I’m always looking for different options for boosting the health benefits of the smoothies I make. Using quinoa in smoothies has become more popular because it adds protein, fiber, helps with weight loss, is naturally gluten free, and is a great thickener.
If you don’t know what quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is, it’s a seed that is often used like a grain in meals – like rice or couscous. It actually looks similar to couscous.
Adding quinoa to your smoothies will help to make it a great meal replacement. The fiber and protein will fill you up and help to keep you feeling full for longer. This can help with weight loss because you will tend to eat less between meals.
Quinoa comes in several colors including red, black, and white. The different color quinoas have about the same nutritional values and they can be an easy way to add fun color to your smoothie.
Why use quinoa in smoothies
There really are a lot of benefits to using quinoa in smoothies, I’m surprised I don’t see it used more often. Adding quinoa to your smoothie gives it a boost in fiber, protein, iron, manganese, potassium, and folate.
Quinoa in smoothies is a lower calorie, gluten free alternative for people who can’t tolerate oats or are following a gluten-free diet.
You can make a big batch of quinoa on the weekends and use it throughout the week in your smoothies or other recipes. You can also freeze it in 1/2 cup serving sizes to save for longer and to have a chilled thickener for later.
It is practically tasteless so it goes well with any smoothie. Cooked quinoa, which is most commonly used in smoothie recipes, is really soft and blends really smooth. It’ll be difficult to tell there’s quinoa in your smoothie. In fact, I know moms who sneak this seed into smoothies for their kids because they can’t detect it.
Quinoa is a great thickener for smoothies that is more than just “filler” or empty calories. Adding it will give you a nutrition boost, make you feel full for longer, and will not alter the taste of your smoothie.
If you’re looking for other ways to thicken your smoothies, check out these 23 thickeners to use in smoothies that are not bananas.
Cooked quinoa is also really easy for your body to digest and is great to use for people with digestive issues.
Health benefits of quinoa
Quinoa is an ancient seed that is one of the only plant-based sources of a complete protein. It is high in protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids – making it a “complete” protein.
1 cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 8.1 g of protein, 3.6 g of fat, 39.4 g of carbs and 5.2 g of fiber. It also contains 15% of the recommended daily amount of iron, 58% RDA of manganese, 9% RDA of potassium, and 19% RDA of folate.
Cooked quinoa is easy for our bodies to digest and is gentle on the digestive tract. The high amounts of fiber and protein present in quinoa help to slow down the digestion process, making you feel fuller for longer. This can aid in weight loss because you may tend to eat less frequently between meals.
How to use quinoa in smoothies
Quinoa can easily be added to smoothies. If you have a high-powered blender, you can add raw quinoa directly in with your smoothie ingredients (with a little preparation). See Methods section below on how to add uncooked quinoa in smoothies.
If you do not have a high-powered blender, you can easily add cooked quinoa to your smoothie. See Methods section below about cooking quinoa.
Most smoothie recipes call for 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Quinoa expands quite a bit when cooked, so if you are adding it raw you may need less.
In order to break down raw (soaked) quinoa, the smoothie may need to be blended a little longer than usual to make it, well, smooth. Cooked quinoa should be easy to blend smooth because it starts out soft.
There are several methods for using quinoa in smoothies. Which method you chose is really up to you and the amount of time you have for preparing the quinoa, and how smooth you like your smoothies blended. Raw quinoa will generally blend a bit grainier than cooked quinoa but it doesn’t involve cooking and cooling time.
Whichever method you chose for your quinoa, it is important that you first rinse or soak the seeds thoroughly to remove the saponin on the outer layer. Saponin is a bitter outer coating that acts as a natural pesticide.
Raw quinoa seeds can be used in smoothies a couple different ways.
Whole raw quinoa seeds cannot be digested properly because of their hard outer shell. If the shell is not already broken when it is in your digestive tract, most likely it will come out whole and you will not get any of the nutritional benefits.
If the quinoa you buy says that it has been pre-rinsed, you can put it right into the blender (alone) and blend it until it’s a fine powder. You can also use a spice grinder for this. This process is the smoothest you will be able to blend quinoa and it will act as a nice thickener in your smoothie.
If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed (most quinoa I’ve seen is not pre-rinsed) you’ll need to rinse it first. Rinse it until you no longer see a slight foam around the quinoa as you’re rinsing it. The easiest way to rinse quinoa is in a fine colander in the sink. You’ll need to wait until it’s completely dry before you can blend it into a powder.
Another way to enjoy raw quinoa is to soak it first. Soaking quinoa overnight will help to soften the grain and will make it easier for your body to digest. It will make it easier to blend smooth which will also make it easier for your body to digest.
Rinse the quinoa first until no foam is produced and then soak about 1 cup of quinoa with 1 cup of water overnight. You’ll want to rinse it again really well to remove the saponin before adding it to your smoothie.
Soaked quinoa will still be firm and will add some crunchy texture to your smoothie. If you have a high-powered blender that blends the quinoa grains smooth – but you like crunchy texture in your smoothies – just stir in a tablespoon or two of soaked quinoa into your smoothie.
Soaked quinoa will not stay good for very long and you’ll need to use it within a day or two.
Cooked is the most common way to use quinoa in smoothies. This method makes it easy for our bodies to digest the grain, helping us to get the most nutritional benefit. Cooked quinoa is what I use in my smoothies.
Cooking quinoa doesn’t take that much time – it’s less preparation time than soaking quinoa overnight. One of the good things about the prep time of cooking quinoa is that you can cook quinoa in large batches to use in smoothies for the rest of the week.
Before cooking quinoa you’ll want to rinse it really well. Rinse it in a colander in the sink until it no longer produces foam. This will remove the bitter outer coating of saponin.
Cooking quinoa only takes about 15 minutes (follow package instructions). It will take some more time before it is cool enough to use in a smoothie – or you can just add more ice to your smoothie if you don’t want to wait.
Cooked quinoa will keep for a few days in the fridge, or you can freeze it in 1/2 cup serving sizes to use later.
Note that red and black quinoa tend to take a few minutes longer to cook than white.
Some kinds of quinoa can be sprouted and then eaten (or added to smoothies). Sprouted quinoa is popular among rawists to soften grains and beans and to help make digestion easier.
Most likely, the quinoa available in your grocery store will not be able to sprout. If you’re interested in trying to sprout quinoa you should find a reputable retailer to buy it from.
Some experts advise strongly against consuming sprouted quinoa, stating that cooked quinoa is much safer. The main risk with eating sprouted quinoa is that the sprouts are prone to rot. The health dangers of consuming molded sprouts outweigh the benefits of eating raw quinoa.
My recommendation is to always cook any quinoa you are going to consume.
There are a few other ways you can add quinoa in smoothies. Each of these involves more preparation time or more processing by the manufacturer. I tend to stay away from anything that takes more time to prepare because to me, smoothies are a quick and easy meal. I also avoid ingredients that have been processed when I know there’s a whole alternative (that’s quick and easy).
For these reasons, I’m not going to go into detail with these but wanted to mention them because they are options.
Popped: You can buy popped quinoa or pop it yourself in a saucepan with some oil. It’ll puff up a little – nothing like popcorn – and will have a crispy texture. If you want some crunch in your smoothie you can stir a tablespoon or two into your smoothie after blending.
Flakes: You can buy quinoa flakes which are quinoa seeds that have been flattened. Since they have gone through this processing they will blend smoother.
Flour: Quinoa flour is also available. It’s quinoa that has been processed/ground into a flour. This will blend the smoothest of all options but also has the highest amount of processing. Quinoa flour will be finer/more processed than if you chose to make your own at home in a blender.
Try using quinoa in your next smoothie!
Using quinoa in smoothies is a gluten free alternative for boosting fiber and protein content. It is a great thickener and blends smoothly into smoothies without affecting the taste. Quinoa makes a great addition to any smoothie!
I’d love to hear about the recipe you added them in and how your experience was in the comments below!
If you’d like to learn more about how to create nutritionally balanced smoothies, download my free guide:
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