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Quinoa bread is bread made from the seeds of the quinoa plant. It is popular because of its nutty flavor, nutritional value and gluten-free properties. The seeds are a versatile nutrition source and can be used as a substitute for many grains, including wheat and rice. Quinoa is not technically a grain, because it is classified as a flowering plant rather than a grass. The seeds can be ground into flour and used for baking foods such as quinoa bread, though it is more often used as a cereal or a substitute for rice dishes.
Before being used to make quinoa bread, the seeds must be treated to remove a coating of saponins — a bitter chemical coating. After the saponins are removed, the seeds are ground into fine flour and can be used for baking. The flour is gluten-free, so it does not form loaves as easily as grain-based breads such as whole wheat.
Most quinoa bread is made from a combination of quinoa flour and grain flour, which results in a loaf that is fluffier and less dense than one made solely from quinoa flour, but with the nutty flavor and nutritional value of quinoa. To obtain a gluten-free loaf, quinoa flour can be mixed with other non-grain flour, such as almond meal or soy flour. Quinoa bread can be made entirely with quinoa flour, but the loaf will not rise as well as a grain-based recipe and an increase in binding agents, such as eggs, may be required.
Quinoa is popular in part because of its high nutritional value. It contains much more protein than grains such as wheat and rice, and it also includes an abundance of amino acids, which makes it a favorite among vegans concerned about their protein intake. It delivers large doses of manganese, magnesium and iron, which have been shown to be important in the treatment of atherosclerosis and diabetes.
Quinoa bread and other quinoa dishes have been a staple in South America for centuries. Western explorers first discovered the plant being farmed by the area's indigenous people during the 16th century. European settlers normally refused to partake of the plant, because it was often used in pagan rituals.
Quinoa has recently been re-discovered and has become popular in North America and Europe. Imports of the seed have increased dramatically in recent years, and it can be found in almost any whole food store and even in some large grocery chains in different forms. Collections of recipes for many dishes and several styles and flavors of bread have been published in books and online.