The Reason You Should Consider Toasting Quinoa

While it has been around for thousands of years, quinoa is relatively new to North America. As Food First notes, the U.S. began importing quinoa in the mid-'80s, but it was just in the last decade that it exploded in popularity due to its "superfood" status. Touted for its gluten-free delivery of plant-based protein, fiber, and essential amino acids, according to Harvard School of Public Health, quinoa has become a staple on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. And while many of us have quinoa in our pantries, preparing it is still something of a mystery. 

Though quinoa is thought of as a grain — the Incas even referred to it as the "mother grain" — it is actually a seed related to the beet family (via Bob's Red Mill). This makes cooking it more complicated than cooking grains and is why conflicting opinions and methods abound. From the right amount of water, to whether to steam it like rice, boil it like pasta, or cook it in the Instant Pot, there are many theories as to what makes for the perfectly cooked quinoa (via HuffPost). But one thing is for certain: This superfood can quickly become super mush if it is overcooked and under-seasoned. Luckily, there is an easy trick to get the best texture and most flavor out of your quinoa.

Toasting brings out quinoa's nutty flavor

Before going forward with any cooking method, you should first toast your quinoa. Toasting quinoa is the best way to release its inherent nutty flavor and give it just the right amount of crunch (via OC Register).

As notes, your first step is to rinse and drain the quinoa, which will remove any bitter flavor from the seeds' coating. Now you are ready to toast. There are a couple ways to do this. As the Los Angeles Times recommends, you can simply heat some butter or oil in a sauté pan and then add the quinoa, cooking until it turns golden brown and you get that nutty fragrance. Remember to stir continuously to avoid burning. You can also toast your quinoa on a baking sheet in the oven, according to Epicurious.

After toasting, you can then proceed with boiling, steaming, or pressure cooking to create your favorite quinoa creations. Or, as Ancient Grains suggests, you can just take the toasted quinoa and use it as a crunch element atop salads, soups, yogurt, and more.