Quinoa is a seed that has gained popularity in the last ten years. When I wrote The Quinoa Cookbook 6 years ago, people used to say to me “QuiWhat?!” Now I no longer have to explain myself or talk about it in simple terms. People know what quinoa is and many people are familiar with how to use it in recipes.
There has however begun a new fashion this year that I have not seen before. People are knocking and criticising quinoa on a number of counts. They say that it is bland and gritty and has no flavour of its own. Other people are saying that all the grains stay separate when you cook them and get stuck between your teeth. Furthermore is the argument about the idiosyncratic flavour that quinoa has. It is not like anything else in taste and there are a number reasons for this.
The Main Complaints About Quinoa Addressed
I am not here to convince you to like quinoa or not. I honestly do not mind if you do not want to eat it for whatever reason. But most of the criticisms against it are pretty weak and seem to come from a desire to be different, rather than anything about quinoa itself.
Objection 1 – Quinoa is Bland
Yes it is. There I’ve agreed with the accusers on this point. Quinoa is bland in flavour. There is a slight hint of bitterness and nuttiness to the cooked grains, but basically there is not a lot of flavour to quinoa. You could also level this criticism at Rice, Cous Cous, Oats, Barley, Hemp, Lentils and many other food items from the seed and grain section of your supermarket. There is nothing wrong with being bland per se. Not all food has to be like chillis and lemons which scream out with flavour.
Objection 2 – Quinoa is Gritty
Yes Quinoa is gritty, if you only boil it for a short amount of time. When you prepare quinoa for a meal you need to think about how you are going to use it in your recipe. If you are creating a quinoa side salad with celery, radishes and cos lettuce then you would want your quinoa to be cooked for a small amount of time to keep its crunch. This can be called gritty but I prefer the description “Al Dente”. If however you are producing a quinoa salad with mayonnaise then you would want it to be cooked for longer and bend into the salad dressing. For crunchy quinoa I would simmer the quinoa for up to eight minutes. For mushy soft quinoa you can leave it in the water for fifteen minutes.
Objection 3 – Quinoa Has No Flavour
Oh yes it does! Now if you are telling me that you do not like the mild flavour of quinoa that is fine. But you cannot say that it has no flavour. If it had no flavour there would be nothing to dislike would there. To solve the flavour issue with quinoa is very simple because it will take on the flavour of most ingredients you mix with it. So in the previous example of a quinoa salad dressed with mayonnaise the flavour of the quinoa would be masked and covered by the other flavours in the salad. In stir fry dishes you can add herbs and spices that will quickly disguise the flavour of the quinoa. The same is true of course for rice and Cous Cous.
What no one can deny is the nutritional might of quinoa. It is quite unique in its makeup and contains all the amino acids that your body needs. It is a complete protein in a seed.