Ingredient Intelligence

Quinoa Flakes Are the Gluten-Free “Breading” Crunchy Food Lovers Need

updated Jan 8, 2020
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Whether you’re oven-baking chicken tenders or making a crispy marinated tofu for a quick weeknight stir-fry, one of the easiest and tastiest ways to dress up dinner is with a crispy coating. That crunchy exterior makes food delicious, and there are a variety of ways to get it: You can use flour, cornmeal, or even crumbled-up crackers or pretzels. However, rewatching a video from a few months back actually led to me discovering my new favorite kitchen coating. And it just so happens to be gluten-free! 

After watching Associate Food Editor Kelli attempt a Pinterest challenge for quinoa-coated tofu, I became fascinated by the idea of using quinoa as a crunchy coating. I ended up going down a rabbit hole of quinoa-coated recipes, and found that both cooked quinoa and quinoa flakes can be used for delicious results. I’ve given them both a try, and while I loved trying quinoa itself as a coating, quinoa flakes have been a much more reliable addition to my weeknight cooking. Here’s more on what quinoa flakes are, and how they can be used to make the best crispy coating. 

Credit: rodrigobark

What the Heck Are Quinoa Flakes? 

A bit like rolled oats, quinoa flakes are quinoa that has been rolled flat. The result is a small, super-crisp flake of cereal that, because it’s quinoa, is naturally gluten-free. Quinoa flakes can be bought in most grocery stores or ordered online. Once you’ve got them in your kitchen, you’ll quickly realize that they can be used for more than just coating chicken or tofu: Granola, snack bars, and even your morning bowl of oatmeal can be made tastier with the addition of quinoa flakes. 

How to Use Quinoa Flakes for Crispy Coating 

Consider quinoa flakes a perfect alternative to breadcrumbs. You can use them straight out the packaging, but they’re even better if they’ve been lightly toasted. You can also quickly pulse them in a food processor for a finer texture. I like to use quinoa flakes a little like folks might have used Shake ‘n Bake in the ’80s or ’90s — which is to say it sticks best and looks most even when you shake it on. For baked chicken pieces, coat them in a mayonnaise and egg mixture first and then shake them with quinoa flakes. You can just substitute them for the panko in this recipe.

If you want to use quinoa to coat tofu cubes — the original inspiration for this idea — be sure to use firm tofu! When it comes to cooking the quinoa flake-coated tofu, I recommend pan-frying with a little oil in a nonstick pan. Whatever you coat with crispy quinoa flakes, you’ll be so glad to have this gluten-free breadcrumb alternative in your kitchen. 

Have you tried quinoa flakes for cooking or baking? Share your favorite use in the comments below.