February 2016

Quinoa - From Inca Ingredient to Gourmet Delicacy

For many centuries, the South American “Mother Grain” quinoa has been a traditional ingredient in some South American kitchens. The popularity of the grain has exploded, and quinoa can now be found in a great deal of dishes around the world.

By: Katrine Bendixen
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Morud - Denmark


Quinoa crackers
Photo: Ximena Noya

What do you think about having a quinoa salad with avocado, pomegranate and beans? Or a quinoa paste with quinoa bread for lunch? These mentioned food alternatives are only a drop in the ocean of the modern and increasing use of quinoa. Quinoa has been a vital ingredient for the Incas in the Andean region for 7,000 years; specifically, in Bolivia and Peru. The Incas ate plenty of quinoa and, aside from potatoes, quinoa was their most important crop. Traditionally, quinoa is cooked just like any other grain. It is boiled and cooked as rice, or in some cases made into a porridge or gruel. Today, quinoa is consumed more than ever and has become kind of a craze in the western world. In the modern world, quinoa goes by the name: “The Super Grain of the Future.”

Quinoa takes the world by storm

Quinoa is used more than ever all over the world, and it is used in all type of food. Quinoa is causing a revolution; it used to belong to the Incas and has been a symbol of poverty since it reflected a poor existence. But that point of view has completely changed today. Until this huge focus on a healthier lifestyle had been highlighted, quinoa was an unknown crop to most people outside South America. Now, it is more popular than ever. The last few years quinoa has taken the health food industry by storm. It seems like quinoa is now an ingredient found in all types of food: pancakes, quinoa-chocolate truffles, burger, muffins, cookies, bread rolls, etc. The traditional way of cooking quinoa is getting harder to find because a healthy lifestyle among people across the world is more intense; therefore, people use the super food quinoa in all types of food to stay as healthy as possible. New quinoa meals are thereby developed.


Quinoa grains
Photo: Katrine Bendixen

The British chef Jamie Oliver, the man behind the gastronomic revolution and one of the world´s most successful and famous chef has also taken quinoa to his heart. He has published a great number of recipes containing the super food quinoa; particularly, quinoa salads of every kind are found in his cookbooks. Quinoa exists in multiple types of salads. You can mix quinoa with watermelon, radish, juice from a lemon and a peeled carrot that will end up as a salad loaded with minerals and vitamins – and you will be a part of the trendy and healthy quinoa wave.

The main cause that the consumption of quinoa has exploded and used in every types of food is because it is a grain in a world full of health fanatics, offering multiple nutritional benefits with a low amount of fat and calories.

The famous gourmet restaurant GUSTU in La Paz also sees the versatility in quinoa and is also part of their gourmet meals on the menu. This modern and trendy restaurant will offer you a wide range of food such as surubí with spinach purée and crunchy quinoa. However, GUSTU is not the only Bolivian restaurant biased towards quinoa. Take a trip to Uyuni and you will find the pizzeria Donna Isabella with their specialty quinoa pizzas. The pizzas have received plenty of positive feedback from former costumers. You can also make your own quinoa pizza dough and top it with whatever you like. You can keep it vegetarian or not, which is one of the likeable advantages of quinoa. And do not forget: quinoa is a gluten-free grain.

The main cause that the consumption of quinoa has exploded and used in every types of food is because it is a grain in a world full of health fanatics, offering multiple nutritional benefits with a low amount of fat and calories. A 2005 study from the University of Milan found out that quinoa is a brilliant resource to help control appetite; the study recommends quinoa as a food for dieting due to its high protein and low calorie content. Vegetarians and vegans are especially fond of this super grain because it is a rare non-meat with protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. Due to a healthier lifestyle, the use of quinoa has been modernized: replacing the rice in your dish or the flour in your pancake with quinoa or quinoa flour, you will have a far healthier meal.

You can add quinoa to nearly anything, include it in your chocolate cake or create your own quinoa muesli on top of your yogurt. It has become common to add quinoa to your breakfast. With the “Quinoa Recipe” app, you will be provided with numerous recipes that will help you make a healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can make: quinoa porridge with toasted almonds and coconuts, whole wheat banana quinoa pancakes, a quinoa omelet with feta and tzatziki, etc. There are many delicious ways to eat quinoa for breakfast, and it will start your day off on the right foot. For lunch or dinner, you can even have quinoa spaghetti, tortilla or meatballs, and thereby get a much healthier version of your meal. This is what people want to achieve: to be healthy, because a healthy lifestyle has become a symbol of the intelligence of a person; a healthy lifestyle is the new cool.

From a local product to a global success

Quinoa cultivation has crossed continental boundaries to reach France, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and Italy. As in the United States and Canada, farmers in Great Britain are growing their own quinoa. The British Quinoa Company (founded in 2011) has found a type of the grain which is able to cope with the British climate. British farmer and PhD graduate Stephen Jones told the Daily Mail that he believes quinoa has come to Great Britain to stay, and that it will soon become a staple in the British kitchen. The American restaurant Eatsa in San Francisco experiences such a huge popularity of quinoa among its customers that the only product they sell is quinoa.

Do you crave for a healthier lifestyle without a lack of delicious and varied food? Just add quinoa. The use of quinoa has no limits. This little super grain has an infinite number of applications - only your imagination stops you in developing new quinoa meals.

You can add quinoa to nearly anything, include it in your chocolate cake or create your own quinoa muesli on top of your yogurt. It has become common to add quinoa to your breakfast.

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