Quinoa: My New Best Friend

What’s your take on food trends? I’m totally intrigued by them…everything from pop culture food trends like the end of the twinkie era (those are back now right?) to cronuts (croissant donuts) to health food fads like chia seeds and green smoothies. It’s funny (and cool) to see how these things may not have even been on our radar just a few years ago, but now most people know each of the aforementioned items. You did right?

Food Trends - Twinkies, Cronut, Chia Seeds, Green Smoothies

Food Trends – Twinkies, Cronut, Chia Seeds, Green Smoothies

That’s what I find so endearing about quinoa. Five years ago I never heard of the grain and now it is a staple in my vegetarian diet. Quinoa has become so popular and ubiquitous it’s taking center shelf at grocery stores, gracing many menus and even had an NFL commercial poking fun at it. “Kwee-NO” anyone?

Even though the Incan civilization of Peru has been cultivating quinoa for probably thousands of years, the grain has gained recent popularity here in the US due to its noteworthy status as an all-complete, natural protein.

So, prior to my trip to Peru I was pretty sure I would be eating my fair share of quinoa and actually quite sure that I would be quickly “quinoaed-out” (a fair concern since I was “falafeled-out” in Egypt: read more about that here).

While I did have quinoa almost every single day, I was beyond impressed at the variety of ways quinoa was incorporated into seemingly everything. Due to its sheer versatility, here are some of the interesting and new ways I had quinoa including:

  • Quinoa bread and quinoa pasta at Greens in Cusco
  • Chaufa quinoa (Chinese stir-fried style quinoa) with tofu and vegetables at the Shaman Restaurant in Cusco (this was quite the interesting place and experience which I will write a separate post on)
  • Peruvian 80% cacao dark chocolate bar with quinoa from the local market (with a picture of Machu Picchu on it!)
  • Quinoa pancakes on PeruRail en route to Machu Picchu and quinoa bars (like a granola bar) at most little street snack stands throughout Peru (sorry, not pictured below)


Quinoa! Bread, Pasta, Chinese Stir Fried And In Dark Chocolate

Quinoa! Bread, Pasta, Chinese Stir Fried And In Dark Chocolate

I have to say I loved each form of quinoa I ate in Peru and have a new-found appreciation for the protein. I definitely plan to incorporate it even more now that I know you can do pretty much anything with it!

Protein Bar Chicago

Protein Bar Chicago

Here at home in Chicago, I was introduced to one of my favorite quinoa dishes by my dear friend Erica (check out her awesome blog Erica Finds); this dish is at a rapidly expanding chain called Protein Bar (not only in Chicagoland, but now in DC and Denver as well). What I love about Protein Bar is their motto of “healthy fast-food” as they focus on whole, fresh ingredients, but more so, because they have many vegetarian and vegan options. What, I have more than one choice for lunch??? Love it!

So, when Erica and I were heading out for lunch one day, she was telling me how she absolutely loved the buffalo bowl at Protein Bar. I immediately assumed this was something I a) couldn’t have cause was it made with chicken b) wouldn’t like because I’ve never really had “buffalo” sauce before and c) shouldn’t have cause I don’t care for that distinctive smell I associate with buffalo wings.

Erica allayed my fears by telling me that a) I could get the bowl made with tofu, b) that the buffalo sauce is actually vegan and made in-house at Protein bar and c) the sauce is really good with a nice kick to it and is nothing like the pungent sauce I associate with wings at sports bars. Ok, I’ll try it. But only because I wholeheartedly trust you Erica!

Tofu Buffalo Bowl At Protein Bar

Tofu Buffalo Bowl At Protein Bar

The tofu buffalo bowl consists of quinoa and tofu, with shredded carrots, celery and cucumber, a little bit of bleu cheese, mixed with the vegan buffalo sauce. Let me tell you…delicious! Not only did I love it, it has now become my staple order at Protein Bar. It’s something totally unique I haven’t had elsewhere and the buffalo sauce is definitely tasty. What a great way to “dress-up” two otherwise pretty bland ingredients like quinoa and tofu. Thanks for getting me hooked Erica!

Seeing that quinoa is now pretty much everywhere, what do you think – food fad or here to stay? My money is on quinoa is here to stay….

4 thoughts on “Quinoa: My New Best Friend

  1. Victoria Klein

    Oh quinoa, how I love thee! I think that quinoa is here to stay, and not just because I enjoy it so much, but like rice, it is extremely versatile but more filling than rice (and lots more protein too). Hooray for quinoa everywhere! (Also, I’ve bookmarked the Protein Bar so I can check it out the next time I’m in Chicago)

    1. vegetariantourist Post author

      So glad you agree Victoria! And yes, definitely check out Protein Bar as there are so many great options, even outside of quinoa:)


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