Quinoa Pudding

Quinoa has recently piqued my interest. I didn't realize it existed until I happened upon it while spending endless hours looking at recipes (and pictures!) of food on the internet. I spotted it in everything from salads and breakfast to desserts. Suddenly, I found myself wanting to know more.

What was quinoa, exactly? Was it a grain? Was it like rice? And, most importantly, how was this food I had never heard of so versatile?

Luckily, nowadays the answers are never too far away.

Coming from the Midwest, quinoa is as foreign to our culture as tofu or bean sprouts. We like our meat and potatoes. We keep it simple. As if to prove this point, I had to search through 3 different grocery stores before I finally found it buried in the organic health food section.

Quinoa is a suspicious little food. It is neither a grain nor is it related to rice, though the taste and texture would have you convinced otherwise. In fact, it is more related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds than anything else. As if to further prove its originality, quinoa has a surprisingly high protein content for a plant (12-18%!) as well as a high level of fiber. Can we say super food?

In fact, as I learned while digging up information, the Incas so loved quinoa, they deemed it sacred and referred to it as the "mother of all grains."

When I finally got my hands on a package of quinoa, the possibilities were endless. So, I did as any baker would do. I turned it into a dessert (surprise, surprise!). If the Incas could have tasted this pudding, they just might have deemed it sacred, too.

Quinoa Pudding is a twist on the traditional tapioca pudding. Instead of small tapioca pearls, nutty quinoa takes its place. I almost prefer the delicate and hearty texture of quinoa grains as opposed to the smooth, chewy tapioca pearls—it gives it a bit of a bite. The pudding itself is flavored with vanilla and is only slightly sweetened. You can top the pudding with any fruit of your choice. I used pomegranate, but any berry could be used with delicious results.

Quinoa Pudding
Adapted heavily from eCurry

Yields 4-6 servings

3/4 cup quinoa
2 1/2 cups milk (whole will give the pudding a creamier consistency, but 2% will also work)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pomegranate seeds, from one pomegranate (you may also substitute raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or other fruit)

Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water for 1 minute.

In a large saucepan, whisk together the milk, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add quinoa. Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes. Cooking for the full 45 minutes will result in a thick pudding. For a thinner consistency, cook the pudding until desired consistency is achieved. Stir every few minutes to prevent a film from forming on the top of the pudding or bottom of the pan.

Serve chilled, topped with fresh pomegranate seeds (or fruit of your choosing). Store refrigerated in an airtight container.