Quinoa is a fast-cooking, protein-packed grain that makes for a great, healthy, weeknight dinner, but some batches can have an unpleasant bitter taste due to saponins, a bitter tasting compounds meant to deter birds. But we are not birds, and can avoid saponins through the power of washing.
You can buy quinoa pre-washed, or you can give it a quick rinse yourself. To determine if the pre-washed stuff was indeed superior to its unwashed counterpart, America’s Test Kitchen set up a taste test of the following:
- Pre-washed quinoa, rinsed before cooking
- Unwashed quinoa, rinsed before cooking
- Pre-washed quinoa, not rinsed and cooked as-is
- Unwashed quinoa, not rinsed and cooked as-is.
The four samples were all cooked the same way (see the video above for a description of the process), tasted blindly and ranked in terms of bitterness. Unsurprisingly, the cleanest batch (pre-washed and rinsed) won out, and had the least bitter flavour. The unwashed, rinsed sample and the pre-washed, not rinsed sample both fell in the middle, with no discernable differences in flavour, and the unwashed, unrinsed sample came in dead last, and was by far the most bitter.
The upshot? Buy the prewashed stuff and give it a quick rinse before cooking. This will ensure you get the tastiest quinoa every time.