Giving Props to Quinoa

Lisa Waugh

I like to call my roommate Sporty Spice. He’s not exactly happy about that moniker but he’s so super healthy, he puts me to shame. One of the things he consumes on a regular basis is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). For weeks, I didn’t know what was in these large containers in the cabinet. Then he exuberantly explained why in his opinion, quinoa rocks.

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

  1. It’s not a whole grain but can be used in place of rice or barley
  2. Quinoa is a wonderful base for stir fry
  3. It has a lively flavor that can pair with a variety of meats, fish, veggies and fruits
  4. With a spritz of olive oil and lemon, quinoa can stand on its own
  5. It can be prepared quickly (about 15 minutes)
  6. It’s an excellent source of protein

The big question for my gluten-free friends is if quinoa is absent of gluten. Quinoa is a seed, not a grain and does not contain gluten. However, in a 2011 study, quinoa does give a rating level of a “gluten-like” component even thought it’s less than 20 parts per million. Most nutrition authorities do recommend quinoa as a safe alternative to wheat-based foods.

I have to say that I was surprised at how much I liked it. I had it with fish and a mix of olive oil, blood oranges and garlic. It was light but not so light that I was looking for a snack after dinner. So I’m sold on quinoa. I’ll think about this cool little seed before I reach for the rice.

Quinoa Quick Facts:

Very low in cholesterol and sodium

Good source of magnesium and phosphorus

Also a good source of manganese and fiber


Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Kevin Crafts

Quinoa Chicken Avocado & Orange Salad:

1 1/4 cups quinoa

1 teaspoon chili powder

3 teaspoons minced garlic

Zest of 1 small lime

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound of your favorite part of the chicken

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (substitute your fav herb if you’re not into cilantro)

4 large oranges, peeled and segmented

2 ripe avocadoes, peeled and cubed



Cook quinoa according to package directions. Fluff quinoa with a large fork. Put the quinoa in a bowl and let cool.

Preheat broiler with a rack four to six inches from the heat. In a large bowl, stir chili powder, 2 tsp. garlic, lime zest, 2 tsp. olive oil and ½ each salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat in mixture. Put chicken on baking sheet and broil, turning once until brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes total. Let cool but not completely, then slice and add to quinoa.

Add remaining ingredients of avocados and oranges, toss