Quinoa is a wonder food for a long list of reasons. At the top of the list: It's a plant-based source of complete protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It has plenty of fiber and vitamins and minerals, too, all while being low in fat and natural sugars.

The seed — it's not a grain although it's often treated as one — is very versatile. There are so many ways to use it, and National Quinoa Day on Jan. 16 seems like a good day to explore what's possible with this nutritional powerhouse. Even if it's already a part of your diet, you may not have considered using quinoa in recipes like these.

chocolate hazelnut oatmeal cookies These delicious chocolate cookies use quinoa flour to make them gluten-free. (Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch)

1. Cookies: Quinoa in cookies? These Chocolate, Hazelnut and Oatmeal Cookies use quinoa flour to help make them gluten-free. If you want, you can swap out the oats for quinoa flakes.

2. Guacamole: Some people add onion to their guac. Some add tomatoes. But what about quinoa? This recipe for Guacamole Quinoa with Mango is a different take on the dip that can be used any way traditional guacamole is used.

spring rolls You can put anything you want inside a spring roll, including quinoa. (Photo: farbled/Shutterstock)

3. Spring rolls: Stuff some cooked quinoa (replacing the less nutritious rice noodles) in with traditional spring roll ingredients. These shrimp spring rolls have a spicy peanut sauce for dipping.

4. Pizza crust: Whole soaked quinoa is the base for a gluten-free pizza crust that can be topped with anything you want. The soaking process needs to start at least 12 hours before you're ready to cook your pizza, so plan ahead.

broccoli bites Quinoa fits in perfectly with a broccoli bite recipe. (Photo: AS Food studio/Shutterstock)

5. Broccoli bites: These could be appetizers, a side dish or even the main course of a vegetarian meal. Broccoli & Cheese Quinoa Bites are made in muffin tins. Once the quinoa is cooked, these bites are quick to throw together and bake.

6. Chicken fingers: When a gluten-free coating is needed for chicken fingers, quinoa comes to the rescue. The quinoa is mixed with a little spice — chili powder, cayenne and cumin — to give Spicy Quinoa-Crusted Chicken Fingers a kick.

alfajores Quinoa flour in these traditional cookies adds some nutrition. (Photo: zoryanchik/Shutterstock)

7. More cookies: Peruvian Alfajores are traditional sandwich cookies, but when quinoa is added to them they get a little less traditional, a little more nutritional. Holding the cookies together is a coffee dulce de leche filling. Yum.

8. Burgers: Are you up for a new way to make your burger vegetarian? These Quinoa Veggie Burgers have sundried tomato and mozzarella cooked into them. You can put the patties on a bun like a traditional burger, use them to top a salad or serve them plain as a side dish.

9. Parfait: Sweetened quinoa stands in for shortcake in a Strawberry Shortcake Quinoa Parfait made with fresh strawberries and Greek yogurt. Definitely an unexpected way to turn quinoa into a dessert.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

9 unexpected dishes you can make with quinoa
On National Quinoa Day, try this versatile superfood in creative new recipes, like chocolate cookies, veggie burgers, yogurt parfaits and more.