As you may or may not already know, quinoa is a pseudocereal that is native to countries such as Chile, Peru, and Bolivia.
Quinoa is a staple of healthy, plant-based living. It’s high in protein, potassium, iron, fiber, vitamin E, and amino acids, amongst many other beneficial nutrients. For this reason, quinoa is often referred to as a superfood.
But the amazing properties of quinoa don’t end at its impressive nutritional content; it’s also very easy to prepare and preserve.
Quinoa can be cooked to perfection in as little as 15 minutes, and meal-preppers everywhere will be excited to learn that cooked quinoa can be kept in the freezer for up to 10 months!
Read on to learn more about how to freeze and defrost cooked quinoa.
How to Freeze Cooked Quinoa
Freezing cooked quinoa is easy, but it’s not quite as simple as transferring it straight from the pan into a Tupperware container in a matter of seconds.
There are a few important steps to follow if you want your cooked quinoa to retain its delicious taste and unique texture for months in the freezer.
Step 1: Cool Down
The first thing you’ll need to do before freezing your freshly-cooked quinoa is to let it cool. This is because putting hot food straight into the freezer can thaw out surrounding food items, which can potentially be dangerous.
The quinoa should be covered for hygiene purposes and allowed to cool completely before freezing.
However, the cooling process should be timed or monitored so as not to leave the quinoa sitting unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
Step 2: Choose a Container
Once the quinoa is completely cooled, it’s time to think about what container to freeze it in.
You have a couple of options here. Possibly the easiest, most space-efficient method is to freeze the quinoa in sealable plastic food bags.
Alternatively, any other appropriate air-tight container, such as Tupperware, should do the trick.
Step 3: Pack Down
An important but frequently neglected step in the process of freezing cooked quinoa is packing the quinoa down into an even layer.
This is to ensure that the freezing happens evenly and consistently, and it also makes it easier to store.
Step 4: Remove Excess Air
If you’re using food bags to freeze the quinoa in, you’ll need to ensure that all of the air is pressed out of the bag. Neglecting to do this can lead to oxidization, which may alter the flavor of the quinoa.
To make sure that all the air is removed from the bag, you can either press it with your hands or submerge the bag in a bowl of water up to the seal to force the air out.
Step 5: Seal and Freeze
Once you’ve made sure that your quinoa is properly packed down and that your container is free of air, you’re ready to seal the container and place it in the freezer.
You can keep your cooked quinoa in the freezer for about 8 to 10 months as a general rule.
However, it is advisable to check on the quinoa every now and then after the first few months to make sure that it isn’t starting to look ‘freezer-burnt’, as this is a sign that your quinoa is starting to lose its moisture and become oxidized.
How to Defrost Cooked Quinoa
You have a few different options when it comes to defrosting cooked quinoa.
We’ll outline each method below, and you can choose which one to follow based on your preference or time constraints.
Method 1: Refrigerator
The most recommended method of defrosting cooked quinoa is in the refrigerator.
This one is super simple - simply take the quinoa out of the freezer in its bag or container and place it in your refrigerator overnight.
By the morning, you should have defrosted quinoa that is fresh and ready to use.
Method 2: Room Temperature
If you don’t want to leave your quinoa in the refrigerator overnight, you can leave it to defrost at room temperature - for example, on your kitchen counter - for a few hours.
Just make sure you don’t forget about it for too long, as this may affect the freshness of the grain.
Method 3: Microwave
If you planned to use your frozen quinoa today but completely forgot to thaw it out earlier, don’t worry - you can defrost it in the microwave in just 1 minute!
Now, please be aware that this method of defrosting is likely to be less effective than defrosting in the refrigerator or at room temperature. The thawing will probably not be as even, so you may find that some areas remain more frozen than others.
However, this is a good method to use when you’re really pressed for time.
Transfer your frozen quinoa into a microwave-safe dish and break the quinoa up as much as possible. This will help to ensure that you don’t end up with a block of quinoa that’s warm on the outside and frozen in the middle.
Heat for 45 seconds initially. If the quinoa needs a little longer, you can give it an extra 15 seconds or so.
If you find that the quinoa isn’t defrosting enough for whatever reason, you can add a tablespoon of water to create some steam.
So, the bottom line is, yes, you can freeze cooked quinoa - and for a long time, too!
By following the procedures outlined above, you can keep cooked quinoa in the freezer for up to 10 months whilst maintaining its flavor and texture.
All you need to do is make sure that your quinoa is properly cooled before beginning the freezing process. Then, it’s just a question of ensuring that the quinoa is stored in an even layer, inside a food bag or container that is free of excess air.
When you’re ready to use your quinoa, you can choose to defrost it in the refrigerator, at room temperature, or in the microwave, depending on what fits into your schedule.
Healthy eating just got a whole lot easier!