Monday, February 19, 2007

Gluten-Free Inca Red Quinoa (Ancient Harvest)




I have been a fan of Quinoa (the grain - pronounced "keen-wa") for quite some time - a couple years now in fact. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that, prior to going on a Celiac-safe gluten-free diet, I had never even heard of. It is nothing short of amazing for its nutritional value as well as its versatility and flavor. Although I am discussing the whole-grain here, I also use quinoa flour in breads and other recipes.

For those of you who are new to Quinoa, it is gluten-free (of course, or I would not eat it), and it is considered an ancient grain that dates back to the Inca civilizations in South America. It originates from Bolivia these days. It is one of the best sources of vegetable protein around, and it has a fair amount of dietary fiber. The grain has a delicious, somewhat nutty, light flavor that goes well with many other dishes. Some other selling points that are noted on the packages of Quinoa include:


  • Quinoa contains more high-quality protein than any other grain

  • Quinoa provides all the essential amino acids in a balanced pattern

  • Quinoa contains no gluten (of top concern to Celiacs of course)

  • Quinoa is light, tasty, and easy to digest

  • Quinoa is quick and easy to prepare (a personal favorite-feature)
We buy the Ancient Harvest brand of Quinoa, which also happens to be certified organic for anyone that prefers that designation. And, we typically use the "traditional" Quinoa (tan in color), but have recently discovered a variety called Inca Red Quinoa. This variety is similar to the traditional type, but is a red/burgundy color, and has a slightly different texture and taste.

Whereas traditional quinoa is very mild in flavor, this Inca Red variety has a slightly more pronounced flavor. It is in no way overpowering though, and still makes for some very good gluten-free quinoa dishes. Its texture is similar to the traditional type, though I think it is maybe just ever so slightly more dense. This fact is reflected in the nutritional breakdown I believe, since it has a bit more fiber and protein than the traditional type.

Specifically, for a 1/4 cup of the uncooked dry Quinoa (considered to be one serving), here is how the two varieties compare (T = Traditional, R = Inca Red):


  • Calories: nearly identical at around 165 calories

  • Protein: T has 5 grams, R has 6 grams

  • Dietary Fiber: T has 3 grams, R has 4 grams

  • Carbohydrates: T has 30 grams, R has 29 grams

  • Iron: T has 10% of RDA, R has 13% RDA

  • Phosphorous: T has 15% RDA, R has 25% RDA

  • Calcium: zero for T, 2% for R

  • Riboflavin: 8% for T, 10% for R

  • Sugars: T has 1 gram, R has 5 grams (this surprised me, since I noticed no sweetness in the Red per se).
Regardless of the variety you choose, they are both very nutritious. The Inca Red variety (as you see in the list above) tends to have a bit more nutritional density across the board, with slightly more dietary fiber, protein, and minerals than the traditional version.

Serving Suggestion:
In a previous blog about Quinoa, I discussed a gluten-free garlic, pepper, and herb Quinoa recipe that we favor in our household. To make the recipe pictured above, we actually used about half each of the traditional variety of quinoa and the Inca Red quinoa. The rest of the recipe stayed the same.

The results were fantastic! This dish tasted absolutely wonderful, and was fulfilling on many levels. Full of flavor, plenty of texture, and simply satisfying. It went wonderfully with some oven-roasted chicken my wife baked up the same evening. The chicken was an adaptation of our gluten-free pulled-chicken recipe - same recipe, just minus the "pulled" part, and using some skinless chicken thighs this time.

If you encounter this Ancient Harvest Inca Red Quinoa at a grocery store, I'd certainly recommend giving it a try. Yet another item you can add to your gluten-free baking repertoire. It's bound to satisfy everyone, gluten-free, celiac, and non-GF persons all the same.

8 comments:

Gluten Free Suzi said...

These look fantastic. I have been a Coeliac for 6 years and have often stared at Quinoa Flakes when I am at the grocery store & wondered what I would do with them? Thanks for the inspiration.

Lynn Barry said...

That is a great looking bowl of quinoa. As you know, I was new to quinoa and at first I didn't care for it, but I realized only recently it was because it was quinoa pasta that I tried at first and upon closer inspection I read that it was made up of quinoa AND corn flour, so I might have been reacting to the corn. Your educating me about this amazing grain encouraged me to give it another chance.:) Thanks, Mike!

Mike Eberhart said...

Lynn, thanks for the kind words. And, I'm glad that the quinoa appears to be OK for you these days.

Suzi, I'm always happy to inspire others :) Funny though, I have never tried the Quinoa *flakes* yet. I have heard others say they use them for breakfast cereal (hot), but have not yet had the chance to evaluate them. I use quinoa flour all the time, quinoa grain (like shown here) all the time, and on occasion quinoa pasta (but, I actually prefer other pastas - like brown rice, or the Bi-Aglut brand pasta when I can find it). Enjoy!

Gluten Free Suzi said...

Mike I must have had cereal on my mind when I wrote my comment! It is my favorite meal of the day.

I think I will make this week an experiment week and try Quinoa Flakes for breakfast and your Inca Red Quinoa for dinner... ;-)

Wheat Free said...

You could also do the same sort of thing with whole quinoa, it just takes a bit longer to cook.

Anonymous said...

hi, i wanted to look up quinoa nuritionals and found your blog. I just made a nice batch of quinoa tabouli and it is soooo good!!
wanted to share that with you fellow celiacs because in the hot summer there is nothing like a big serving of chilled tabouli....and since we can't have bulgar (and lots of other grains just don't cut it ) to find quinoa works as a good substitute is a happy thing!

Anonymous said...

Mike, could you share where you obtained the mineral and nutrient data for red Quinoa?

Mike Eberhart said...

Hi Anonymous,
I believe I pulled the mineral and nutrient data for red Quinoa right off the side of the Ancient Harvest Red Quinoa box. Rather sure about that. It's been a while since this post, but I do not know where else I would have grabbed the data, and the box would have been right there at hand. Regards, mike