Quinoa is my favorite gluten-free grain.

I love quinoa. It tastes good, is packed with nutrients, and is easy to cook. What more could you want in a food?

If the grains in your gluten-free diet consist primarily of corn and rice, you owe it to yourself to try quinoa—really!

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has been eaten for thousands of years in parts of South America. In recent years it has become increasing well known due in part to growing awareness of the gluten-free diet. If we are partly responsible for the surge in popularity of quinoa we owe it to ourselves to at least try it—right?

Quinoa is available in both white and red varieties and is about the size of a sesame seed. The most convenient form to purchase quinoa is prewashed. Quinoa contains an outer coating of saponin that is very bitter and must be removed to make the grain palatable. If you don’t buy pre-washed quinoa you will have to rinse it before cooking. If you skip this step you won’t like the result.

Easy, tasty, nutritious!
Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes—quicker than rice! It has a very mild taste and takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked or served with. It reminds me a bit of tofu in this regard.

Quinoa is a tasty source of protein, fiber, iron, and B vitamins—the latter three being nutrients that may be lacking in gluten-free diets. A half-cup serving of cooked quinoa contains 4 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of dietary fiber, 1.4 milligrams of iron, and 39 micrograms of folate.

Pick up a box of quinoa the next time you are out shopping. It is readily available in natural foods stores and many supermarkets. Quinoa also can be mail ordered. Two brands that are available prewashed are Ancient Harvest and Norquin.

Use your newly purchased box to make a pilaf. Just substitute quinoa for the rice you would usually use. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, try the recipe below. It is from my book The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide (McGraw-Hill).

Here’s to new taste sensations!

Trisha’s Slow-Cooker Quinoa

This high-fiber recipe is courtesy of Trisha Lyons, RD, a nutritionist specializing in celiac disease at the MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The recipe may be used as an entrée or a side dish. Additional vegetables may be added as desired.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can cannellini or black beans, rinsed
2 cups gluten-free chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed thoroughly or prewashed
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place olive oil, onion, green pepper, and celery into slow cooker, and cook 15 to 20 minutes on high power. Add tomatoes, beans, broth, quinoa, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook 2 to 3 hours until ingredients are tender. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings as a side dish

Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD

Also available at:


My favorite gluten-free grain