Quinoa Saponins

No doubt you’ve heard horror stories about quinoa saponins. Most sites on the internet tell you that you need to clean your quinoa to “remove the bitter saponins.” But is that true?

What are saponins and do you need to worry about them making your quinoa bitter?

Let’s try to answer these questions…

What are saponins anyway?

Saponins are a bitter natural insect repellant found on some plants.

When combined with liquid, saponins take on a foamy texture. Because of this, they’re actually used as a detergent in South America by the natives who grow and harvest quinoa.

Saponins also have a bitter taste to humans and animals alike.

In addition, this bitter substance is mildly toxic. It probably won’t cause any permanent damage. But it very well might cause an upset stomach.

Bottom line? You don’t want to eat this stuff! It’s bitter, foamy, and can cause an upset stomach.

So the question is… does quinoa have saponins?

Does quinoa have saponins?

The answer is YES. Quinoa does contain saponins. But not the way that most people think it does...

Quinoa saponins are not on the seed itself. They’re actually on the husk of the quinoa seed.

Let’s back up just a little bit. Do you know your seed anatomy? The seed itself is typically what we like to eat. But many seeds have a hard outer shell. We call this a husk. And this part of the quinoa seed is what contains the bitter protective saponins.

So in the wild if a bird were to gobble up a seed of quinoa he’d swallow both the inner seed as well as the husk that contains the saponins. And he’d be in for an unpleasant foamy surprise!

But when you buy quinoa at your local grocery store do you need to do anything to remove the quinoa saponins?

How do you remove quinoa saponins?

So if quinoa has saponins… and saponins are bitter and unpleasant… then you’d want to get rid of them before cooking your delicious quinoa. Right?

Yes, you would. And actually if you buy quinoa from just about any manufacturer, they’ve already done the dirty work of removing the saponins for you.

Any time you have a bag of quinoa seeds without husks you have a bag of quinoa without any saponins! And for what it’s worth, I’ve never opened a bag of quinoa and found a bunch of husk-covered quinoa seeds. They always come to me dehulled.

So what does this mean? Have you seen other sites on the internet that talk about rinsing your quinoa to remove the saponins? Well, based on what we’ve discovered here you really don’t need to rinse your quinoa to get rid of this bitter substance. Why? Because you don’t typically need to dehull the quinoa that you buy in a store.

So -- how do you remove quinoa saponins? Here’s the liberating secret. For the most part, you don’t need to!

However, some people still want to clean their quinoa before cooking it. And we actually have some suggestions for that. You can read our page about cleaning quinoa for more details.

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