Before becoming vegan, I didn’t pay much attention to quinoa. When I wanted grains, I would head straight for rice. As a vegan, now I can’t get enough quinoa! It’s so versatile, tasty, and SO easy to prepare. Best of all, though, it is loaded with complete proteins and other important nutrients, making it one of my vegan staples.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, largely unrefined, ancient grain, and a more environmentally friendly choice of grain. According to Self Nutrition Data, there are 8.1g of protein per 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Quinoa protein is comparable to casein, the protein found in dairy, and is considered a complete or essential protein source. It also contains high levels of folate, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese, and chalk-full of antioxidants.
Even better, there are so many ways to eat quinoa, that you can eat it regularly and not worry about tiring of it. Try it in place of rice as a side dish or complement to stir-fries, or as a main dish in a quinoa salad, or even substitute in place of pasta with tomato sauce. I’ve also taken to substituting quinoa flour in place of all-purpose flour for many baking and cooking recipes and found it to be a pleasant substitution. I’ve even seen some recipes for quinoa “oatmeal” that look pretty intriguing (though I have yet to try).
When you’re changing your diet to vegan or vegetarian, it is important to pay attention to the nutrients in your food. It is an important consideration for every diet, of course, but because a plant-based diet eliminates one of human’s natural food groups, nutritional care for vegans and vegetarians becomes more important. Therefore, integrating “super foods” such as quinoa into your diet is a good move, and helps to reduce the amount of planning you have to do for each meal, knowing you will likely be getting good nutritional value in your diet.
As I said in my post for Vegan Gluten-free Seed Crackers, I find the easiest way to ensure I’m getting all my necessary proteins is to generously and regularly integrate legumes and other plant-based protein sources into my diet. It works really well for me to add nuts and seeds to most meals. I also like using quinoa in several meals as well, whether in the whole grain form, or in flour form.
Not everyone will love the nutty taste of quinoa, but it is a flavour that definitely grows on you, and can be complimented with different additive flavours. The best way to experiment with which flavours you prefer with your quinoa is to start with a quinoa salad. Quinoa salad can be made savoury, sweet, tangy, however you want. Most recipes you’ll find will include a combination of all flavours. I’m going to share with you my favourite base for Quinoa Salad, below. This one is tangy and savoury and happens to be seriously addictive.
My Fave Vegan Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp vegan broth powder
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbs red wine vinegar
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs frank’s red hot sauce or sriracha
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbs fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tbs garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can of black-eyed peas (or whatever bean of preference)
- 1 english cucumber, diced
- 1 cup halved grape/cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
Rinse quinoa through a colander thoroughly for at least 1 minute to remove bitter saponin coating, and thoroughly drain.
(Saponin, the bitter-tasting coating on the quinoa grains, is quinoa’s natural insecticide. This means quinoa is a naturally healthier alternative grain to wheats and oats that are commercially farmed and largely doused in toxic pesticides. The saponin coating should be rinsed off the quinoa before cooking as it can cause digestive irritation when consumed.)
In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa, water, and broth powder and set to boil with lid on. Once the quinoa comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer quinoa for 20 minutes. Once quinoa has simmered for 20 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes with lid on.
While quinoa is cooking, prepare dressing first by mixing oil, vinegar, lemon juice, hot sauce, and seasoning together in a large mixing bowl.
Chop shallot, garlic, and dill (thoroughly washed and dried) and let soak in liquid mixture while preparing the other vegetables.
Thoroughly rinse beans and drain before adding to the dressing mixture.
Vegetables and nuts should be added last, after the cooked quinoa, to preserve crunchiness.
Once all ingredients are added to mixing bowl, thoroughly mix dressing into mixture to evenly incorporate. Serve warm, or chilled, and store in the fridge no longer than one week.
This recipe can easily be modified to taste, with different additives and seasoning. This is my favourite base, but I will often add avocado, shredded carrot, or baby spinach. You can also try it with a bit of sweetness by adding some maple syrup to the dressing and some dried cranberries.