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So You Bought Quinoa – Now What?


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I talk with Jay about his experiences preparing Quinoa, an amazingly nutritious food you should be eating now.

Depending on who you ask, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a grain-like staple originally grown in the  Andes mountains of South America, is kosher for Passover. Since quinoa is definitely not a grain—it is actually a member of the goose foot family related to spinach and beets—the question remains whether quinoa is kitniyot (“tiny things”), grain-like substances like rice or legumes similar enough to grain that Ashkenazi Jews deemed them forbidden on Passover centuries ago. The Orthodox Union (OU) thinks quinoa might be kitniyot and Star-K says it definitely is not kitniyot. In either case, kosher supervising authorities suggest buying quinoa that has been produced in plants that process only quinoa, so there is no possibility of chametz contamination. They also suggest checking the quinoa carefully to insure that there’s no chametz mixed in.

Since quinoa is still relatively new to most of us, I asked Jay, our “Senior Quinoa Correspondent,” to try some out and give us his thoughts.

So, Jay, what did you find out?

Well, Jamie, I bought some quinoa and tried it. The seeds are round like couscous. Quinoa takes about the same time to cook as white rice (~10 minutes) but has more protein and micro-nutrients than whole-grain brown rice. So, we’re talking about some really nutritious stuff.

What about the taste?

Quinoa has a nutty or grassy flavor that some might find a little bitter. This is the result of bitter compounds called saponins that cover the seeds. These are removed through soaking in water. Commercially-available quinoa comes pre-soaked to remove the saponins. Otherwise, quinoa is pretty neutral. I found that it takes on flavors well. I especially liked making pilaf with dried fruit and nuts. The sweetness of the fruit really rounded out the flavor.

How is the consistency?

Quinoa is not quite as fluffy as rice  and it has a little more resistance when you chew it. In a lot of ways it is like brown rice but the size of the cooked seeds is smaller than a brown rice kernel.

Any cooking tips?

Well, I followed the package instructions. Essentially quinoa has the same 2 to 1, water to “grain” formula as rice. Quinoa also cooks in about the same time. But I did find that rinsing the quinoa first or letting it soak in water and draining it reduces the grassy flavor. If you do soak it, you may need to reduce the amount of cooking water or cooking time. Otherwise the quinoa can turn out a little mushy or waterlogged.

Browse through all our Quinoa Recipes here.

Most important question, did you like it?

Yeah, I did. I must be honest, though. The grassy flavor can be off-putting at first, but once I seasoned the quinoa I really liked it. Remember, quinoa is completely gluten-free and has a lot of protein, so it is an amazing product to add to everyday meals in place of other starches. If you don’t eat kitniyot on Passover, quinoa is a welcome change from potatoes.

That’s great stuff. Thanks, Jay.

There you have it folks. Quinoa—a nutritious alternative to rice. Try some this Passover or anytime.

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About Jamie Geller


Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen – not because she doesn’t love food – but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), she's the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" magazine . Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their five busy kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen - quickly. Check out her new book, "Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes."




3 Responses to So You Bought Quinoa – Now What?

  1. avatar says: roger

    A question: I recently began eating, and savoring, quinoa, but it never occurred to me to chew it, any more than I would chew oatmeal. The seeds are so soft and tiny that chewing seemed entirely superfluous. But I’ve seen several references to people chewing it so now I’m wondering–is chewing necessary in order to properly digest it, to fully absorb its ample nutrients?

  2. avatar says: Sari

    Hi Jamie,
    Thanks for the great info on Quinoa, I will def. give it a try. Speaking of Pesach…. I will be making Pesach for the first time this year (eeek!) and would love some easy but yummy recipes. Do you think you will putting any up on your blog?

    Thanks for all of your delicous recipes and really amusing stories!

  3. avatar says: Basya

    Hi Jamie,
    Sooooo excited about the new site. Help I just found out that i have a vegan coming for the first days of Pesach and we are Meat, eggs, cheeze, fish eatin’ people. I read your article on Quinoa. PLEASE post some recipies or this guy is going to STARVE in my house. Thanks and much hatzlacha . I love watching your cooking show videos. You are sooooooooooo cute:)

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