Quinoa, a seed that is cooked and used like a grain, has begun to take the culinary world by storm. Although not as well known as rice, barley, oats, or other similar foods, quinoa is both easy to prepare and highly nutritious. Served for breakfast, quinoa porridge offers a great start to the day with protein and a number of amino acids that are a bonus to its unique, nutty flavor.
Cultivated in the Andes for more than five millennium, quinoa must be well rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter, soaplike coating of saponin. Saponin, a naturally occurring laxative, protects the maturing seed from birds; it is easy to remove either by soaking or rinsing under running water for a minute or two. Quinoa porridge, a slightly crunchy, texturally delightful alternative to oatmeal, cornmeal porridge, or breakfast cereals made with other grains, at its most basic, takes 15 minutes of simmering in a 2:1 ratio of water to seed. Served with milk or cream and sweetener, it’s both filling and delicious.
Quinoa porridge is easy to dress up. Children love quinoa cereal served with a topping of sliced banana and a shake of cinnamon. Dried cranberries, pineapple, or cherries can add a chewy counterpoint to quinoa’s subtle crunch. Sliced apple, pear, and peaches can turn a breakfast bowl of quinoa into a flavor-drenched fruit salad that needs no additional sweetening.
Adventurous cooks have found quinoa’s tiny round seeds and mild flavor to be the perfect canvas for a world of flavor and texture additions. Cooking the seed in a mixture of water and apple juice results in a sweet breakfast treat that begs for a handful of walnuts and a bit of Greek yogurt instead of milk. Simmering quinoa in milk or a milk alternative, such as soy, rice, or almond milk, creates a creamy, rich porridge. Adding coconut flakes, fresh chopped mint or basil, or a few drops of almond or hazelnut extract adds an exotic zing.
Aside from its amazing taste, quinoa packs an amazing nutritional punch. It’s called the gold of the Incas for very good reason as it is a complete protein and is very high in manganese, iron, and lysine. High in fiber, it’s an excellent breakfast choice for anyone concerned with cardiovascular health, diabetes, or weight loss. Leftover quinoa porridge can be refrigerated for tomorrow’s breakfast or turned into pancake batter for a different taste.