruvian cookbook (thank you!) for suggestions of how to prepare the quinoa in a more authentic way.

Hillary, a quinoa risotto sounds delicious! I love the idea of it.

Rachel, using stock in place or some or all of the water would really bump up the flavor -- a great suggestion.

Mae, thank you so much for adding to our knowledge. Now I will go and look up why some grains are called "ancient" and others aren't; I'm quite curious.

Sandie, quinoa is one of those very adaptable foods that takes to a range of flavor combinations. It's great for picnics and potlucks, too.

Patricia, check out some other blogs for great recipes for baked goods. And my recipe for quinoa pudding was pretty good, too. I think you'd like it.

Freya, you're right, of course -- the seasonings in Greek salads are perfect for quinoa!

TW, there are worse ways to end the garden season. It's been fun following all the wonderful dishes you've made with your CSA share this summer.

Mike, thanks -- I love the translucent quality of cooked quinoa.

Maris, it's more like barley, but lighter in texture.

In addition to liking quinoa -- after I bought a fine mesh seive (otherwise they go through the holes), and after I got used to those tails -- 2 things really make it work for me. 1, one cup cooks up to what seems to be 4 cups, so there's lots! 2, it has such a short cooking time that you can put it on when you start cooking dinner, have it ready when dinner is ready. Good for the time-strapped cook. Nutrition, too -- claims for calcium and iron, so overall a good choice.

Lydia, thanks for this great post! I tasted quinoa for the first time about 4 years ago, and loved it but have yet to prepare a dish with it. I bought some recently and I think it's time to try it.

I was a bit daunted, but thanks to your post, I am emboldened and determined!


Lydia, I enjoy quinoa salad and this is delicious, but what really makes the post is the Magic 8-Ball. I wish I had one for all of life's decisions. :)

I love quinoa; I've discovered it in the last couple months and really enjoy it. I made a really tasty zucchini and chickpead salad from Bon Apetit this summer, and also did roasted tomatoes stuffed with red quinoa. I've posted the recipes.

Your salad looks really good. I still have to try quinoa. I've been collecting recipes. ;-)


Susan, you're so right -- it's great to have a "grain" on hand that cooks up quickly and is versatile, too.

Mimi, it's so easy to cook that I think you'll find lots of ways to use it. Have no fear!

Marilyn, there was a time, when I was in high school, that my friends and I were utterly addicted to the Magic 8 ball. If we'd had text messaging back then, I'm sure we would have communicated solely by Magic 8 ball predictions. It is decidedly so.

Erin, both of those dishes sound delicious!

Paz, definitely time to get started cooking quinoa!

I have come to love quinoa in both savory and sweet dishes. It is a wonderful "grain" and so nutritious. The plants themselves are beautiful as well. Great job sharing more recipes.

I was only recently introduced to quinoa and really like it. I think we should eat more of it, and less of the refined grains like white rice.

So far, I've only ever had it in a salad. But that will change.

Gretchen, my husband was just in Peru for a few weeks, and enjoyed quinoa in many new (to him) dishes. He brought home a cookbook, too, and I'm looking forward to exploring more Peruvian recipes.

Nate, hope you'll be sharing some of your new quinoa recipes!

My favorite way to use quinoa is in salads as well. You can throw in whatever you want and the quinoa adds a really nice texture and flavour to the salad.

I cook this for my toddler, but I always do too much - how long does it keep for in the refridgerator once its cooked?

Kevin, I agree, quinoa in salads is incredibly versatile. What kinds of salads do you make?

Laura, I never keep it for more than 2 days once its cooked. Probably can last a bit longer, but I wouldn't chance it for a toddler.

Thinking about the question of 'ancient' grains: I think that we're using that word to refer to the grains that were not known to Europeans. In addition to the grains/grasses from the Americas, it includes kamut, an early form of wheat grown in Egypt which had disappeared from commerce, rediscovered by an American wheat farmer, in Egypt during WWII. So much interesting history and culture around these foods! Mae, where did you get your timetable? Bookworms want to know.

it will keep for two years? wow. i made this once, all mushy-like. but i loved the flavour. will make this a regular pantry item now.

Just made this dish tonight - absolutely DELICIOUS - thanks for (yet another) excellent recipe to add to the cookbook!

Susan, you've reminded me that kamut is one grain I have yet to try. Thanks, as always, for adding to our collective body of knowledge.

Bee, yes, it will keep for quite a while in the pantry. Once you cook it, though, it doesn't last long.

Michael, thanks -- so glad you enjoyed this!

I like quirky quinoa, especially in salads like this.

Do you have a mood ring, too, Lydia? ; )

Susan, not any more, but I hear mood rings are making a comeback so it might just be time to buy another one!

I love to mix white and red quinoa together. Not only are the colors lovely, the red takes slightly longer to cook, so you end up with a great texture -- creamy white and crunchy red!

I also mix quinoa with stone ground oats and dried fruit for a breakfast treat.

You have to rinse it before cooking because the seeds are coated with saponins, a bitter-tasting compound naturally produced by the plant to keep birds away.

Quinoa is a godsend for people with gluten sensitivities. It is also the only "grain" that observant Jews consider kosher during Passover (because it's not really a grain). They're even making a quinoa vodka now!

Why am I so into this stuff?? I took a great course called "The Origins of Agriculture" in college and have been cooking with quinoa and other 'unusual' ingredients ever since. I love knowing about the cultivation history and nutritional profile of foods. Quinoa's status as a complete protein makes it Queen!

Quinoa is practically tasteless but very filling. i like it very much and se it frequently. First had it in Peru where it is a staple and now I'm delighted that it is everywhere. I have carnivores,omnivores,vegetarians,s & vegans in my family so it is difficult to please them all. I know with quinoa I will be able to satisfy them and offer a dish that is capable of many manifestations. No animal is used in this recipe.

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