The U.N. recently designated 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa.” The resolution affirms the “role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition and in the eradication of poverty.” If you haven’t already discovered the amazing health benefits and versatility of this protein-rich seed with a pleasantly crunchy texture and nutty flavor, now is a great time to start!

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has rightfully developed a reputation as a superfood, supplying significant quantities of essential vitamins and minerals including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate and copper. A cup of cooked quinoa also contains 8 grams of complete protein and 5 grams of fiber!

Quinoa is gluten-free, easy to prepare and extremely versatile. Check out the guide below for suggestions on incorporating this super seed into your diet!

5 ways to use quinoa:

Breakfast: Quinoa is an excellent source of complete protein and fiber, making it a great option for a filling breakfast. You can make a fresh batch of quinoa in just a few minutes, or use leftover quinoa from last night’s dinner. To make a healthy, satisfying quinoa breakfast (2 servings), simply combine 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1/4 cup soy or almond milk, 1 mashed banana, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1-2 tablespoons agave nectar, and 2 tablespoons chopped pecans in a small saucepan. Cook 3-5 minutes over medium heat, or just until warmed, before serving.

Energy bars: Quinoa is a great addition to any type of energy, breakfast or cereal bar. Simply combine cooked quinoa with your favorite mixture of dried fruit, nuts, ground flax, protein powder, nut butter, and liquid sweetener (such as agave nectar or brown rice syrup), press into a greased pan, and bake!

SaladsUse quinoa as the base for a black bean salad; toss with cucumber, tomato and Italian dressing for a light summer salad; or combine with chickpeas, sundried tomatoes and avocado for a richer salad. The combinations are endless!

Sushi: Take your veggie sushi to the next level by using quinoa in place of rice. Combine 2 cups of cooked, cooled quinoa with the following mixture: 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, 2 tablespoons agave nectar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Works best for maki-style rolls.

Rice substitute: You can use quinoa anywhere you’d typically use rice. It’s great used in casseroles and stir fry, mixed with beans, or simply topped with tofu and vegetables.

Recipe: Cheesy, Citrusy Quinoa

Orange juice and nutritional yeast give this quinoa a cheesy, citrusy flair, and a creamy texture. Try it topped with marinated/caramelized tofu, avocado, and fresh mango chunks, as shown below. Definitely a winning combination!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups dry quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Directions:
  1. Pour quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse with cool tap water for about a minute to remove any powdery residue.
  2. Pour orange juice and water into a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and add rinsed quinoa.
  3. Cook over high heat, covered, just until the mixture begins to boil.
  4. Immediately turn heat to low, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, but keep the lid on! Allow to sit, covered, for an additional 10-15 minutes.
  6. Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.
  7. Stir in salt and nutritional yeast.
Here are a few more delicious quinoa-based recipes:
This story was written for One Green Planet and is reprinted with permission here. One Green Planet is your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet. To learn more, visit the site, subscribe to the feed and join the growing community on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.