Not sure how long you can keep that box of quinoa around or how long it will last once it's cooked? Discover the answers to these questions as well as how to use up leftover quinoa to make great dishes the whole family will love.
Quinoa (pronounced, keen-wah) makes a healthy alternative to wheat grains, brown rice, and other whole grains.
It also makes a tasty side dish on its own or with ingredients added to make it similar to rice pilaf.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is one of the oldest grains on the planet with its origins in South America where it was cultivated by the Incas up to 8 thousand years ago.
In Peru, it is grown high up in the Andes mountains where little else can grow and has served as a source of protein for the inhabitants of the Andes for centuries. For the rest of the world, it is a rather new ingredient in the culinary scene.
While it is often included with whole grains, it is technically not a grain but rather a grass seed. It comes in a variety of colors, but most commonly white, red, and black are found in stores or a blend of the three.
The red quinoa and black quinoa have a much crunchier texture when cooked than white quinoa and work perfectly in salads and pilafs.
It can be found to have green, pink, orange, and purple varieties as well though these are not generally sold commercially.
You can buy it as:
- Flour: An alternative to wheat flour but it does have a distinctive flavor that takes getting used to.
- Seeds: These can be cooked or sprouted and eaten in a variety of dishes including soups, salads, porridges, and puddings.
- Popped: It's also sold popped which can be added to granola or homemade cereals.
- Flakes: Flakes are made by smashing the quinoa seed and sold in stores. They can be used to make a breakfast cereal or porridge-type dish.
Dry quinoa has a hard texture when dry that cooks up into a delicate fluffy consistency with a neutral flavor when cooked making it adaptable to a wide variety of preparations. It's one of the easiest grains to cook, ready in about 10-15 minutes.
Is quinoa good for you?
Quinoa is a super nutrient containing a much higher amount of protein than other grains. One cup provides 8 grams of protein.
While most plant-based proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids the body needs to function it does, making it a great alternative to meat.
It contains a higher amount of other nutrients including calcium, iron, B-vitamins, vitamin E, and phosphorus.
This healthy grain has high levels of healthy fat and oils and tends to be lower in carbohydrates than other grains. It boasts high fiber and is a naturally gluten-free plant food.
Quinoa contains high amounts of saponins, a type of plant compound that can cause a stomach ache.
Today most of the saponins are removed during processing but it's always recommended to rinse quinoa with cold water before cooking. You may see some bubbles similar to soap when you add water which is some residual saponins present on the surface.
How to store uncooked quinoa
The best way to store quinoa is in a cool dry place such as a cabinet or pantry until you are ready to cook it.
Once the bag or box is opened, be sure to transfer it to a container or plastic bag. Keeping it in an airtight container will keep it fresh longer and prevent any pests from getting into it.
How long does uncooked quinoa last?
In general, raw quinoa has a long shelf life. Most dry goods don't come with an expiration date but there are a couple of other ways to determine how long uncooked quinoa will last.
Check the package for the best by date. If there isn’t a best by date you can use the manufacturer date instead. The general guideline is it should last at least 2-3 years after its production date.
If you change it to another container, it’s a good idea to mark it with a date so you know how long it’s been in your cabinet just in case you forget about it.
Before cooking, be sure to check for any pests and discard if it has become infested.
Otherwise, uncooked quinoa when stored properly kept dry, and away from pests will last quite a while, even years.
How to store cooked quinoa
Cooked quinoa seeds take on a similar fluffy texture as rice and can be used in similar ways.
Once cooked, it needs to be handled a bit differently than uncooked. Before storing it you should allow it to cool all the way down as covering hot or warm food with a lid traps the heat inside and allows opportunistic organisms to grow.
Store it in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it.
How long does cooked quinoa last in the fridge?
With proper storage, the shelf life of quinoa is 5 days in the refrigerator. Always check it when you remove it from the refrigerator and if there are any off smells or visible signs of mold or a milk liquid present, you should discard it.
Can you freeze cooked quinoa?
It's perfect to freeze unless you add other ingredients that don’t work well to freeze. Make sure to use well-sealed containers or freezer bags to prevent freezer burn and you leftovers will keep for up to three months in the freezer.
How to reheat quinoa
When you’re ready to use it, thaw out frozen quinoa in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in the microwave or stovetop similar to how you’d reheat rice. If it seems a tad dry you can add some oil or water to help it fluff up a bit more.
You can also add it to other dishes such as soups or stews after freezing. Since it’s already cooked, add just a few minutes before serving and cook just long enough to heat it up.
Expert tips for using leftovers
Not sure how to use the leftover quinoa you've got in the refrigerator? Here are some of my favorites.
- Flavors: Quinoa works well with a wide variety of ingredients but especially well with beans, cheese, citrus, corn, nuts, olive oil, spinach, and tomato. I also really like it combined with mushrooms, avocado, dried fruit, and greens.
- Side Dish: Leftover quinoa makes a great side for BBQ Tofu, Buffalo Chickpea Meatballs, and this Buffalo Tofu.
- Eat it cold: Serve it cold on a bed of greens topped with golden beets, leftover roasted broccoli, roasted sunflower seeds, and vegan honey mustard dressing.
- Add it to soups: Use it similarly as you would barley, brown or white rice, or any other grain in soups.
- Stir fry: Replace the rice with leftover quinoa in your favorite stir fry recipe.
- Pasta replacement: Serve up a bowl of quinoa topped with your favorite pasta sauce for a healthy alternative to regular or whole wheat pasta.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, if it has been stored properly can be eaten cold. Just make sure to consume it within five days of cooking and don’t eat it if there are any obvious signs of spoilage such as an off smell or the appearance of mold. Cold you can add it to salads or eat it alone.
Does quinoa need to be soaked before cooking?
It doesn’t need to be soaked before cooking though it’s a good idea to wash it. Some people may be allergic to the saponins or have a stronger response and in that case, soaking it may make it easier to digest.
Quinoa is a whole grain that when cooked and stored properly can be enjoyed in so many different ways. It's one of the most popular gluten-free alternatives to wheat grains.
In most cases, quinoa lasts uncooked for the long term when stored in a cool dark place, and once cooked it's similar to other grains and cooked foods making it a smart pantry staple to keep on hand.
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