Season Your Water With Spices For A More Flavorful Quinoa Dish

Although quinoa is a seed, it's often swapped in for rice thanks to its many health benefits. Quinoa boasts more fiber and protein than the grain, with plenty of minerals, too. Though it can stand in for rice, it doesn't share the same slightly sweet flavor. Thankfully, there's nothing a few spices can't fix when cooking quinoa.

Quinoa leans nutty and earthy with a mild – very mild – taste. While plain, it's incredible at absorbing added flavors. Seasoning the water is a great way to add more flavor to quinoa, allowing it to seep in all the nuances of the aromatics. If you're after a stronger taste, opt for dried herbs over fresh ones. Not only are they more pungent, but they're easier to cook with. For one cup of quinoa, about half a teaspoon each of dried herbs like citrusy thyme and peppery marjoram give quinoa a delicious flavor.

Richer spices like turmeric, cardamom, or paprika give the quinoa more depth and a warm taste, as well as a lovely color. Since the flavor tends to be a little more potent, you can reduce it to ⅛ of a teaspoon or ¼ of a teaspoon or amp it up to a full teaspoon if you're going for a more dominant flavor. Once brought to a boil, quinoa is finished cooking within 15 minutes. Dried herbs take a little longer to release flavor, so sprinkle them in beforehand. However, ground spices should be added near the end to prevent overwhelming the dish.

Toast your spices for a richer flavor in quinoa

To get the most impact, you should start toasting your spices before making quinoa. The method involves heating whole spices like nutmeg, cumin, or allspice in a dry pan for a few minutes, stirring them around to make sure they're evenly toasted. This quick method deepens the taste of each spice, giving it a richer and more pronounced flavor. Once the spices are toasted, wait for them to cool and grate them into the simmering quinoa. Toasting isn't just for spices alone, though. Some people swear by toasting quinoa in a similar way as it enhances the nutty taste and gives it a golden brown color.

Both of these techniques can be used for a sweeter quinoa dish, like a breakfast quinoa bowl. After toasting the quinoa, toast spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon to complement the dark chocolate and tart plums. Toasted spices also work for savory dishes, like a quinoa bowl. Heat cumin, clove, and allspice in a pan or a spicy bowl with avocado, canned corn, black beans, and salsa.

If you're the prepping type, making a homemade broth to cook your grains and grain alternatives is a great option. Make a veggie or chicken broth using plenty of aromatics like bay leaves, sage, garlic, and rosemary for an easy boost to your quinoa during the week. From there, you can make plenty of recipes like quinoa fried rice or veggie-friendly quinoa chili.