Quinoa: Health Benefits and the 9 Best Vegan Recipes to Try

Quinoa: Health Benefits and the TK Best Vegan Recipes to Try

Quinoa may have only come into popularity in Western supermarkets over the past decade, but it has been cultivated in Peru and Bolivia for thousands of years. This tiny seed is known for being a nutritional powerhouse. Learn more about quinoa’s health benefits and the best vegan recipes to try it in below.

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa cooks like a grain, but it’s actually a pseudocereal. This is because it’s not a grain at all, but rather the tiny seed of a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It’s also closely related to beets and spinach. This plant is native to the Andes Mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile but due to a spike in demand in the West, it is now cultivated in more than 70 countries.

When cooked, quinoa has a fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavor. This makes it a good substitute for starchier grains, including rice, barley, spelt, and millet. It’s also gluten-free.

Dry quinoa can also be ground into flour or flakes and be used to make bread and grain-free pasta.

Quinoa is considered a superfood.

Quinoa Nutrition

Quinoa’s rich nutritional profile makes it a superfood. The ancient grain is a good source of fiber, manganese, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, B vitamins, vitamin E, and flavonoid antioxidants. It is also a decent source of protein. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams.

“Quinoa is a unique grain in that it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need,” Brittany Poulson, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Utah tells LIVEKINDLY.

“These all combined promote heart health, gut health, decrease the risk of metabolic conditions, and can help fight inflammation,” she adds.

Quinoa Health Benefits

Regularly eating quinoa can help “promote heart health, gut health, decrease the risk of metabolic conditions, and can help fight inflammation,” Poulson explains.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Food Science suggests that regular consumption of quinoa decreases the production of inflammatory mediators NO and inhibits the release of immune substances known as cytokines, which can contribute to inflammation.

Quinoa is high in fiber, and studies show that fiber-rich diets can help lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels, and lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

“Because of the high amount of the antioxidant power of flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, it may also help protect against conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and several cancers,” Poulson adds.

How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is covered in a natural coating called saponin, which can give it a bitter, soapy flavor. To prevent this, rinse your quinoa in a wire mesh strainer. One cup of dry quinoa will yield three cups cooked. Use 1 3/4 cups of water for every cup of quinoa. If you eat quinoa often, make a big batch. It will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for about five days.

Add quinoa and water to the pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and then cover. It should cook in about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let it sit for another 5 minutes—these steps help give quinoa a light texture. The cooked grain should have a little spiral around it, which is the germ of the seed.

To cook more flavorful quinoa, swap the water with broth or add salt to taste. You can also add aromatics to the pot, such as crushed garlic cloves, fresh herbs, or black pepper.

Quinoa can be cooked in a pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot. To do this, rinse your quinoa and add it to the pot at a 1:1 ratio. Seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 1 minute. Let the pressure release naturally for 12 minutes, then release it manually.

The Best Vegan Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa: Health Benefits and the TK Best Vegan Recipes to Try
Sesame ginger dressing takes this dish to the next level. | This Savory Vegan

1. Roasted Quinoa Chickpea Bowls

Featuring roasted, spiced chickpeas, fluffy quinoa, fresh greens, and a spicy, savory sesame-ginger dressing, this vegan power bowl makes for a delicious lunch or dinner.

Get the recipe here.

Quinoa: Health Benefits and the TK Best Vegan Recipes to Try
Serve these vegan meatballs with your favorite pasta. | The Fitchen

2. Vegan Quinoa Mushroom Meatballs

These meat-free meatballs have a satisfyingly meaty texture, thanks to a blend of mushrooms and quinoa.

Get the recipe here.

3. Basil Jollof Quinoa

Jollof rice is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. In this Ghanaian-Italian fusion dish, blogger Afia Amoako swaps white rice for quinoa and adds fresh basil into the mix.

Get the recipe here.

Quinoa: Health Benefits and the TK Best Vegan Recipes to Try
This cheesy quinoa dish makes for a delicious side or meal. | Fannetastic Food

4. Cheesy Mushrooms and Quinoa

This cheesy quinoa dish packs a ton of flavor, thanks to nutritional yeast, savory mushrooms, and plenty of coriander.

Get the recipe here.

Quinoa: Health Benefits and the TK Best Vegan Recipes to Try
This protein-packed quinoa loaf is great for any time of year. | Vegan Richa

5. Vegan Lentil Quinoa Loaf

Made from lentils and quinoa, this satisfying plant-based meatloaf is topped with a savory glaze.

Get the recipe here.

Serve these vegan black bean quinoa burgers with all the fixings. | Avocadocentric

6. Black Bean and Quinoa Burger

These healthy black bean and quinoa burgers are hearty, satisfying, and flavorful.

Get the recipe here.

These stuffed peppers are inspired by Tex-Mex. | Vegan Huggs

7. Vegan Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

These quinoa-stuffed peppers are mildly spicy and light, but filling. Fresh bell peppers are stuffed with a blend of quinoa, black beans, corn, meaty mushrooms, and no shortage of aromatics and spices.

Get the recipe here.

This quinoa bowl hits all the right notes. | My Weekend Kitchen

8. Roasted Chickpea and Quinoa Bowl

Featuring lemony quinoa, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, crunchy cumin-roasted chickpeas, and roasted bell peppers, this bowl strikes a balance between fresh, tangy, and smoky. top with a drizzle of dairy-free yogurt sauce and vegan feta.

Get the recipe here.

This freezer-friendly curry is warming and spicy. | Okonomi Kitchen

9. 1-Pot Golden Quinoa Curry

Ideal for meal prepping, this one-pot curry is made with plenty of onion, garlic, and ginger, plus red lentils, quinoa, and frozen vegetables.

Get the recipe here.