What’s for breakfast? This question takes a whole new meaning on weekends (I luckily have those off), when I am around to spend time experimenting and entertaining. I love making waffles, pancakes, and muffins. Lately, I started getting myself into eating more protein for breakfast, so I’ve been gravitating towards tofu scrambles (see recipes here and here). They are yummy and delicious, and I love them!
But: I also like some variety, and that led me to looking for other high-protein plant-based alternatives. Quinoa is the queen of plant protein – it is a fantastic substitute for rice, and I use it in many different recipes, from those that are supposed to be complete meals (like stuffed eggplant (the same recipe can be used to stuff peppers) and gumbolaya), to side dishes (see here for a very festive side dish with quinoa, roasted cranberries and pistachios – yummy!). Because quinoa is such a great source of plant-based protein, I have also developed a recipe for a ground beef substitute featuring quinoa. In this way quinoa can me your go to for tacos, pizza topping and similar.
With all that said, I wanted to see whether quinoa makes a good breakfast – and it does! The recipe below is just one illustration of how great a quinoa-based breakfast can be. You can also eat quinoa the same way you would oat meal – topped with fruit, syrup, even granola and yogurt. However, quinoa is not as quick to make as oats, so I recommend that you prepare a batch of quinoa and then store it in fridge for 3-5 days and use as needed.
There are a few tips for preparing quinoa. First of all, I recommend soaking for few hours (on the kitchen countertop) to overnight (in the fridge). Quinoa is covered with bitter compounds called saponins. These are totally natural compounds produced by the plant as it grows, and used a sort of protection from pests (not even pests like bitter things!!!). Soaking and extensive rinsing will help wash these chemical compounds away, and you can tell they are there if foam forms as you are rinsing. One thing to note is that a lot of quinoa on the market has been treated to remove saponins – on one hand that is good because you don’t need to worry about the bitter taste, on the other hand depending on the process used some of the nutritional value of quinoa may have been removed as well. By the way, eating saponins at the amount present on quinoa will not hurt, just in case you are wondering, but the flavor is likely going to be affected. Bottomline: I soak and rinse my quinoa very well before cooking.
And because the quinoa is already wet and soaked, I cook it in less water, usually 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup quinoa. The easiest way to cook quinoa is to use a pressure cooker (it takes 8-10 min on rice cycle, if you have instant (electric) pressure cookers with preset menu to choose from), or about 20 min on the stove top.
Once quinoa is cooked and cooled, you can store it for 3-5 days in the fridge and use as needed, for a scramble recipe below, for salads, as a porridge-type breakfast, as a side for your dinner, or to make any one of your favorite recipes that call for rice or any other type of grain. Enjoy!
Quinoa Breakfast Scramble (oil-free)
What you’ll need:
- 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 3-4 artichoke hearts, sliced
- 8 oz baby spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- (Optional): oil or cooking spray. Omit for oil-free version.
What you’ll do:
- Add mushrooms to a large non-stick pan and place over medium-high heat. If using oil or cooking spray, add to pan and bring to heat before adding the mushrooms. Cook with stirring until mushrooms are soft and browned. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the artichoke hearts, mix well and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cooked quinoa, and all the other ingredients except the spinach. Mix well and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
- Last: add the spinach – it will be bulky and take up a lot of space. But don’t panic: slowly incorporate the spinach. It will start to wilt and reduce in size as it heats up and mixes in. Baby spinach leaves take about 2-3 minutes to wilt and soften, so keep stirring until incorporated, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and leave for couple of minutes.
- Serve as breakfast, lunch or dinner. If serving as a breakfast, complement with a bowl of fruit and perhaps a piece of toast. Enjoy!