One problem with healthy food is that sometimes the recipes turn out bland.
You don’t have the luxury (or extra calories) to add a heavy dollop of store-bought sauce and endless handfuls of mozarella cheese.
Meaning: you have to find healthy and low-calorie ways to make your recipe tastier.
Let’s talk about one well-agreed on healthy food that could sometimes use a little help in the taste department: Quinoa.
This superfood has gained popularity gradually due to its amazing nutrition profile. It’s high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and is gluten-free. Despite all these benefits, people still shy away from buying it because it can have a bit of a bland taste.
Have no fear! If you’re new to clean eating and struggling to stay motivated, I’ve put together some absolutely delicious ways to make quinoa taste good (without overdoing it on calories).
To make quinoa taste better, add a few additional low-calorie ingredients and experiment with different cooking techniques. Try toasting it or cooking it with less water, or toss in a few flavor bombs like garlic, onion, chili, low-fat cheese, or breadcrumbs.
Now that you know the health benefits of quinoa, are you ready to spice it up?
Here are 12 of my favorite low-calorie ways on how to make quinoa taste good:
1. Ditch the water and use vegetable, chicken, or bone broth instead
Just like other grains, quinoa has very little taste on its own.
If you want to infuse some SERIOUS taste into it without additional herbs or ingredients on top, then a great way to do this is use chicken broth or bone broth.
(To make your own bone broth at home, you need only five ingredients: water, apple cider vinegar, animal bones, salt, and pepper. Add all the ingredients in a pot and reduce the heat to simmer. You can even add vegetables in the mix.)
Once you have made the broth, use the standard water recipe to make quinoa with the broth.
Since quinoa does not have a high content of soluble fiber, it proves to be weight loss-friendly when combined with chicken broth.
2. Toast it in olive oil
Read any diet food recipe and you will find olive oil at the top of the ingredient list.
Yes, excessive calories from fat can lead to weight gain but that’s rarely the case with olive oil — you usually only need a splash of it!
(In fact, this ingredient can also increase levels of antioxidants in your body, which prevents your cholesterol levels from going up.)
Toasting quinoa before boiling it gives it a nutty taste and nice smell. Simply heat quinoa in a tablespoon of olive oil (in an otherwise empty pot) until it turns golden brown and then boil it for 3 minutes.
3. Cook it in less water
If you don’t like the taste of quinoa, it’s probably because all that water has made it mushy.
If you want the grains separated and less mushy, then instead of taking 2 cups water for 1 cup quinoa, use only 1 cup of water.
4. Add (a little) cheese
Yes, cheese can help you lose weight… well, certain cheese types such as Parmesan, aged cheddar, and Gruyère.
They’re low-calorie, full of healthy fats and proteins, and packed with amazing flavor.
Here’s what you should do to jazz your quinoa up with a little cheese:
Make quinoa in chicken broth, top it with herbs, and finally sprinkle it with parmesan cheese.
Toast the dish briefly in the oven and voilà… your quinoa will taste beyond amazing.
(Also read: More ideas to get more protein without adding calories to your diet.)
5. Add (a little) butter
Butter isn’t a low-calorie hack, but if you use a carefully measured amount, it’s not going to blow your diet.
My favorite way to eat quinoa is to use just a little pad of butter mixed in with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
It leaves your quinoa dish creamy and bursting with flavor. The handful of extra fat calories from the butter is usually well-worth it, just don’t go overboard!
6. Give quinoa a little crunch with breadcrumbs or Panko
One of the best things about Panko breadcrumbs is that they are a bit healthier than plain breadcrumbs.
They absorb less fat and contain less sodium. Where plain breadcrumbs contain around 27 calories per tablespoon, Panko contains less than 20 calories.
(It’s a small difference, but it all adds up!)
The best way to add breadcrumbs or Panko in quinoa is when baking.
You can top pan-toasted quinoa with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs to get a nice crunchy texture.
7. Use it in a chili (vegetarian if you’re really feeling healthy!)
A delicious spicy chili can help promote weight loss by seriously curbing your appetite.
Plus, the bold flavors and dense texture of chili can make you completely forget you’re even trying to eat healthy in the first place!
Cook quinoa separately and add it to a pot of vegetarian chili for a nutrient-packed, and flavor-packed, healthy dinner.
8. Make it into a dessert
Take a traditional oatmeal pudding recipe and swap in quinoa for the oatmeals; you’ll hardly find a different when it comes to the texture, and you’ll get all the protein and fiber benefits from your new favorite grain.
(Use a light hand when it comes to the sugar, or try a sugar substitute like Stevia and honey.)
To make it taste even better, make quinoa with coconut milk and fruits for a sweet punch.
9. Add some heat with herbs and spices
If you are in a hurry and want to have a delicious tasting quinoa bowl, I suggest loading up on fresh herbs and low or zero-calorie seasonings.
From cilantro to basil, thyme, oregano, peppers and more, you can add just about anything.
Don’t cook them with the quinoa. Instead, roast them in olive oil and use as garnish.
(Pssst, this is also a great way to make salads taste good without adding calories — hit that link to read my full guide.)
10. Add garlic and onions
Garlic and onion both are high in nutrients and low in calories.
These ingredients can be pretty easily added to any recipe.
The smell of sautéed garlic and the sweet taste of fried, brown onion can make your quinoa recipe taste absolutely amazing.
11. Make fruity breakfast quinoa!
Fruit toppings can really sweeten quinoa but if you want to turn it into a full-blow breakfast, try this:
Take anything you’d normally do or make with oatmeal, and swap in quinoa!
There are plenty of low calorie foods that you can add to the bowl. If you don’t like the taste of water-boiled quinoa, then add almond milk to it, instead.
To make it tastier and sweeter, add low sugar fruits like berries and peach, plus some coconut shavings and almonds.
Almonds are high in fiber and protein. Having a handful can help your lower your calorie intake. Moreover, they reduce hunger and don’t contribute to weight gain.
12. Bake it into some muffins
Quinoa and muffins?
Yes, you can absolutely make muffins from quinoa!
You already know about the healthier substitutes for flour and sugar (almond and coconut flour, and Stevia or honey).
Add a few shavings of dark chocolate on top and you have got yourself the perfect quinoa snack.
13. When in doubt, use coconut
Anything coconut — be it oil, milk, or shavings — you can count on it to be absolutely bursting with nutritional goodness.
All these variants of coconut contain less than 40 calories per tablespoon.
Make quinoa the usual way (with water) and add some coconut oil or milk on top for a creamy taste, or make your quinoa in coconut milk from the start for a flavor-bursting treat.
That’s it folks, all of my favorite ways to make quinoa taste absolutely amazing.
Quinoa is such a great food to include as a staple in your healthy meal plan. It’s packed with fiber and protein, and comes in at a relatively low calorie count; even if you use some of the methods above to jazz up the taste a bit!
My favorite way to eat it is with juuuuust a tiny dollop of butter, and plenty of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s all it really needs, provided you cook it properly and don’t let it get mushy.
I hope this helped!
And if you’re struggling to stay on your working out and healthy-eating grind, check out my complete guide to how to stay motivated to work out.