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Turnip the Beet! Nutrition and Wellness

Timely news, information, and innovative ideas to promote health and influence change.
quinona burger

Grain of the Month: Quinoa

Quinoa "mother grain"

Where did it come from?

Pronounced keen-wah, this small, round grain resembles sesame seeds. In fact, it is technically a "pseudo-cereal" and related to beets, chard and spinach. When cooked, however, it is light and fluffy with a slight nutty flavor and makes a great side dish or addition to veggie burgers (recipe below).

Originally grown in the Andes Mountains, some farmers are now cultivating this crop in high-altitude regions near the Rockies; however, we still import the majority of our supply from South America. You will be able to find red, purple and black varieties in stores today. Products containing quinoa range from breakfast cereals to beer to shampoo!

Cooking tip:

Be sure to rinse your quinoa in a mesh strainer before cooking to remove the saponins- a bitter residue that wards off insects but is not harmful to humans. 1 cup of dry quinoa will yield about 3 cups cooked.

Did you know? Kañiwa, a cousin to quinoa, is similar in nutrient content but is not coated with saponins.

Health benefits: 

  • Quinoa is high in protein and a complete protein- it has all of the essential amino acids that our bodies can't produce on their own.
  • Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber- over 5 grams per cup of cooked quinoa. This will help you feel fuller longer.
  • High in potassium- higher than all the other whole grains- helping to control blood pressure.
  • Preliminary research suggests that quinoa is developing as an effective strategy for managing type 2 diabetes and associated hypertension due to its high antioxidant activity.    
  • Quinoa is a great substitute for wheat and can be used by those in the celiac community since it is gluten-free. Check for quinoa flakes and flours in the 'health food' section of your grocery store.

Recipe: Quinoa and veggie burger (makes 14 patties)


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (use 2 cups cooked)
  • 1 small sweet potato- cooked and mashed
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans- drained and rinsed
  • 1 carrot- shredded
  • 1 bell pepper or 4 mini peppers- diced
  • 2 green onions (white and green parts)- diced
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Italian style or plain)
  • 2 eggs- lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic- minced
  • Spices: 1 T cumin, 1-2 T coriander, pinch of salt and pepper, ½ T pepper flakes (all optional)
  • Olive oil or non-stick spray for the pan


In a small pot, bring 1 ½ cup water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.

For chunky patties, mix the above ingredients in a large bowl as is. For a smoother consistency, put carrot, peppers, onions, black beans, and garlic in a food processor and blend; add remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Form the mixture into even patties.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; cook burgers until browned, about 8 minutes per side.

Enjoy your quinoa veggie burgers with lettuce, tomato, spicy mustard, avocado, cheese, or all of the above!

Source: The Whole Grain Council

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