Let’s be honest, quinoa needs a little help. Like pasta and rice, quinoa tastes boring all by itself. Fortunately, quinoa takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, making it one of the most versatile ingredients in a salad, pilaf, or porridge.
Because many people choose quinoa as a high-protein, high-fiber carbohydrate when they seek to limit calories, they usually do not want to simply recycle the same high-calorie sauces on their quinoa that they eat with their rice and pasta. Every day, I see someone new asking Twitter for ways to make their quinoa taste more exciting.
Add More Flavor to Quinoa Without a Ton of Extra Calories
Today, Alyson Marie asked, I’ve tried making quinoa 3 times now and failed…what do u add to it for more flavor n not a ton of xtra cals?
My short answer:
— Tammi Kibler (@Keenonquinoa) June 8, 2012
Twitter never gives me all the space I need for a long answer, but for those looking for more flavor in their quinoa bowls, here goes:
Quinoa Needs Salt
I try to limit salt as a general rule. Hypertension runs in my family, and most Americans are consuming a whole day’s worth of salt in a single restaurant meal.
That said, a little salt makes food taste better, and sometimes we end up adding a lot more calories to our dishes simply because we skimped on the plain salt. If you add a lot of salted butter to your mashed potatoes, for example, you might find that by adding a little more salt, you would achieve the flavor you seek with less butter.
I recommend adding a little salt when cooking quinoa unless you know you will be adding other ingredients that will contain enough salt for your palate. How much? Well, that’s a matter of taste. I usually add one-eighth teaspoon of salt when cooking one and a half cups of dry quinoa.
Other ideas for adding salt: soy sauce, salsa, or prepare your quinoa with seasoned broth
Quinoa Loves Pepper
About the same time I realized that skimping on salt was adding calories to my dishes, I also learned that a little cayenne pepper acts just like salt in making dishes irresistibly tasty. I have read that some people cannot tolerate pepper, but for the rest of us, pepper is a great way to boost flavor without adding extra calories.
You may need to experiment to find your favorite pepper and the right heat for your palate. I like cayenne as I mentioned, my son loves chili powder, but most restaurants only offer black pepper on the table.
By the way, white pepper is great for keeping white sauces and eggs from turning grey. I keep a bottle on hand for deviled eggs.
Other ideas for adding pepper: your favorite hot sauce, like Tabasco or sriracha sauce
Vinegar Adds Bite
Flavored vinegars are one of my favorite kitchen shortcuts. I fell in love with rice vinegar the first time I cooked quinoa, and now it features in many of my quinoa salads.
I also love balsamic vinegar–the commercial grade product, not the traditional balsamic vinegar that takes twelve years to age. Which I am sure I would love, but I cannot afford.
Even if you do not have a fancy, flavored vinegar, a dash of regular, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar can add a burst of flavor to an otherwise lackluster quinoa bowl, so do not be afraid to give it a try.
Citrus Livens Quinoa
I’m not sure exactly sure why, but fresh-squeezed citrus makes any food, including quinoa, taste more alive. It’s a shot of freshness that adds pep, flavor, and vitamin C to the meal.
Lemons and limes add all this flavor without adding calories. You have to be a little more careful with oranges and grapefruits to be sure you do not go overboard with the sugars and calories. But when you compare the burst of flavor you get from a tablespoon of orange juice to the measly 15 calories it contains, you may find, as I often do, that there is room in your quinoa for a little orange juice when you do not have any other fresh citrus on hand.
Quinoa Plays Well with Veggies
Take a look at the vegetables in your produce bin. Onions, garlic, celery, and bell peppers are fantastic flavor boosters. Grated carrots and chopped tomatoes add color too. Fresh herbs are great, but even some chopped kale or spinach can substitute in a pinch.
If you like your veggies soft, you can cook them in the quinoa. Or you can saute them separately while the quinoa is cooking. Or simply stir in some fresh veggies when your quinoa is done cooking. Whatever works for you.
We didn’t even get to spices today, come to think of it. Cinnamon, ginger root, rosemary, and thyme are all good candidates for kicking up your quinoa flavor without adding extra calories.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions to add more flavor to quinoa without a ton of extra calories? Please share your favorite quinoa boosters in the comments.
Did you know if you aren’t subscribing to my blog, you risk missing out on new posts and quinoa recipes? Subscribe today and learn tasty new ways to enjoy quinoa along with other exciting (and sometimes exotic) ingredients.
Responses to Add More Flavor to Quinoa Without a Ton of Extra Calories on Twitter:
@Keenonquinoa cinnamon! I love it!
— Melissa Anderson (@wellness_touch) June 9, 2012