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The Crunchy Quinoa Problem

I’m not perfect in the kitchen, I’ll admit it.  In fact there are two things I have to do to christen a kitchen when I’ve moved to a new place: make chicken broth and set off the fire alarm.  For a long time I struggled with rice, yes rice, even though I could make a practically perfect cheesecake.  I’ve improved quite a bit with practice though and now rice is no problem for me.  I do however still seem to struggle somehow with quinoa.

 I love the stuff and I still have a huge bag my parents bought me from Costco during undergrad.  My problem is that no matter how well I wash it or how long I cook it for I always seem to find one or two bites of something crunchy and gritty in my damn quinoa!  Does anyone know what this is?  Is it sand that isn’t getting rinsed out or is it a few bits of quinoa that aren’t cooking?  The texture is so off-putting and unpleasant.  It tends to ruin subsequent bites for me.  I like to tell myself that it’s this specific bag that’s bad so my next plan is to run to the store and try to whip up a batch from a fresh bag and see if the problem repeats or not.  Especially since this is my favorite lunch right now.  It’s full of good for you grains, veggies and delicious kalamata olives.  It’s definitely best for days I go to Bikram yoga when I need to have energy well into the late evening.  I can’t go into hot yoga with a full stomach; it makes me feel ill, so I need to eat something with tons of grain at noon and then some fruit around 3pm.  Then I’m good to go through all 90 minutes in 105 degrees.  I’m about to start my “Bikram Yoga Challenge” which is making it to the studio 10 days in a row.  When I embark on my quest I’ll let you know!

 Anyway this is a less involved recipe, because not everything I do is complicated or 5star, I just wanted to share something I do as a “quick” food item.  As such there aren’t exact measurements; this is just how my brain operates when I need to find things in the fridge/pantry for lunch.

Olivia’s Quinoa Lunch

  • 1 cup dried quinoa, prepared as instructed on the bag except I substitute in chicken broth for water.
  • 1 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes – mine are from a jar and so they are packed in their oil.  You’ll need to keep this in mind if yours aren’t.
  • 4 diced zucchini
  • 1 diced orange bell pepper
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 diced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste; pinch of fresh lemon zest

Prepare the quinoa as your bag instructs.  Odds are it’s going to be 2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.  See?  Simple.  Let me know if you do it differently though!  I’m still trying to solve that gravel issue.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the sundried tomatoes in their oil.  The oil should be enough to sautee the rest of the ingredients, if yours don’t come packed in oil then use one of your choice (olive/grapeseed/canola) for this.  Add in the shallots and sauté for 7-8 minutes over medium heat.  You want to get flavor from the shallots but not burn the tomatoes.  Then add the remaining vegetables and olives for another 6-8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and mix in with the quinoa.  Toss in the basil, salt, pepper and lemon zest.  Enjoy a big bowl for lunch over a few days.  The best part is that this is good cold or warm!

40 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kayla #

    I thought I was alone in this issue with quinoa! I have no idea what that awful sandy/gritty texture is, but I’ve gotten it now from 2 different brands. It really puts me off to eating the stuff.

    September 21, 2011
  2. Kerri #

    I kept wondering about that too! It turns out it is sand. Quinoa grows well in sandy areas and as a result you occassionally get some in your food.

    February 8, 2012
  3. liz #

    I read on this one blog site where this lady recommends rinsing your quinoa first before you prepare it. She said it helps to cut down some cooking time as well as make it fluffier and taste better. Have yet to try it yet though…

    March 12, 2012
  4. Nonny Mad #

    I suspect it is actually just uncooked quinoa. All it would take is for 3-4 out of the thousands to be stuck on the pot or stir spoon and it won’t get cooked and stay crunchy.

    March 13, 2012
  5. My guess is both: sand and under cooked quinoa. I let mine soak in the water for an hour before turing on the heat. Seemed to help it cook evenly. I use flaked quinoa more often than the grains.

    July 20, 2012
  6. jenny #

    crunching my way through quinoa at the moment. It is my first time cooking it. Not enjoying it too much. Will look into buying some flaked quinoa.

    August 28, 2012
  7. Olivia #

    I’ve had a lot more success with it since this posting. It really does come down to rinsing the crap out of it and not undercooking. Good luck!

    September 2, 2012
  8. Tom #

    Just found what I thought was glass in our dinner, which I eventually found was sand in the quinoa. It’s definitely not under-cooked Quinoa – these are definitely grains of sand. The first grain I found was one of those grains of sand that is kind of see through which is why I thought it was glass. Thank God it isn’t!

    The sand is about half the size of the quinoa pieces, and so with a decent sieve the sand should go through and the quinoa shouldn’t. I’ll be rinsing thoroughly next time.

    September 3, 2012
  9. Caroline #

    Good to know I’m not crazy. Whether it’s the natural or natural and red quinoa, I find bits of grits/sand/crunch. One time I found about the size of the quinoa, but it was hard and clear like glass. Could that be from the sand? Really really like quinoa but this crunchiness is really really bothering me – each time I come across it, I feel like I’m eating dirt. I wash my quinoa and rinse it several times before I cook it. Now I’m going to go thru the grains/seeds before washing. Really really don’t enjoy this experience with quinoa. It’s my fourth time cooking this.
    I have 3 lbs more of quinoa left.

    October 17, 2012
  10. Sarah #

    I’ve found the gritty sand in the black and red quinoa more often than the white. I was really put off quinoa for a while because of this! Nothing worse than having to carefully chew each mouthful in fear that it’s going to be gritty.

    November 15, 2012
  11. Eric Webster #

    Glass is often formed by super heating sand (lightening strike) and rapid cooling which disrupts recrystalization into perfect lattice structure. Glass is simply an inconsistantly (amorphous) structured solid and silicon is a common major component of both sand and glass. Quartzite sand, as well as many other types, can be clear. So it could be either or both. It is not likely to be man made glass and is definitely not uncooked quinoa. Rock in you food is not good for your teeth. Anthropologists roughly determine the age of prehistoric skulls by tooth wear caused by eating food that was interlaced with sand/ rock. I have observed these granules in most quinoa, from multiple sources, that I cook. I think the best way is rinsing and swirlling in bowl of H20, allowing rocks to settle out and scooping floating quinoa from top.

    January 26, 2013
  12. Caroline #

    Really sounds good. I tried this morning but almost 98% of the Quinoa settled at the bottom and only about 1 Tbsp or less is floating in the water. However, when I rinsed and poured the Quinoa into my sieve I did see some tiny tiny tiny black stones at the bottom of the bowl
    along with some smaller sized Quinoa. I am not looking forward to cooking the Quinoa again.
    I cooked it 3 times already; but with the grit and pain when I bit down on a small stone I’m ready
    to throw out my remaining 3 lbs of Quinoa. I tried cleaning it manually and picking out all the little pieces of ‘what I think is not the Quinoa’ and getting a sore neck and shdrs for only 3/4
    cup of Quinoa I called it quits. Not worth the pain. There must be something else. But many
    thanks for your suggestion.

    January 27, 2013
  13. I rinse, I cook thoroughly, I changed brands. Every time I eat it I crunch down on a piece of this tiny mystery “glass”. Nothing is more unsettling than thinking a piece of my dental filling is coming out into my mouth.

    I found this online today after entering “crystals in quinoa” in the search engine. Apparently, these are calcium oxalate crystals that form on the leaves of the plant when it grows to help it retain moisture in arid climates. I love quinoa and don’t want to stop eating it, but until I find a way to sort out these little pieces I will be avoiding it!

    March 28, 2013
  14. Katie #

    I did not have this problem with the quinoa I bought from whole foods (their “generic” brand, 360 or something like that). The brand I had problems with was the one from Sam’s.

    April 26, 2013
  15. mak #

    I bought some from Sam’s as well – same result: very gritty. Will not buy again.

    April 27, 2013
  16. Clare #

    I have this grit problem with the delicious prepared quinoa salad from Costco. I, too, was in a panic thinking that I had eaten glass! I loved the salad so much I kept buying it and hoping the gritty bites would disappear, which they didn’t. Thanks to all of you who have explained this to me. Now I don’t feel crazy. If anyone has a good recipe that mimics the one at Costco I will try to make it myself and soak, rinse, soak, rinse etc etc until I can enjoy quinoa again! Or I will try Whole Foods’ 360 brand as suggested. Great discussion board!!

    May 20, 2013
  17. Mary Kay #

    Thank you all for the info…. I had cooked the quinoa twice now and felt like I was eating glass both times. Yes I bought mine from Sam’s. It is the worst feeling, thinking that you are going to crack a tooth. The piece of sand, as you all are explaining it, was almost as big as the quinoa itself. It looked like clear off white beach glass, thinking someone had broken a glass jar while processing the quinoa. I will try to soak it next time. I did notice something different the second time I cooked it. I had left it on the stove simmer longer then it called for. That might have been good because when I went to scoop it from the pot I had over cooked and some stuck to the bottom. It was not burnt so I did taste it. The stuff on the bottom of the pot seemed to have most of the glass.So my thought is the glassy sand settles to the bottom. So don’t eat the quinoa from the bottom of the pot.

    July 8, 2013
  18. Caroline #

    Quinoa is suppose to be a healthy food, but with consumers finding their quinoa crunchy due to these glassy sand or small small pebbles of stone – yes, I took time (a couple of hours for 1/2 cup or less of quinoa and a stiff neck) picking out these sediments from the quinoa I purchased – leaves me frustrated and … Anyways, I recently purchased a bag of quinoa at Costco and found some of these sandy things at the bottom of the pot (I couldn’t see them, but I bit into them). Next time, I put the quinoa in a sifter in a large bowl of water and swirl a few times, threw out the water and refill the bowl with water, put in the sieve with the quinoa and
    continue swirling and throw out the water and repeated. I did this quite a few times until I saw almost no sediments at the bottom of the bowl. I cooked the quinoa and got better, much better results. I cook quinoa more often now, but still dreading that I might crunch into something. Definitely not pleasant. Anyways, I hope this helps.

    July 8, 2013
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  22. Ron Cunningham #

    I bought 25lbs of organic red quinoa in May. It had some grit in it, and I’ve rinsed it thoroughly every time I’ve eaten it. I got through the batch without too much problem. The next 25lb batch I bought three weeks ago is nearly inedible. It cost $164. The last broken tooth I had cost $800+. Hmmm… The “pebbles” are nearly the size of the quinoa, so I’m wondering what kind of straining would be effective. The swirling in water method seems not to work; the quinoa sinks fairly quickly. Now I feel stuck with a couple dozen pounds of it that I’m afraid to eat. I wrote the distributor to ask for help just now. I hope maybe they can. I’m skeptical. Dang shame; I love the stuff and eat it almost every day. I’m glad I got to read that it’s fairly common. I’m not glad at the prospect of a hundred fifty bucks of un-usable food. There has to be a way to resolve this. Thanks.

    September 21, 2013
  23. SaSha #

    I have been eating quinoa for years and I have never had this problem until recently when I purchased the quinoa from Sam’s club! I am so glad I googled this.

    September 26, 2013
  24. M #

    I always sift my quinoa but have experienced crunchy bits. I always thought it was salt until today. I found out the crunchy bits were clear rocks. I’ve been eating rocks.
    Damn you whole foods!!!

    October 3, 2013
  25. red Demon #

    I thought it was the brand I was using. Whole foods has cooked Quinoa on their salad bar that never seems to have sand. How do they do it?

    October 4, 2013
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  27. C. Fuhrman #

    TrūRoots brand quinoa is sand free for the 3+ years I’m eating it! I won’t waste money on anything else…

    November 23, 2013
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  29. Brenda Meglio #

    I have had no issues with sand in quinoa when bought at grocery stores and in bulk at a health foods store. We bought 5 lbs. from bulkfoods.com in the summer and it is terrible with sand. Pretty expensive food to have to deal with that. Won’t buy from there again.

    January 27, 2014
  30. Ron Cunningham #

    I bought 25 lbs. of organic red quinoa from nuts.com. The first batch was fairly okay; only a gritty bite now and then. The second batch was very bad; practically every bite was a terror. I returned the remainder and had it replaced with a better batch. I had to pay $25 shipping, though.

    Last night, I had cold, red quinoa from the salad bar at Texas de Brazil, in Baton Rouge. They put cherries(!) and green onion in it. It was an astonishingly interesting and delicious combination.

    January 28, 2014
  31. Donna O. #

    So glad to read this. Thought I was crazy with gritty quinoa. I will feed the rest to my husband and find another grain to eat.

    February 6, 2014
  32. Caroline #

    I don’t want to leave quinoa out of my diet. It’s a good food. I’m diabetic and have to be careful of what I eat. I have concluded that the TruRoots quinoa brand is the best so far. I still rinse it, but I rinse it in a sifter in a big bowl of water since the grains are very small. The first couple of times I only rinsed it twice/3 times and still found it a little gritty (not as much as with other brands). I have been rinsing the TruRoots Quinoa (bought at Costco, still good price even if it’s gone up) 5or 6 times. So far, all is well – no more grits. Also, rinsing it takes out some of the bitterness some people might taste. Good luck! Don’t give up! (Yeah, somehow my husband
    doesn’t get/feel the grits. Maybe because I serve him first, … and I’m the last to be served. The
    grits sinks to the bottom)

    February 7, 2014
  33. Lynn #

    Oh dear, had been buying the large Costco bag of organic natural color quinoa with no problems. This time they only had the red quinoa, organic, so I bought a bag. I always rinse in wire mesh strainer before cooking but this is the 1st time I added the cooked quinoa to a spicy hot pot soup recipe and kept crunching down on… didn’t know what. Further exploration seems as though there are small glass pieces… and not small enough to go through the strainer, suit really concerns me!

    February 12, 2014
  34. Ron Cunningham #

    Those glass-like things are certain crystals that occur in quinoa, so I’ve read.
    I had 25lbs of organic red from nuts.com that was inedible. I sifted through and found those little beads. I sent it back, got a better batch, but had to pay shipping.

    February 12, 2014
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  37. ckm #

    I have been making quinoa for a couple of years and had never found grit until getting it in my current bag from Costco. Even after a lot of rinsing, the sand/glass/whatever remained. The unexpected crunch is totally gross. I like quinoa, but reading how common this is makes me never want to make buy or eat it again.

    March 25, 2014
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  39. Pam #

    I’m glad I found this posting. I had bought my first 2 bags of quinoa and rinsed/cooked with no problems what so ever. Now with my 3rd bag I noticed the grit and thought there was glass in the quinoa! So unpleasant! I’m hoping it’s just a bad bag but with all these others having the gritty problem I’m not so sure. Very disappointing because I really love quinoa!

    June 21, 2014
  40. Marie #

    I bought Western Family brand organic pre washed red quinoa at Save On Foods in British Columbia. I’m finding grains of grit in about 50% of the spoonfuls. So, not just Costco/Sam’s Club quinoa. I nearly broke my tooth but I don’t want to waste this huge bowl of quinoa/chick pea salad that I made.

    July 17, 2014

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