What is Quinoa?

With all the buzz surrounding this super-food you probably wonder, what is quinoa?

Quinoa is just recently rising to prominence outside of South America. In fact, 2013 was declared by the United Nations to be the Year of Quinoa!

So let’s try to answer this burning question…

What is Quinoa?

Let’s start by recognizing what quinoa is not

It’s not rice. It’s not wheat. It’s not even a grain.

What is it then? It’s a seed. And it comes in a variety of colors — white, red, and black being the most common.

The plant from which it grows has leaves that look like a goose’s foot. So we give it the fancy name chenopodium — which just means “goosefoot”.

Quinoa is native to the Andes region of South America. There the locals have been enjoying this well-kept secret of theirs for thousands of years.

It also grows in other arid cooler regions like Western Canada and the Northwestern part of the United States.

As I said, quinoa is not wheat. And it’s actually — unlike wheat — gluten-free. And not only that, but it’s also a complete protein! In fact, it has a lot of other good nutrition…

What is Quinoa Good For and What is It Used For?

What is quinoa good for? Well, filling you up with good nutrition, mainly.

Actually, it’s packed with nutrition. Low in calories and fat. Relatively high in fiber and protein. It has all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. And as if that weren’t enough it has a low glycemic index to boot!

So, what is such a wonderfully nutritious seed used for? Recipes, of course. I’d recommend perusing our selection of quinoa recipe cookbooks below…

OR — check out all our recipes on our navigation bar on the left side of this page for all the juicy — and healthy — details!

What is Quinoa Made Of?

Made of?

This is an interesting question that people ask sometimes.

Quinoa is made of… quinoa. Of course.

Again, quinoa is a simple seed. It’s like asking what is flax seed made of?

But beyond that simple answer, quinoa is made of a couple parts — the seed itself and the germ.

Seed and Germ

The quinoa seed is like a bean in that it’s a dicot. That just means it has two embryonic leaves — unlike corn or rice which have just one.

Quinoa also has what’s called a germ that causes the seed to sprout. You’ve seen it. It’s the little tail that detaches from the seed when you cook it. The germ on quinoa is larger than its counterpart on grains. It’s this germ that provides much of the protein that makes quinoa so famous.

And this fame has been spread abroad and translated into different languages…

What is Quinoa in Spanish, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu?

Those of us who speak English spell quinoa like — Q-U-I-N-O-A.

Spanish speakers spell it quinua. And it’s le quinoa in French.

As far as I can tell quinoa is simply called quinoa in India, since English can be something of a trade language there.

And people who speak only Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu — languages spoken in India — would just transliterate quinoa using their own alphabets. So…


(Big thanks to Kanika at GourmetCo.in for helping me find this info.)

Do you live in India? Would you like to buy some quinoa there but don’t know where to find it? Let us share some helpful tips with you on our where to buy quinoa in India page.

So, any way you spell “quinoa”, I say it’s just plain G-O-O-D. Especially on tabouli and salad…

What is Quinoa Tabouli and Quinoa Salad?

Quinoa Tabouli

Tabouli is a type of salad that typically has the following ingredients…  bulgur wheat, onion, cucumber, tomato, mint, finely-chopped parsley, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

It’s a dish that originated with the Arabs in the Levantine region (the Israel/Palestine/Syria area).

Quinoa tabouli would include all the ingredients I just mentioned. But instead of using bulgur wheat you would just add quinoa. And if you look at the ingredients you can see this basically amounts to a kind of quinoa salad

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salad can take one of two forms. It could feature quinoa as the main attraction with some vegetables or fruit sprinkled on top. Or vice versa — veggies or fruit front and center and some quinoa on top.

Do you think it’s strange to put quinoa on lettuce with dressing, nuts, etc.? We did at first, but we like it now — especially when it’s hot from just having been cooked. Give it a try!

What’s Next?

Someone has said that knowledge is power. You now have the power. You know the answer to the age-old question, what is quinoa?

Now use your newfound power for good. Make some delicious quinoa recipes for yourself and your loved ones.

Of course, in order to cook quinoa and include it in a recipe you need to know where to buy it, first.