Prepared Under Pressure: Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

Even though I was late to the pressure cooking party, once I acquired my first Instant Pot, I was hooked: I started with a 6 quart this year and recently bought an 8 quart (and almost bought a 10 quart until reason prevailed). With two pressure cookers, you might think that we are pretty well set, but as luck would have it, we were recently gifted another 6 quart Instant Pot!

While I have certain “go to” items I cook regularly, like potatoes, beets, and various soups, I’m always looking to branch out and add new dishes to my repertoire. Since the Instant Pot cooks rice well, why not quinoa?

If you’re not already familiar with quinoa (keen’-wa), it’s actually a seed that’s prepared and used like a grain. It’s a gluten-free, low glycemic index, high protein, high fiber nutritional powerhouse, containing all of the essential amino acids, along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While much emphasis has been placed on ensuring adequate protein in our diets, I think that fiber, in particular, gets short shrift: it’s not as sexy as protein (or even fat), but it is an important part of a healthy diet. I try to eat some protein (often plant-based), fiber, and [good] fat in each meal, and quinoa has two of the three covered.

While I’ve previously eaten quinoa as a side dish to entrees, I really hadn’t considered it as the basis for breakfast. I don’t eat cereal – frankly, I find it to be too high carb, often lacking sufficient fat and fiber, and it causes (unsurprisingly) blood sugar spikes and the return of hunger pangs rather quickly after eating it – but the idea of a high protein, low-GI quinoa breakfast bowl resonated with me. I also liked the idea that I could prepare the base porridge in advance and vary the “add ons” when I was ready to eat a bowl.

Cooking the quinoa was simple. After soaking it for an hour, it was drained and added to the pressure cooker pot, along with a can of full-fat coconut milk. While I loosely followed this recipe, I opted to skip the cinnamon, sweetener (I use stevia), vanilla, and salt additions, so that I could add the sweetener and spices at the time I assembled the bowl.

The quinoa cooked nicely and came out fluffy (and the stainless pot was a breeze to clean out afterward, too).

I moved the cooked quinoa into a container, placed it in the refrigerator, and looked forward to trying it the next morning. When morning came, I scooped out a generous amount of the quinoa and added chopped nuts and dates, sliced bananas, a touch of stevia, and topped it with almond milk. It was very tasty – reminiscent of a high fiber cereal, but better.

The downside? Despite its complete protein profile, I found that it lacked the holding power of an egg-based breakfast…and I was hungry again within a few hours. To increase the holding power, I would use cream for the extra fat, load it up with more chopped nuts, or add hemp or chia seeds. Sweet adzuki or other beans, like those in Asian desserts, would be a tasty and high protein addition (if they could be made low-sugar). If you prefer a lighter breakfast, however, this could be just the ticket.

Would I eat this again? Yes – but maybe not for breakfast, since I tend to eat my heartier meals earlier in the day. It would make a great quick dinner, though, and could easily become a savory side or base for a healthy salad!