Toasted Quinoa

By: Ginny Mahar

Dietary Compliance: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Almost-Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian

Calling all quinoa lovers! Say goodbye to clumpy, mushy, and bland quinoa forever. I have a simple new trick that’s going to take your quinoa to the next level: Dry Toasting! All it requires is a few extra minutes at the beginning of cooking to dry-toast the quinoa before adding liquid. That’s it! But the flavor benefits are big. 

This simple technique not only unlocks all kinds of umami flavor from this mild and highly-nutritious seed, but it also results in the most fluffy individual quinoa grains of all time. They balance atop each other like circus performers defying gravity. Best of all, the taste is surprisingly nutty and way more complex than un-toasted quinoa.  

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pron. Keen-wah)  is an ancient seed originally from South America. It has been eaten for centuries there and was treasured by the ancient Inca Empire. Culinary legend states that “Inca War Balls” were prepared for Inca warriors going off to battle, by combining solid fats (like lard) with quinoa, and then rolling the mixture into portable balls.  

Today, quinoa has gained popularity because of its impressive health benefits, and because of the demand for gluten and grain substitutes by health seekers like us. Although it is often referred to as a grain, it is not a grain, but rather a seed.

Thyroid-friendly Qualities of Quinoa:

It’s no wonder why quinoa has attained the coveted status of ‘Superfood’. While it is high in carbs and oxalates, which some thyroid patients choose to minimize in their diets, it makes an excellent choice for those of us seeking the best, most nutrient-dense alternatives to gluten and other grains. 

What To Look For When Purchasing Quinoa

Like oats, quinoa is sometimes processed on equipment and in facilities that are not gluten-free. For quinoa that is 100% gluten-free, I recommend Ancient Harvest or Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa. Both brands are processed in gluten-free facilities. Both brands are also organic which is an important requirement for minimizing dietary toxins.

Also, look for pre-washed or pre-rinsed quinoa. Both brands mentioned above are pre-washed. This is done to remove quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can impart a bitter, soapy taste. More and more brands of quinoa are pre-rinsed, which adds convenience. Unwashed quinoa calls for rinsing with water before cooking.  For this recipe in particular, pre-washed or pre-rinsed quinoa is essential, since the grains need to be dry for toasting.

Some Favorite Ways to Eat Quinoa

In our house, quinoa makes a regular appearance on our dinner table because everyone likes it. It’s super nutritious, and it keeps us all regular—happiness! The leftovers never go to waste and get sprinkled on salads, soups, or even scrambled eggs. I also love it as a base for succulent mains like roasted chicken, or this Loaded Mediterranean Salmon, because it does such a great job of soaking up all that yummy juice…Mmmm…

This blank-canvas staple can be served alongside just about anything. It makes a great base for bowls, a good substitute for rice, and can be seasoned any way you like. 

Some favorite flavorings for this blank canvas recipe:

CHEF’S TIPS: When testing this recipe, hubs and I experimented with adding oil or ghee to the grains during toasting, and agreed that it’s better without. Just a simple dry toast to the point of golden brown color and toasted popcorn fragrance is all it takes. You may even see a few light wafts of smoke rise from the pan. That’s when you know its just about ready for liquid. My husband likes to go darker brown for a bolder, more smoky flavor, while I like to go lighter brown for a more sweet and nutty flavor. Cook’s choice! 😉 

I hope you enjoy this simple technique for Toasted Quinoa as much as we do. Bon Appetit!

5 from 3 votes

Toasted Quinoa

Dietary Compliance: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Almost-Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian

Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4



  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, toast the dry quinoa. Stir frequently until golden brown and fragrant (like popcorn), for 10 - 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and add 2 cups water or broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fluff with a fork. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired, and serve!

Recipe Notes

Some favorite flavorings for this blank-canvas recipe:

Toasted pine nuts, lemon, parsley, and ghee.

Chopped sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic, and toasted pecans.

Dairy-Free Lemon Basil Pesto

Chili powder, and ground coriander.

Nutritional Info Print
Nutrition Facts
Toasted Quinoa
Amount Per Serving
Calories 156 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 239mg7%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 3g12%
Protein 6g12%
Calcium 24mg2%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About the Author

Thyroid Refresh Co-founder Ginny Mahar is the mom and recipe blogger formerly known as Hypothyroid Chef. After struggling with the residual symptoms of Hashimoto’s for over four years, she embarked on her own process of adopting a thyroid-specific diet and lifestyle. Within one year, she restored her vitality and lowered her thyroid antibodies by half. Ginny is a passionate advocate of supporting others on their journeys toward better health. She is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, cooking instructor, writer, and entrepreneur.