Cleaning Quinoa

Cleaning quinoa is something most pages that tell you how to cook quinoa mention. They usually put it as the very first step in the process.

If you’re interested in simple instructions on how to rinse quinoa, jump down to that discussion below. We’ll get you cleaning your quinoa right away.

But if you’re like me you want to know why you even need to clean quinoa. I mean, you don’t typically have recipe sites telling you to rinse your noodles or rice. Right? So, why all the fuss about quinoa?

Let’s come clean with some facts…

Cleaning quinoa: Why some say it’s important

Many sites that tell you how to rinse quinoa say that you need to do this in order to get rid of its bitter saponins.

But is that really the case?

Quinoa Saponins

Saponins do exist and quinoa has them.

They’re bitter. They create a kind of foaminess when combined with liquid. And they’re even mildly toxic. This makes them the ideal substance to protect the plant from predators.

Now, here’s what I’ve discovered. These quinoa saponins exist on either the hull of the quinoa seed or as a waxy outer layer -- depending on whom you consult.

My wife and I buy quinoa in bulk from a local health food store in town. And guess what I don’t see when I open the bag? That’s right -- either a hull or a waxy layer. I see neither of these. What I do see are plain old quinoa seeds.

So it looks like my quinoa doesn’t have any saponins… But how could I be sure?

I decided to do a taste test on my quinoa. After all, if the saponins are bitter and they’re on my quinoa then I should experience a really unpleasant taste and foaminess if I pop a few unrinsed seeds into my mouth.

So that’s what I did. I popped somewhere between 5 to 10 seeds in my mouth. I swished. I swallowed. I chewed a little. And after a few minutes I spit them out. And how was the taste?

It tasted just like cooked quinoa. No bitter taste. No soapy foaminess in my mouth.

So what does this mean?

I think it means that the quinoa I -- and probably you -- buy already has the saponins removed. I’m guessing this happens when the manufacturer de-hulls it.

Some say that manufacturers pre-rinse the quinoa they sell. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Why? I would think that rinsing quinoa would start it’s sprouting process. And of course when I get my bulk quinoa it isn’t sprouted. It’s dry and fully intact.

So I don’t think you need to clean your quinoa before cooking it in order to remove saponins. But I still rinse my quinoa. Why? Two reasons…

Possible saponin dust

Here’s my first reason for cleaning quinoa before I cook it.

The de-hulling process may leave some saponin dust on your quinoa. In order to be 100% sure you avoid any bitterness in your quinoa you should rinse it.

And I have one more reason for rinsing it...

Fear of the unknown

Really this is the bigger reason for us cleaning our quinoa before cooking it.

Simply stated, you never know where this stuff has been. 

When I get my quinoa, it’s in a bag. But before that? I’m guessing it was in a large warehouse or  factory somewhere waiting to be processed. I don’t know what happens there.

So why not clean it? It’s a small inconvenience for our peace of mind.

Now that you know these things -- that you probably don’t need to rinse your quinoa before cooking it but that you might as well do it anyway -- let’s get some pointers on cleaning quinoa.

Cleaning quinoa: How to do it

To clean your quinoa simply pour your serving size of quinoa into a colander or strainer with holes small enough to keep the quinoa from falling out.

Then rinse thoroughly with water. That’s it!

We typically rinse our quinoa for less than a minute -- maybe 30 seconds or so. Some people rinse it less than that. It’s your call.

We just stop rinsing when we see that the seeds are no longer repelling the water.

OK, now what do you do after you rinse your quinoa?

Cleaning quinoa: What’s next?

After you clean your quinoa of course you’re going to want to... cook it!

Oh, and there’s actually one more step after that… Can you guess what it is?

That’s right you get to clean your plate!

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