Cooking Quinoa | Allergy

Cooking Quinoa

by Allergy Guy

washing quinoa

Cooking quinoa is easy, but there is an important step you must follow, or you risk developing a sensitivity or allergy to quinoa.

Quinoa is a very nutritious grain, and an ideal food as part of a gluten free diet.  It is very popular with celiacs and those with a gluten allergy.

However, a small minority of people report becoming sick after eating quinoa, usually after consuming it for some time.  This is a real shame, as quinoa is very tasty, extremely nutritious, and easy to cook.  It is versatile, and can be used in many ways.

The most likely problem is saponin, which protects the plant from insect and fungal attack.  This is a soapy substance which can be washed out of the quinoa pseudograin.  It has a bitter taste, and possible minor toxic effects.

Because of the bitter taste and possible toxicity, it is important that you wash out most saponin before cooking the quinoa.  It certainly is not a very dangerous substance, nor is it as bitter as fish bile, so you do not have to take the same care with washing your quinoa as you would with preparing a puffer fish or something.

Washing Quinoa

There are several ways to wash quinoa.

You can put it into a sieve, one with a fine enough mesh to trap even the smallest seeds.  Then run it under the tap, shaking the sieve gently from side to side, until the water runs clear.

Or you can immerse the sieve in a big bowl of water.  Rub the seeds with your fingers to help shift the saponin.  Repeat two or three times until the water is clear and no foam forms on the surface.

Or you can put the quinoa in a blender with some water, and pulse it a few times to agitate the mixture, but not actually chop up the seeds.  Drain it through a sieve.

Cooking Quinoa

Put quinoa in a pot, with water in a 1:2 ratio (twice as much water).  It takes approximately 12 minutes to cook.  Allow a little longer (15 minutes or so) if cooking with other acidic ingredients.

A dash of salt brings out the flavor, although some people prefer to cook without salt and are used to the reduced flavor.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Solange March 1, 2018 at 23:01

I had tried small amount of quinoa about 10 years ago. I discovered my allergy to Quinoa several years ago when thinking of going vegan. I washed the seeds and added sauteed kale and garlic and ate a bowl of it – it was great, but within 1 hour I was violently sick to my stomach. Thought it was a bug of some sort. Tried it again a few months later (premade dish at Whole Foods salad bar). Had about 1 cup and the same thing happened, but while at work, which was a horrendous experience – again -the reaction was within an hour.

I avoided the seed in all forms until about a year ago when I tried it in a brown rice & quinoa blend pasta, thinking that it being pricessed would make it better. I ate a huge bowl of it with a pasta sauce. Again, in less than an hour, I was sick to my stomach.

Not sure what it is specifically that causes this problem…other things that have saponins do not seem to bother me. But this fascinating seed is not for me. 🙁


2 Peter Washington August 11, 2017 at 20:19



3 Allergy Guy November 19, 2017 at 21:31

Perhaps try eating less at a time?


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