Quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free: an ethically sustainable and healthy recipe


Quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free


Time:          prep. 20 mins
                    (+soaking time for
                    and chia seeds)
                    cool. in refrigerator 30 mins
                    or in deep freeze 10 mins
                    cook. 15 mins
Difficulty:   easy
Yield:          2 servings
Cost:           medium


Much has been said, perhaps too much about quinoa, so I will not mention that it was defined by the Incas as the food of the gods; I will not tell you that it contains all 9 essential amino acids, a detail that makes it unique (along with soya), thus representing 50% of all complete plant proteins. I will not mention that it is naturally gluten-free and I will not remind you that it is a super food for the content of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, good fatty acids with few calories. But, instead, I will tell you not to abuse its goodness, limiting yourself to consume mainly that grown on European soil: this is because it is one of those foods that are the main sources of sustenance for the natives of the Andean regions of South America. As for any commercial activity, the great demand makes prices rise: according to data from the Other Market, while in 2005 in the United States the price of quinoa was quoted around 400 dollars per ton, in 2015 it reaches 8,100 dollars per ton. Those who have the greatest purchasing capacity, (us), manage to hold the hegemony over quinoa without great effort. And I do not think it is appropriate to reply as Marie Antoinette, “If they do not have bread, let them eat the brioches!”. So, without exaggerating the frequency and quantity, certainly take advantage of the properties of quinoa, so surprising and so useful for those who want to reduce the amount of meat ingested. In case you find quinoa grown in Europe, stock up on it, and use this recipe to make delicious quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free.



For quinoa balls

8 tbsp of quinoa – already washed, cooked and cooled
1 zucchini (or other seasonal veg) and 1 potato – already boiled, cooled and mashed with a fork
2 tbsp of chia seeds – soak them in 4 tbsp of water for 10 mins to make them gelatinous
ten capers, cut roughly
ten green olives, cut roughly
4 slices of dried tomatoes, cut roughly – ten minutes before soak them in hot water
3 or more tbsp of chickpea flour or other gluten free flour, like rice flour
1-2 tbsp of parsley, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
salt (better little salt or no salt at all, since olives and dried tomatoes contain a lot)
olive oil for cooking (not more than 1 tbsp of olive oil, you shouldn’t fry them but only make them have a golden brown color)
beet leaves for decorate

For breading

1/2 cups of mixed seeds (sesam, black cumin, poppy seeds etc)
optional: some leaves of cilantro, finely chopped; black pepper, red hot pepper


After washing the quinoa seeds, cook them in a pot: turn on the heat and toast the seeds for 1-2 minutes with a drizzle of oil; then add hot water to cover them. In 7-8 minutes they will be cooked and puffed and ready to be used once cooled.
Mix the ingredients for preparing the
quinoa balls in a large bowl: depending on the consistency you decide, you might add another tablespoon of chickpea flour or other. Then leave the mixture to harden for 30 minutes in the fridge, or 10 minutes in the freezer: this process is not obligatory but know that it will help to give them a shape easily. To do this we will use our hands (like these quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free in the picture), or two spoons; otherwise use a professional mould. Now, handle them with care, and dredge and coat the balls with mixture of seeds in a large bowl. After having breaded both sides in this way, place them in a non-stick pan already hot and oiled. 5-6 minutes of cooking over moderate heat will be enough to turn them on the other side: you will easily understand the right moment when the underside of the quinoa balls will no longer stick to the spatula. Cook another 5 minutes, and they will be ready to be served in a dish decorated with beet leaves and vegetables

Additional advice

The taste of quinoa without seasoning is not the best, and is influenced by the bitterish taste of its saponins. Saponins are molecules similar to the detergent and soluble in water and/or methanol, and can have toxic effects on the mucosal walls of the intestines: therefore, beyond a matter of taste (bitterness), their presence reduce the possibility of assimilating all its proteins. To decrease their concentration, quinoa seeds are first peeled with mechanical abrasion and then washed industrially. But you can improve the efficiency even more, by soaking the seeds for more than a few hours, while carrying out repeated washing using a narrow mesh strainer. In case you don’t have enough time for such a long soaking period, you may lower their concentration safely, using an alkaline solution: add some bicarbonate in the water(*) and then rinse carefully

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Smart combos

I so hope that you choose to eat quinoa not for trends but for nutritional needs, because you have decided to reduce the consumption of animal products. In that case, however, you would need to safeguard your iron intake. Combining the tasty quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free with vegetables that are naturally rich in iron would be a very smart idea. When it comes to nutritious vegetables, it is impossible not to mention broccoli and beetroots. I used a medium beetroot and 200 grams of broccoli to complement the two portions of balls. I sliced them both, not exactly fine, and grilled them with very little oil: they must remain still crude ‘al dente’, in order not to lose their nutritional properties. Season the vegetables with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt, and if you want, add a few drops of tabasco.

Enjoy your meal and good revolution to all

(*) POUVREAU, LAURICE ANNE-MARIE; KANNING, MARJA WILLEMIEN; VAN DE VELDE, FREDDIE from NIZO FOOD RESEARCH, NETHERLANDS (2013) Processing Quinoa for Improved Protein-to-Carbohydrate Formulations

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