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Quinoa in Soup

by Elizabeth Skipper February 5th, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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quinoa chris de raudI read your answer about adding rice or pasta to soup.  Can I use quinoa in the same manner? My family and I enjoy using it in place of rice, but I wasn’t sure how it would hold up in a broth-based soup.

Quinoa, like rice, can be prepared in different ways. It can be steamed in liquid in a two-to-one ratio, sautéed and steamed like pilaf, or boiled in a large amount of water and drained. I hadn’t tried putting quinoa in soup, though it’s a logical enough idea. So I went to my copy of Rebecca Wood’s award-winning book, The Splendid Grain, to see if she had any recipes. Sure enough, there were three, one of which was for a cold soup. All of them sounded good, but as I had the ingredients for the Quinoa and Winter Squash Potage, that’s what I made. (The others were Quinoa Soup, Saigon Style, and Cold Zucchini Soup with Quinoa and Mushrooms.)

Last night, when the soup was freshly made, the quinoa was nice and distinct, with that little pop between your teeth when you bite down on it. I refrigerated it overnight, and tried it again this morning. It had definitely lost the snap, although the soup was still tasty.

Here’s what Rebecca has to say about quinoa’s texture, “When quinoa is cooked, the thin germ circlet falls from the seed and remains almost crunchy; the grain itself, pearly and translucent, melts in your mouth. This dual texture makes it very interesting to eat.”

You can cook it directly in a soup, as it was in the recipe I tried, or add it pre-cooked. If the quinoa is already cooked, add it when the soup is done, so it has just enough time to heat through. If you’re starting with raw quinoa, add it about fifteen minutes before the soup is ready; that’s how long it will take to cook.

Based on my experience, then, follow the same advice I gave for using rice in soup. Quinoa will act the same way, slowly losing its texture as it sits in storage or continues to cook as it’s reheated in a soup. You may not mind the texture it takes on; in fact, I’d say it’s even more of a comfort food that way. Unless it’s completely disintegrated, I rather like the rice in my chicken soup nice and soft – not everything has to be done à point (just to the point of doneness.)

(Photo: Cris DeRaud)

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