Once you know how to make perfect quinoa, you can batch cook it so you will be ready for anything – throwing together Quinoa Tabbouleh for a gluten free friendly mezze, tossing a quick and hearty lunch salad together with leftovers and leafy greens, or magically making a quick side for grilled chicken or fish. Quinoa is a powerhouse ingredient with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup and is considered a complete protein even though it doesn’t have as much of all the 9 essential amino acids that animal protein. In my book, it’s a powerhouse because it only takes 15 minutes to cook.
How to Make Perfect Quinoa
Making quinoa is quite easy but knowing how to make perfect quinoa requires some special knowledge. And friend, I’m about to give you that knowledge. Here’s the basic drill that you will see on every package or recipe: Combine quinoa, water and a big pinch of salt in a pan, place it over medium high heat and bring to a boil then lower heat, cover and cook at a low simmer until the water is absorbed. Yes, you will have made quinoa, but no, it will not be perfectly fluffy but after you read this post, you will be the fluffy quinoa queen (or king.)
It’s All in the Ratios
You’ve probably read on the back of quinoa or seen recipes that say use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa. But using these ratios I could never make quinoa that wasn’t soggy and soft. I wanted it to have more the texture of couscous and decided to crack the code. After trying different methods, I finally figured out that you simply cut down the water to 1 1/2 times the amount of quinoa you use. So whether you use 1 cup or 10 cups of quinoa, you simply multiply that times 1.5 and that’s how much water to use. So for the typical directions using 1 cup of quinoa, you will use 1 1/2 cups water.
Secrets to Perfect Quinoa
Besides knowing the right ratio, here are a couple of other tips:
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. The reason for this is quinoa has saponin on the outer shell which is a natural pesticide but tastes soapy and can make some people have digestive discomfort. Look at your package carefully because it might already be rinsed or better yet, it might be sprouted quinoa which means not only has it been rinsed, but it’s been soaked long enough to start sprouting and make it more digestible.
- Use a the right size pan. For 1 cup of quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water, use a 2 qt pan. Any bigger and the water will evaporate too fast and leave you with chewy quinoa at best but more likely you will have some perfect quinoa and some hard little quinoa balls.
- Cook for 12 minutes then check the water level. If you tilt the pan and don’t see any water, you’re ready for the next, very important step.
- Remove from heat, lift the lid and cover with kitchen towel then return lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes. (Don’t skip this step; it is really the key to the “fluffiness”.)
- Rake through the quinoa with a fork to separate the grains.
What is Quinoa Tabbouleh
Tabbouleh is a traditional Mediterranean dish typically made with bulgur which is a wheat product and lots of fresh herbs. I have always loved tabbouleh for its lemon-drenched dressing and the fact that it feels like your taking a big bite out of Spring. As soon as I learned about quinoa a decade ago, I realized it would be the perfect sub for bulgur and was finally able to start making tabbouleh again since I haven’t eaten gluten since 2008. (If I’m doing no grains or grain type products for a Whole30 then I make Carrot Tabbouleh instead.) Depending on the region of the Mediterranean, herbs may be abundant with the grain (bulgur or quinoa) taking the backseat or vice versa. It also varies from household to household like many Mediterranean traditional dishes. I tend to like mine with the herbs just slightly more abundant than the grain. When you make it feel free to cut down on the herbs if you want the quinoa to shine.
What to serve with Quinoa Tabbouleh
Traditionally, tabbouleh is served as part of a multi-dish appetizer course in the Eastern Mediterranean kitchen along with other salads, spreads like hummus and tzaziki, pita bread and marinated vegetables. This spread alone would be a perfect way to entertain, but you can serve it as a main course salad tossed with roasted veggies, chickpeas and feta cheese or simply serve it as a side dish that is full of vitamins and antioxidants with grilled chicken or fish.
Perfect Quinoa Tabbouleh
If you want the quinoa to take the front seat, use half the amount of herbs called for. You can leave the tomatoes and cucumbers out if they are not in season. The herbs, grain and lemony dressing are what make this dish stand out.
- Quinoa ingredients
1 cup quinoa (preferably sprouted), rinsed until clear
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
- Tabbouleh ingredients
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
4 green onions (scallions)
1 small or 1/2 large cucumber, seeded
1 medium tomato, finely chopped or 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
Juice of 2 lemon or 1/4 cup
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
- Make the Quinoa
- Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a pan
- Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once it hits a rolling boil, lower heat to medium low and cover.
- Let cook for 12 minutes then check the water level. If there is no water standing around the sides, proceed with step 5.
- Remove from heat and lay a folded kitchen towel between the top of the pan and the lid, making sure it doesn’t touch the quinoa.
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
- If making tabbouleh, let the quinoa cool before adding herbs.
- Tabbouleh directions
- Finely chop the parsley and cilantro including some of the stalks unless they are really thick.
- Finely chop the green onions.
- Mix everything together in a medium bowl.
- Taste for salt and add more if desired.
- Let chill slightly before serving. Good for up to 5 days in the fridge.