Peruvian Quinoa: 7 Unusual Ways and Recipes To Enjoy It

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Peruvian quinoa is an ancient grain also referred to as the “mother grain of the Incas.”

While exploring the authentic food specialties in South America, quinoa was one of the most significant grains we came across.

While already familiar with quinoa, what surprised us the most was its revered status in the Andes region where it grows.

Peruvian chefs and home cooks have also incorporated this traditional cereal into dishes, desserts, and drinks in new and surprising ways.

If your travels take you to Peru or simply want to incorporate Peruvian quinoa into your diet, read on for more.

Here are 7 unusual ways to enjoy quinoa the Peruvian way!

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What is Peruvian Quinoa?

Quinoa peruvian by Authentic Food Quest
A superfood from the Andes

Peruvian quinoa or quinoa from Peru is one of the country’s most famous superfoods.

The quinoa plant has been planted in the Andes region for more than 5,000 years. 

During the Inca civilization, it was referred to as the “Golden Grain of the Andes,” and it was used to boost the strength of the Inca warriors.

Peruvian quinoa versus quinoa from other countries is a question of provenance or origin. 

Traditionally, quinoa was grown in the high mountains of the Andes which encompass parts of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. 

Today, other countries around the world are starting to grow quinoa. There are more than 50+ countries that grow quinoa on a smaller scale.

While there may be subtle differences in taste, Peruvian quinoa is highly regarded as it reflects the traditions and history of the people who were among the first to grow it.

Where Is Quinoa From?

Peruvian quinoa in the bowl by Authentic Food Quest
Quinoa comes from Peru and Bolivia

The history of quinoa is in South America and in particular the Andes region which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Quinoa was first grown in Bolivia, but today Peru is the largest producer. These two countries produce about 95% of all commercially grown Andes quinoa.

Even though Peru and Bolivia continue to be the main producers of quinoa, other countries like China, India, the USA, and several European countries are producing an easier-to-harvest quinoa.

Andes-grown quinoa continues to be superior, and it is a sought “Superfood from the Andes,” for its nutritional value and and delicious flavors. 

RELATED: Maca Drink from Peru: A Guide to The Incas Superfood (With Recipe)

Quinoa South America Varieties

Quinoa at the market Atacama restaurant by Authentic Food Quest
Peruvian quinoa is perfect for gluten intolerant eaters

While in Peru and also in the north of Argentina near the Bolivia border, we were struck by the diversity of quinoa varieties.

Quinua Real which grows only in Bolivia is one of the varieties we were most surprised to discover. 

It grows in extreme weather conditions and high altitudes yielding bigger grains with increased nutritional value. 

There are darker colored quinoa varieties, which come are red, purple, or black and they have nuttier flavors. 

White quinoa is commonly available, and it is a softer, fluffier variety with a mild, less nutty taste.

Not all quinoa is the same, and there are more than 100 varieties worldwide. Depending on what kind you eat, there are nutritional differences in the various varieties.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to learn how to make Peruvian quinoa dishes at home with a chef from Peru, consider taking an online cooking class with The Chef and the Dish. This Peruvian superfoods cooking class with Chef Lucia from Peru will teach you via Skype how to prepare quinoa foods like quinoa vegetable soup, quinoa Chaufa, and one quinoa-based drink. Find out more about this 2.5-hour Peruvian superfood cooking class with the Chef and the Dish.

Quinoa Health Benefits

Quinoa Health Benefits by Authentic Food Quest
Quinoa is high in fiber

Quinoa is nutritious and is packed with many health benefits.

This nutrient-dense food does not contain gluten making it an ideal option for people diagnosed with celiac disease.

Quinoa is protein-rich, with one cup of cooked quinoa containing five to eight grams of protein. 

It is also a high-fiber food, rich in manganese, and magnesium, all necessary for a healthy diet. 

As quinoa is a healthy and versatile food its popularity continues to skyrocket around the world. 

RELATED: Cusco Food Guide: 10 Foods To Have And Where To Eat Them

How To Cook Quinoa – The Simple Version

How to cook Quinoa by Authentic Food Quest
Cooking quinoa on our travels to South America

If you’re simply cooking a bowl of plain quinoa, it is not difficult. You’ll want to first rinse the dried quinoa under cold water to remove any coating or debris.

Easy Quinoa Cooking Instructions

  • Use the ratio of 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water.
  • Bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa to the hot water and cover with a lid.
  • Turn the heat off and let the quinoa sit in the hot water, covered for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  • After the water has been absorbed, use a fork to fluff the quinoa.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to taste.
  • The quinoa should be soft but not mushy.

7 Ways to Eat Quinoa in Peru (With Recipes)

With Peruvian quinoa being an ancient grain from the Andes, you’ll find many delicious Peruvian recipes.

While not exhaustive, the following are some of the traditional Peruvian-based quinoa dishes we discovered on our authentic food quest.

1. Quinoa Soup (With Recipe)

Quinoa Soup by Authentic Food Quest
Peruvian quinoa soup in the Andes

Given that quinoa is widely cultivated across Peru, you can find it prepared in many different ways. 

One popular quinoa Peruvian recipe is Sopa de Quinua or Quinoa Soup.

This traditional quinoa soup typically includes vegetables, and it is flavorful and hearty.

While talking to a local chef in South America about her quinoa soup, we were surprised at how particular she was about the kind of quinoa she uses in her soup.

Claire Tasting Peruvian Soup by Authentic Food Quest
Tasting delicious quinoa soup

When choosing which type of quinoa to use, she preferred quinoa de la Quebrada, from the Argentine Andes, versus the type typically found in Bolivia. 

Quinoa de la Quebrada, she told us, holds up well in the soup and gives it a nice, nutty flavor.

Regardless of what quinoa is used in the soup, it is a healthy and delicious superfood that’s simple to make.

Cook your quinoa with vegetable stock and add vegetables like celery, carrots, potatoes, and onions.

If you want to add some spice to the quinoa soup, add a little Ají Amarillo, an essential condiment in Peruvian cuisine.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Quinoa soup is healthy and super easy to make at home. Enjoy delicious Peruvian flavors at home with our simple Easy and Healthy Traditional Peruvian Quinoa Soup Recipe

2. Quinoa Empanadas (With Recipe)

Quinoa Empanadas by Authentic Food Quest
Quinoa empanadas are worth trying

Empanadas are moon-shaped stuffed pastries popular throughout South America. 

These delicious little bites are typically stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables and eaten as a quick snack or meal.

Quinoa empanadas was one of our most unique discoveries in South America. 

We didn’t see quinoa empanadas often on menus and were delighted to have the chance to try them.

Biting into the empanadas, we found the taste of empanada de quinua to be surprising. 

The quinoa empanada was crunchy on the outside while the quinoa on the inside was subtle, and hearty, with a nutty flavor. 

Quinoa empanadas are delicious and absolutely worth trying.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you would like to make empanadas stuffed with quinoa, see our empanada recipe from Argentina. Stuff it instead with Peruvian quinoa and enjoy a delicious healthy snack  How To Make Delicious Argentinian Empanadas Recipe

3. Peruvian Quinoa Salad 

Quinoa Salad by Argentina Food from the Andes by AuthenticFoodQuest
Colorful and healthy Peruvian quinoa salad

Peruvian quinoa salad is one of the most refreshing salads you can have. 

Called “ensalada de quinua” in Spanish, quinoa salad is very easy to prepare and tastes delightful.

Using the traditional products of the Andes, in this case, quinoa and native corn, we relished this delicious dish.

The simple quinoa salad we had consisted of tomatoes, corn, and Andean cheese. All healthy ingredients and freshly prepared.

If you want to make a quinoa salad at home, add corn and cheese to the cooked quinoa. 

For even more flavors, you can also add sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, onions, and vegetables like sliced bell pepper.

Peruvian quinoa prepared as a quinoa salad is a simple dish worth savoring while visiting Peru or in your home kitchen.

4. Salmon Sashimi Quinoa – Tiradito con Quinoa  (With Recipe)

Tiradito Nikkei cuisine by Authentic Food Quest
Peruvian Japanese dish made with quinoa

Tiradito is a dish that reflects the Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine. This style of cooking is called Nikkei cuisine in Peru, and it was developed by Japanese emigrants in Peru.

Tiradito is a raw fish dish, where the fish is thinly sliced so that it appears very similar to sashimi or carpaccio.

In Peru, cooked quinoa is added to the raw Tiradito-style fish for an exquisite blend of Japanese and Peruvian flavors.

Tiradito with quinoa is most commonly prepared with raw salmon, though white fish like sea bass or sole can also be used.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Enjoy delicious Peruvian salmon sashimi at home with this Simple Tiradito Recipe: Peruvian-Style Salmon Sashimi With Quinoa

5. Quinoa Bread 

Quinoa bread by Authentic Food Quest
Quinoa bread as a light and airy texture

Bread is commonly eaten at breakfast in Peru. It’s also used to make sandwiches for later in the day. 

The most common type of bread you’ll find is white bread, though you can also find wheat bread. 

Surprisingly, while at a local bakery near where we stayed in Lima, we discovered quinoa bread or pan de quinua.

Intrigued, we picked up two small loaves to bring back to eat for breakfast. We found the quinoa bread to be light and airy in texture. 

The taste was mild and rather grainy, somewhat in between white and wheat bread.

Quinoa bread, like all other quinoa dishes, is gluten-free. Peruvian quinoa bread is a healthy treat worth seeking out on your Peru travels.

6. Quinoa con Leche, Quinua con Leche –  Quinoa Pudding 

Quinoa pudding by Authentic Food Quest
Beloved Peruvian dessert

Quinoa con leche, which translates to quinoa with milk is a traditional Peruvian pudding. 

Quinoa pudding is a traditional comfort dessert that is similar to arroz con leche or rice pudding.

The Peruvian twist to the popular rice pudding dessert is to use Peruvian quinoa instead of rice.

Generally, only a few ingredients are needed to make this beloved Peruvian dessert.

You can use white quinoa or any quinoa you have available. Cinnamon, milk, sugar to taste, and vanilla extract are the other main ingredients.

The cooking process is fairly simple. First, you’ll need to boil the quinoa with a cinnamon stick. 

Then, you’ll add milk and the remaining ingredients. Once you have a creamy texture, take the quinoa pudding off the stovetop and serve it either chilled or warm

Quinoa pudding or “quinua con leche,” is a nutritious Peruvian dessert to savor.

7. Quinoa Beer – Cusqueña

Most popular Peruvian drinks cusquena beers by Authentic Food Quest
Find the Cusquena beers in Peru

In Peru, you will find quinoa everywhere. It’s at the farmers market, grocery stores, bakeries, and featured on many restaurant menus.

Surprisingly, quinoa is not only used in Peruvian food but also in local beverages.

Cusqueña is a popular beer brand produced in Cusco, Peru.

The brand introduced a Quinua Special Edition of Cusqueña beer that was co-created with Gaston Acurio, Peru’s top chef.

The beer is a blend of pearl quinoa, malted barley, corn, hints of orange and peach, hops, and natural pure water. 

The Quinua Special Edition beef is slightly fruity and not too hoppy. The actual taste of quinoa is difficult to discern as it is hidden behind the barley and hoppy flavors. 

Nonetheless, it is easy to drink and worth trying. 

RELATED: Argentina Beer – The Ultimate Guide That Will Make You Thirsty

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In Summary

Quinoa is an amazing ancient superfood that is now being rediscovered worldwide. This nutritious plant is loaded with protein, fiber, and minerals

Increasingly, it is also viewed as playing an important role in eradicating hunger and malnutrition. The United Nations even dubbed 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa.”

While quinoa is gaining in popularity in North America and Europe, it was surprising to see just how ingrained it was in the local food culture, particularly around the Andes region. 

Besides finding quinoa in the meals above, we were also surprised to find quinoa used as the main ingredient in snack bars, Alfajores (popular South American cookies), Picarones (Peruvian donuts), milk, pasta, and much more.

Have you had Peruvian quinoa before? In the comments below, tell us how it was served or prepared.

Savor The Adventure!

More Peruvian Local Food Experiences

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Discover the authentic foods in Lima and Cusco as well as the top Peruvian foods and drinks that should not be missed. Take this guide with you as you explore Peru’s magnificent cuisine.

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Peruvian quinoa by Authentic Food Quest

47 Comments on “Peruvian Quinoa: 7 Unusual Ways and Recipes To Enjoy It”

  1. I usually enjoy vegetable burgers with quinoa and never tried quinoa soup for example (not that I am aware of), but I am sure it is delicious!
    I am in Asia for the moment. Too bad the Asians do not use quinoa so much.

    • Hi Katie, there are nutritional differences with the varieties and they differ in the various countries. All traditional, just different by country. We have not found Quinoa bread in the U.S., but worth checking in your area. The most important is finding Quinoa flour which we suspect exists in the US. Do let us know if you find any. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this 🙂
    I had no idea that Quinoa originates from South America!
    Thanks for sharing – must say, I’m curious about the quinoa beer 😉

    • Thanks Katy. Yes, indeed one has to be careful when cooking quinoa so that it maintains its rich flavors. The quinoa bread and empanadas are delicious. If you can find quinoa flour in your area, get some and make a different quinoa dish 🙂 Thanks for your comments.

  3. Actually, I never hard of quinoa before, but it must be really healthy! Still waiting for my first time to go to Latin America, but with your food recommendations, I already know how to eat my way around:}

  4. This is so very interesting. I wasn’t aware there are so many varieties of quinoa. The only kinds I’ve seen are the regular and the red at the grocery store. I love quinoa, and will definitely have to incorporate these ideas into my meal planning in the future. Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s wonderful Whitney that this post helped you learn about the different kinds of quinoa out there. We found out that they also taste a little different as well. Do let us know if you make something creative with quinoa over the week. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Quinoa is rising in popularity here in Singapore, I’ve been seeing it in mostly salads as a healthier food option. I think if they brought quinoa beer over it would definitely get some attention!

    • Hi Mar and thanks for your comments. Interesting that quinoa is growing in popularity in Singapore as well. In addition to salad, we also enjoy it as a meal and replacement for rice. Have you tried it as a side dish? The beer was definitively interesting and released only as a special edition. Hope more diverse products with quinoa will become available in the near future. Cheers!

  6. That’s a very informative post. I recently heard about quinoa and its high nutrition value. I tried it in salad and it was very tasty. I would love to try the bread as well.

    • That’s wonderful that you have tried quinoa and enjoyed it. The bread is quite good as well, though we have never seen Quinoa flour outside of Peru. Until you get to Peru, keep enjoying quinoa. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  7. I recently heard so much about quinoa and I really want to try it out myself. Would love to try out the salad, for example. Doesn’t look to difficult to cook myself 🙂

    • Hi Kathrin, do give quinoa a try 🙂 It’s not difficult to make and the nutty flavor is delicious and it is a nice addition to any meal or salad. Let us know what you think when you try it. Thanks for your comments.

    • Thanks Bernard, so glad you enjoyed the post. The quinoa beer was such a surprise to see and we learned that it was a special edition that is not available all the time. Claire (the beer drinker) thought the beer would have a stronger taste, but was surprised how mild the taste was. It was worth it though 🙂

  8. I love quinoa! I’m a mixta kind of girl myself as I like the combination of all the different coloured grains. I’ve only ever had it in salads, but my partner makes beer and he is very interested in its potential use in that way! Thanks for sharing!

    • We completely agree with you. After tasting the different varieties, we liked the one with the combination of the different colors as well. If they have Quinoa flour where you live, try baking with it, the bread and emapanadas were delicious. Do let us know how your partner does with quinoa beer!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Holy cow…so much quinoa! I LOVE quinoa, eat it all the time when I am home, though not in these unique ways. I would love to try quinoa beer! My favorite is quinoa salad, it just amplifies any regular old salad by tossing some in. I live in South Korea at the moment, and I went to go buy a bag of quinoa the other day….$18 for a tiny bag (like 150g) I couldn’t do it!

    • Oh wow…$18 for a bag of quinoa. That’s alot!! Yes, quinoa is delicious and we really enjoyed the different varieties in South America. It truly does jazz up any salad or meal for that matter. Hopefully, you can get to South America at some point and try the beer. It’s quite an experience 🙂

  10. I love quinoa! We discovered it on our honeymoon in Peru, and now eat it nearly every week (you’re right, it’s great in salads). Had no idea thought that Cusquena was made from quinoa (we drink that at home too), well I never!! 🙂

    • Great to hear that you discovered quinoa in Peru. We ate it all the time there too…especially the Nativa brand. So good and healthy. Did you get a chance to try the quinoa milk while in Peru? The Cusquena beer with quinoa was a special edition beer. It’s not always available so we were lucky to have tried it (Claire mostly). Thanks for your comments.

  11. We normally use it in Quinoa based salads but it’s interesting to see how many other ways it’s used and the many different varieties. Particularly interested in the bread made with it, I’ve been experimenting lately with creating a variety of breads from different regions, I’ll have to look into that one further.

    • That’s awesome to hear Toni. We found the Quinoa bread quite good, though very airy and light. We also enjoyed the quinoa empanadas quite a bit, you may want to try those too 🙂 Appreciate your comments!

  12. This actually sounds really fantastic – my husband has recently discovered he’s gluten free, and we’re in the adjustment period of what this means for our travels, trying to find gluten free options in different countries etc. So have made a note about Quinoa when we’re in South America next. Thanks!

    • Glad to hear Meg that reading this post has helped. The one thing we also noticed was stores selling gluten free options. In Argentina, there are specific health food stores called “Dietetica” which cater to those with food sensitivities. Also, you will find gluten free products in many grocery stores. You will be okay for your trip to South America 🙂 Reach out with additional questions. Thanks for your comments!


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