What Does Quinoa Taste Like and 15 Ways to Make It Taste Better?

what does quinoa taste like

What is this Quinoa? How does it look like? What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has in the past few years gotten a lot of attention across the globe, and it is now a common sight on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves alike. It has been around us for centuries, with the United Nations naming 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. 

Now, what is Quinoa? And why should you eat it? Well, Quinoa is whole grain just like barley and rice. What this means is that you can cook it the same way you do other whole grains. It’s worthwhile noting that this grain has a nutritional profile similar to that of brown rice, so you should consider giving it a stir-fry instead of the conventional rice grains.

quinoa on a white surface

Is it entirely the same as rice? No. Quinoa is naturally created with slightly higher protein than rice. And just like rice, it is also a relative to additions such as spinach, Swiss chard, and several other leafy green vegetables.

Quinoa is a good way to reward yourself, people around you, and guests when they come visiting.

You may ask, “What does Quinoa taste like?”

This article brings along a perfect description of taste and texture of Quinoa.

Read on.

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Quinoa is often referred to as pseudo-grain simply because it tastes similar to grains.

Now, what does Quinoa taste like exactly? Well, if you have never had the chance to try out this nutty-earthy grain and you are a little bit intimidated by the thought, you should rest easy as this grain is just a heartier version of rice. You already know what it tastes like, right?

What more? It tends to get gummy if overcooked. This implies that you should slightly undercook it to get a better bite.

How do you know it’s done? Or how do you know it’s the right time to stop cooking Quinoa? When the rings pop out, it’s time to stop cooking.

If you are to get your desired texture, it is advisable to cook it with half-cup less water than the directions inscribed on the package. This way, you get yummy Quinoa that has an irresistible perfect texture. Try it today.

Away from the question, “What does Quinoa taste like?”, let us look at ways to make it taste better. That is where most cooks –both amateurs and pros- fail.

quinoa served with meat

15 Ways to Make Quinoa Taste Better

Just like many other foods, Quinoa is yet another foodstuff that can turn out delicious, or bland and boring. No matter how you cook it, you cannot expect any other results apart from those two.

In real terms, if you are to adequately cash in on the health benefits of Quinoa, you need to cook it properly. This way, you are sure to get enough fiber, vitamins, protein, and other essential nutrients. However, most people view all those healthier than thou benefits as a real turn-off, which makes them feel like Quinoa can’t taste good.

And while it is possible to cook Quinoa that feels uninspired and bland, it is similarly possible to make it taste better. Perhaps the major reason you haven’t been thrilled with Quinoa is you probably cook it incorrectly.

Digest These 15 simple ways to make Quinoa taste better. And then try them out!

1. Toast It!

If you want a desirable flavor out of Quinoa, you should toast it. This way, it releases more flavor to give your grain an irresistible fragrance.

Just like all other grains, the first step to getting perfect results is toasting. This applies to nuts as well, at least if you are to get the best taste. Roast them.

So, how do you toast Quinoa? Well, it is easier than you can realize. Toast your grain in a dry skillet over a medium heat source for up to 7 minutes.

You know it is done when it starts giving off a nutty smell and attains a light golden color. You and people around can’t resist that flavor, can you?

2. Mix with Breadcrumbs

You don’t want a boring dinner when you decide to do Quinoa, right? Well, when most of us hear anything to do with this mystery grain, we tend to think it is entirely boring, which is never the case. 

As we said earlier, getting tastier Quinoa goes down to how you cook it. Mix it with panko breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you can use it to create an awesome eggplant parmesan or zucchini dishes.

It makes a healthy side dish and you can do a lot more with it than you tend to think.

3. Use a 2:1 Ratio of Water to Quinoa

This is yet another trick to make Quinoa taste better. It is a useful yet the most underappreciated aspect of Quinoa cooking.

So, if you have ever had boring Quinoa, there are high chances that the culprit is incorrect water to the Quinoa ratio. 

Just like rice and other dried foods that plump when they absorb water, Quinoa also gets its fluffy feel when you cook it in water. This means that if you are to attain the most desirable texture, you have no choice but to plump it perfectly, or else…

Two cups of water for every cup of Quinoa, or simply ratio 2:1 of water to grain is recommended because it allows your grain to cook evenly. The result is light, fluffy and tasty Quinoa.

Also, be careful not to add salt to your Quinoa until it has fully cooked, otherwise it won’t absorb water properly.

If you want to enhance its flavor, substitute water with vegetable broth. Leave the lid on to net additional moisture when simmering is happening. And then allow the Quinoa to rest, still with the lid on. This way, your Quinoa will be complete and you can expect tasty Quinoa.

4. Rinse After Toasting

Yes, it helps to rinse Quinoa after toasting. Are you wondering why this is a total opposite of what blogs say? Well, experts say that it is good to rinse Quinoa after toasting, and not the other way round.

Here’s why.

Do you know what saponin is? That natural protective seed coat that you find on Quinoa seeds? Incidentally, saponin is also an essential ingredient in many detergents and soaps, which means that it is never delicious on Quinoa.

Buy pre-toasted or pre-rinsed Quinoa and start from there, but toasting helps deal with saponin as well.

Who would have thought that this culprit- saponin- would give Quinoa a bitter taste? Probably a few. Fortunately, you are now among those few.

served food/ What Does Quinoa Taste Like

5. Add Fresh Spices and Herbs

Similar to other dry grains, Quinoa can be extremely bland on its own. If you want a more enhanced flavor, add some fresh spices and herbs. That is one simple and quick way to make your Quinoa taste better without much effort.

You can add salt, thyme, peppers, basil, red pepper, oregano, or whatever herb you want. This instantly adds flavor to your Quinoa grain within no time at all.

6. Lace with Coconut

There is no better way to make anything taste better than by adding a touch of sweetness. Even though most people find Quinoa boring, there are still tons of ways you can make it taste better, and one of those ways is by adding coconut milk or coconut oil.

What does Quinoa taste like if you mix it with coconut? Well, coconut (milk or oil) makes Quinoa sweeter and savory, something every cook wants in a dish.

You will certainly enjoy it that you will not want to add anything else to it. It is as simple as that.

7. Add Quinoa to Soups

Quinoa is arguably the best grain to add to whatever soup you want, isn’t it?

Apart from being a heavy filler, Quinoa makes soup heartier without taking over or soaking up all the broth. There are some dry grains, for example, farro and barley, that are so needy that they require all of your attention when you are eating soup.

But Quinoa grain is quite obvious and it blends well with almost every dish, from the tortilla, zucchini, and other jokes. Try adding the grain to your favorite soup and you will not forget the whole eating experience.

8. Sit It in Water Overnight

Let it soak overnight and sprout. Does this sound weird? It should not. As weird as it may sound, a lot of cooks swear by sprouting their grain.

You soak it in water overnight until sprouts start forming. This effectively reduces the amount of phytic acid in Quinoa. Phytic acid or phytates are believed to block the absorption of some minerals and reduce the breaking down of starch, fat, and protein.

This makes Quinoa taste even better.

9. Add Quinoa to Baked Good

Believe it or not, baking Quinoa into muffins is not beyond weird as you may tend to think. Try out simple Quinoa muffin recipes and you will like the results.

One good recipe you should give a try is: use Quinoa, sweet potato, dark chocolate, and coconut crumbles to form muffins.

If you can recall, we said that Quinoa can be boring on its own, but eating it this way is filling and overly satisfying. And Quinoa muffins are ideal for everyone- children and adults alike.

10. Cook it Like Pasta

Theories to getting perfect Quinoa are not by any means exhaustive. The list goes on and on. Forget about all that fluff you see on blogs and listen to experts’ advice.

They say that the easiest way to get fluffy and tender Quinoa is to cook it the same way you do pasta. Cook your Quinoa in boiling salty water, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Before draining water, taste to feel whether it is fully done. It should be tender and have a bite. 

Does it have a white ring on the outside? That indicates that your grain is ready.

Set the cooked Quinoa in a strainer for 15 minutes to release excess moisture. And like couscous, fluff your grain using a fork.

cooked quinoa

11. Throw in a Few Aromatics

First of all, you were wondering, “What does Quinoa taste like?”, and here you are, trying to make your grain taste better.

As we said, bumping up the flavor is the trick. Adding aromatics while the water boils is a good place to start. Get two thyme sprigs, toasted cumin, fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, and get cooking. But always feel free to adjust to suit your needs.

Do you get the idea?

12. Add Some Pepper or Other Heat

Peppers are spices with more of a kick. No perfect recipe can afford to omit heat that is pepper. Add some red pepper to your Quinoa grain for a bit of heat. And you will get an easy and delicious side dish without much effort. Additionally, you can bring along some veggies and proteins for a spicier dish.

13. Add Cheese

Another great way to make Quinoa and all other dishes to taste better is to add plenty of creamy cheese. What you get by adding cheese to your mystery grain is nothing short of beyond amazing.

And after that, you will never see Quinoa the same way again. Try it today.

14. Toast It in Essential Oil Before Boiling

In a pot over a medium heat source, add a tablespoon of essential oil, preferably olive oil. Let the Quinoa toast but not burn.

After it has attained a brown color, add water and then bring it to a boil. This does not only enhance the flavor of your Quinoa but also makes a huge difference in how you view the nutty “rice”.

15. Use it in Chili

For people who don’t eat meat, finding meat-free chili recipes can be a daunting task, right? But adding Quinoa can make your chili heartier without having it taste more of grain, you know?

A vegan and gluten-free recipe that contains Quinoa is the first step to converting to a meatless lifestyle.

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Heidi Hill
Heidi is a mother of three with a love of creating her own recipes. She particularly enjoys throwing themed dinner parties and is well-known among her friends for her attention to detail. When she isn't cooking up new dishes for her family and friends, she likes to dine out at newly-opened restaurants (especially tapas!) and review them in her blog posts.
Heidi Hill
Heidi is a mother of three with a love of creating her own recipes. She particularly enjoys throwing themed dinner parties and is well-known among her friends for her attention to detail. When she isn't cooking up new dishes for her family and friends, she likes to dine out at newly-opened restaurants (especially tapas!) and review them in her blog posts.