Brown Butter Is The Ingredient Upgrade Your Quinoa Needs

Quinoa, the grain revered for its nutritional prowess, has graced our tables for centuries. Originating from the Andean region of South America, quinoa is celebrated for its complete protein profile, fiber content, and delightful nutty taste. Yet, as wonderful as quinoa is on its own, sometimes it can benefit from a flavor-enhancing companion. Enter brown butter: A culinary marvel that elevates the flavor profile of quinoa.

Quinoa boasts a natural nutty taste, which is one of the reasons it has gained such popularity in Western kitchens. Its versatility allows it to pair well with an array of dishes, making it a go-to ingredient for those seeking a nutrient-packed, satisfying alternative to more commonly used grains, such as rice. However, on occasion, the nutty nuances can fade into the background, leaving the palate yearning for a bit more depth. That's where brown butter swoops in to save the day.

Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette in French, is a buttery masterpiece. By gently cooking butter until its milk solids caramelize, it transforms into a rich, amber-hued liquid with a deeper, more intense nutty flavor. The marriage of quinoa and brown butter is a seeming fait accompli. Infusing brown butter's richness and depth accentuates the natural nuttiness of quinoa, resulting in something that is much more than the sum of its parts.

How to add brown butter to quinoa

Creating brown butter is a fairly simple process. Begin by placing the desired amount of unsalted butter (salt will be added later) in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow the butter to melt and then start to bubble and foam. As the butter cooks, the water content evaporates, and the milk solids begin to brown. Swirl the pan gently to ensure even cooking.

Be vigilant during this process, as the fine line between golden brown and burnt is easily crossed. Once the butter reaches a deep golden hue and exudes a heavenly, nutty aroma, remove it from the heat immediately to prevent burning. Transfer the brown butter to a heat-resistant bowl to stop the cooking process.

To infuse quinoa, sauté it in the brown butter over medium heat. Add the brown butter to a pot big enough for cooking the quinoa and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, and any preferred herbs or seasonings for an added layer of taste. Stir the quinoa in the brown butter for a few minutes until it's nicely coated and begins to toast, enhancing its natural nutty essence. Once the toasting is done, add in stock or water to finish the cooking process.

For those who prefer a more pronounced buttery, toasty flavor, there is another route to go. Instead of cooking the quinoa directly in the brown butter, stir a few tablespoons of it into already cooked quinoa. This technique ensures a consistent and delightful flavor throughout the dish.