What is quinoa soup?

Adding spinach to quinoa soup can add color and nutritional value.

For over 5,000 years, farmers in the Andes have grown quinoa, which is the seed of the goose foot plant. Many vegetarians prepare quinoa soup because quinoa is a complete protein and a good source of calcium, iron and many vitamins, including vitamin B and E. As an additive to soup, it acts as a thickener, and some people describe the taste as of nuts, such as wild rice. Quinoa is gaining popularity and there are cookbooks dedicated to cooking with the seed.

Quinoa acts as a thickener in soups.

Traditional quinoa soups from the Andes region tend to vary depending on the time of year. A basic soup usually contains a combination of potato, cabbage and onion. The soup is flavored with annatto butter, oregano and other herbs that may be available. Typically, the cook adds some seasonings, such as cilantro, before serving the soup. At the soup stalls of the Ecuadorian market, vendors offer diced avocados, ground or crushed roasted peanuts, and freshly ground cheeses as ingredients to stir.

When using quinoa, the cook needs to remember to rinse the grain well before preparing it. Most experienced cooks suggest rinsing even if the package says it’s pre-washed. The seeds have a bitter substance called saponins, which can give the soup a strange taste. Some cooks rub the seeds while washing them, as it helps to remove more of the coating. Most recipes advise cooks to rinse the quinoa, but some forget to remind people to do so.

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Although some people soak quinoa before cooking it, it is not necessary. Generally, to make quinoa soup, a cook can substitute rice in a soup recipe with the same amount of quinoa. Cooks typically use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. For a broth-style soup, they increase the liquid, and for a thicker stew-style soup, they use the two-to-one formula. Most recipes suggest cooking the quinoa for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender.

The liquids used by the cook will determine some of the flavor of the soup. Many recipes suggest using a combination of broth, such as chicken broth, and water. Other recipes list only plain water. Quinoa is a natural thickener, so the cook should watch the liquid level to avoid burns.

A quick way to make quinoa soup is to add cooked quinoa to a basic vegetable soup or other soup, including canned soups. A cook can toast well-rinsed quinoa over medium-low heat in a dry skillet. It is imperative to stir the seeds constantly to avoid burns. Roasting brings out the sweet nutty flavor and adds a new dimension of flavor to a soup. Some cook the quinoa separately if the vegetables or meat need to cook for longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

Farmers who grow quinoa eat the leaves like kale or spinach. Sometimes they add the leaves to the soup, and a cook can prepare a similar soup using spinach or greens in place of quinoa leaves. Quinoa soup typically has a good balance of amino acids, and adding ingredients like spinach, tomatoes, and other nutrient-dense vegetables makes it a very nutritious dish.

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Although quinoa is a seed, people often call it a grain. Generally, the most common seeds are beige, but they can also be red, black and other colors. Some cooks look for the most colorful seeds to add a touch of charm to their quinoa soup.

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