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  • Jen Cafferty
    Jen Cafferty

    Quinoa the Amazing Gluten-Free Grain

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 05/29/2009 - Quinoa is making a comeback as a "wonder grain." Before going gluten free, most people have never heard of quinoa. But, once you embrace the gluten-free lifestyle, you should learn more about this amazing grain.

    Quinoa is an ancient grain that has been grown in South America for thousands of years and was called the "gold of the Incas." The grain resembles millet and has a bitter protective saponin coating that protects the grain from being eaten by birds and insects.

    Today, many companies that sell quinoa in the United States remove the bitter saponins. This allows you to prepare the quinoa without having to rinse it first.

    Red Quinoa - A Gluten-Free GrainQuinoa is gluten-free, high in fiber and a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. Quinoa also contains high amounts of lysine, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. Due to quinoa being a complete protein, it is an excellent food choice for the gluten-free vegan.

    To prepare the quinoa for cooking, either purchase pre-rinsed quinoa or rinse the quinoa in a strainer until the saponins are removed. To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. After the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. One cup of quinoa cooked in this method usually takes 15 minutes to prepare. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail.

    Serve quinoa as a replacement for rice or couscous. Quinoa is delicious served cold or warm and can be frozen and reheated. It is recommended to prepare the entire box of quinoa and freeze the unused portions for later use.

    Tuscan Quinoa Salad Recipe

    2 cups cooked quinoa
    ¼ cup scallions, chopped
    2 cloves garlic,minced
    1 box cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
    ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
    ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
    3 T olive oil
    juice from half of a lemon
    kosher salt and pepper to taste

    To Prepare
    Prepare quinoa according to recipe on package. Add remaining ingredients to quinoa. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. You may replace oil and lemon juice with Italian dressing. 

    Sources for info on quinoa:
    Quinoa Corporation
    Eden Organics
    Homegrown Harvest

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Yes, couscous is not wheat or gluten free.

    Just bought a box of Lundberg Organic Gluten-free brown rice couscous. Haven't tried it yet, but am looking forward to finding recipes for it.

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    I broke out with another round of rash and other than absolutely gluten-free food, quinoa was all I had eaten. This is what I found online and I will NEVER eat Quinoa again!


    Ever hear of saponins? If not think of the word soap and you'll be headed in the right direction since saponins are molecules that make a soap-like foaming reaction when shaken in a water-based solution. While they are said not to attach themselves to carriers as the gluten proteins do, saponins can poke holes in the cell membranes of the microvilli (this is all in your gut mind you). This, of course, is profoundly irritating. In short quinoa might as well be a grain and in some ways it might as well have gluten too. At least if it did people who probably should not be eating it now, would not be eating it.


    So to answer the question, "is quinoa gluten-free?", Yes. But don't eat it.


    What do you eat besides quinoa, wheat and all these other problematic grains? We've talked a bit here before about how white rice is a fairly reasonable option for most people. Since white rice has had the bran removed it is primarily a starch and the potentially irritating anti-nutrients in the bran are eliminated. If you are trying to lose weight it may not be the first thing you should turn to depending on your situation and particular health status but it is probably the best option out there in terms of grains and grain-like products.


    Beyond that the best way to avoid the problems faced by celiac sufferers is to make your diet primarily one of meats, fruits, vegetables and some tubers like sweet potatoes. This will have the dual benefit of eliminating gluten and similar lectins from your diet as well as clearing out the processed food content so your body can thrive on whole, clean foods that help spark all the right hormonal signals for health and vitality.

    What medical qualifications do you have exactly? You used the internet to self-diagnose? Scary.

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    I've just been diagnosed with a corn intolerance and I'm also celiac. As I write this I'm in a restaurant staring at the menu. There is not one thing I can have. It's either gluten-free or corn. I cannot seem to avoid all.

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    Try making quinoa and rice. North American farmers have been unable to match the quality of the quinoa grown in the Andean countries although more and more of them are cultivating it these days. Quinoa can be found in many large grocery stores.

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    What ever causes you some discomfort, I would eliminate it from your diet regardless of its gluten free classification. Eating it is not worth your discomfort. If it does this one time, it's one time too many. Get rid of it.

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  • About Me

    As the Founder of the Gluten Free Cooking Expo, Jen Cafferty works daily with people dealing with gluten intolerances. Jen is gluten-free and her two children and husband are also gluten-free. Providing classes and consulting to gluten-free clients in the Chicago area, Jen is an excellent resource for your gluten-free questions and concerns.

    For More Information: Visit the Gluten Free Cooking Expo's Blog for more quick and easy quinoa recipes. For more Thanksgiving recipes go to www.gfreelife.com and download the Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Thanksgiving E-Cookbook.

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