Are You Frying Your Quinoa Yet?

Tips from The Kitchn

We're in that moment where it's all about starting anew, which means I'm doing my best to keep my resolutions. On the kitchen front, I'm on a cleaning rampage — trying to eat more healthfully, and giving my pantry some love. I'm partial to grains because I eat mostly meatless at home, so they are the building blocks for almost 90 percent of my meals.

But of all the grains tucked away in my pantry, I turn again and again to quinoa. I know, we've already had our initial love affair with quinoa, but just because it's not topping the Pinterest charts doesn't mean I love it any less.

I used to look at quinoa like rice's cousin, so I'd swap in quinoa in anything from stir-fry to soups to grain bowls. But my quinoa perspective changed when I dined at New York's Nomad. I should be talking about their impeccable service, high design, or mind-blowing food, but it was all about crunchy quinoa for me. I was so into their asparagus with toasted quinoa and brown butter that I reverse-engineered it as soon as I returned home.

I'm still a fan-girl for toasted quinoa because it's a gluten-free way to add crunch, and the perfect way to reinvent leftover cooked quinoa. Here's how to make crunchy quinoa happen.

1. Rinse

Yes, you've already heard this, but actually do it this time because it'll help keep the quinoa separated.

2. Use the 1:1 Ratio

Bring one part water to a boil, and then add equal parts quinoa (by volume) and cook until it's al dente (10 to 12 minutes). I've found that day-old quinoa works the best because it's dried out a bit; however, just-cooked and cooled quinoa will work, too — it'll just take longer to toast.

3. Toast

Add a spoonful of fat (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) to a large nonstick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When it's shimmering, add enough quinoa (roughly 1 to 1 1/2 cups of quinoa) so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it's golden-brown (about 15 minutes). If you're toasting more than two cups, spread the quinoa out onto a rimmed baking sheet, and cook in a 400°F oven, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown.

4. Cool

Pull the quinoa off the burner or out of the oven just as it's golden-brown, and then let it cool in the pan or on the baking sheet. (You can make the toasted quinoa up to two days ahead — store in an airtight container.)

5. Enjoy

Then just go ahead and add crunchy quinoa to your next dish. It is seriously versatile — use it as a garnish for anything from zucchini or mushroom carpaccio to smoothies. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it.

  • Added to muesli
  • Added to tacos
  • As a garnish for salads
  • As a garnish for soups

Have you tried making toasted quinoa before? What is your favorite way to use it?

(Image credits: Aida Mollenkamp)