Quinoa has become very popular over the past few years as a health food and whole-grain alternative. It is popular for quinoa salad, soups, wraps, as a side dish, or as a replacement for rice in a main meal with meat, stews, and casseroles.
The great news is that you can cook quinoa in bulk and freeze it in smaller portions for convenient long-term use. Here is everything you need to know when freezing quinoa to optimally preserve the texture and flavor.
Types of Quinoa
Although quinoa is technically a seed and not a whole-grain, it is prepared and eaten in the same way as whole-grains and often served as a substitute for rice or barley. In contradiction to most starchy grains which accompany a main meal, quinoa is known for its high protein value.
Quinoa is also a popular substitute for people on a gluten-free diet, replacing forms of wheat, rye, or barley in the various ground, and dried forms.
The most popular types of quinoa are white, red, and black. Once cooked, white quinoa has a fluffy texture, while red and black quinoa keep a firmer shape and chewier texture after cooking.
Red quinoa has a slightly richer taste than white quinoa which can be slightly bland on its own. Black quinoa remains somewhat crunchy even when cooked with a slightly sweet taste. Regardless of the type you use, it can serve as an excellent base for a delicious meal.
Can Quinoa Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze cooked quinoa as well as the uncooked seeds. Whether raw or cooked, quinoa needs to be in a good, fresh condition before freezing since freezing will only prolong its current state and not improve it.
If leftover quinoa has already been stored in the refrigerator for five days you may want to think twice about keeping it at all. Cooked quinoa does not have a very long shelf life.
Always store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator to preserve the quality. The best option, if you are making a big batch, is to freeze cooked quinoa as soon as it has cooled to room temperature.
How To Freeze Quinoa
You can freeze uncooked quinoa that is still in a sealed store-bought packet simply by placing it in the freezer as is. To ensure that there is no contact with air or moisture, you can wrap the packet in cling film or place it in a Ziploc freezer bag as an extra protective measure.
Follow the below guidelines to freeze cooked quinoa safely.
Step 1: Cool
After cooking quinoa, fluff it with a fork and let it cool completely. Spreading the cooked quinoa onto a baking sheet in an even layer will speed up cooling.
If you freeze cooked quinoa while still warm, condensation will result in small ice crystals forming during the freezing process. This will damage the texture and flavor of the food.
Step 2: Portion
If you freeze cooked quinoa in separate portions, you can remove just what you need from the freezer while keeping the rest safely frozen. Use a measuring cup to divide the cooled quinoa into smaller portion sizes.
Step 3: Package
Place each portion of quinoa into a resealable plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible out of the bag before sealing tightly. Pressing out all the air will help prevent freezer burn.
Alternatively, you can also use a freezer safe container.
Step 4: Label and Freeze
Label the freezer bags with the date. Lie the bags flat in the freezer as this will allow even freezing (and thawing) and most likely save you some space too.
How To Defrost Frozen Quinoa
It is pretty simple to defrost quinoa. For the best results, let it thaw in the fridge overnight or leave the ziploc bag on the counter at room temperature for an hour or two. Do not leave the quinoa at room temperature for longer than two hours as you could compromise its quality.
If you don’t have time to thaw frozen quinoa for a few hours, you can always pop it into the microwave. Using a microwave safe bowl, heat it for 45 seconds to a minute, and give it a good stir to spread the heat evenly and prevent overheating. Once thawed, its ready to add to your favorite quinoa recipes.
Quinoa is a versatile gluten-free food that can be incorporated into breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. That is exactly why cooking a big batch and freezing small portions is the best way to make sure you always have a convenient and healthy meal ready to go.
Not only delicious but also nutritious, quinoa has an excellent shelf life when stored in the freezer. Remember to keep it well-protected from air and moisture on freezing, and you’ll be well set for those last-minute weeknight meals.
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