Are You Frying Your Quinoa Yet?

updated Sep 12, 2019
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(Image credit: Aida Mollenkamp)

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.

(Image credit: Aida Mollenkamp)

1. Rinse

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

(Image credit: Aida Mollenkamp)

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.

(Image credit: Aida Mollenkamp)

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