Quinoa has grown in popularity thanks to the fact that it has twice the amount of protein of other grains and has all nine essential amino acids that your body needs. This complete protein deserves a place in our diet, yet with busy lifestyles, it often plays second fiddle to quick and easy fast food. An option is to include it in your meal prep, but can it hold well in the freezer?
Quinoa freezes well and defrosts quickly, making it the perfect ingredient to prepare in advance. Putting in the work beforehand will allow you to have this superfood ready at a moment’s notice, either for sprucing up salads or soups or served as a side dish.
More and more people must juggle the demands of specific dietary requirements and a busy family- and work life, but creating daily nutritious, homemade meals is not always possible. A little meal prep can thus go a long way to saving you time and helping you reach your nutritional goals.
Should You Cook Quinoa Before Freezing It?
Before freezing quinoa, you have to consider the reason for wanting to store it in the first place. If it is to extend the lifespan of raw quinoa, it might not be necessary but optional. If you are preparing meals in advance to eat later, you should cook quinoa before freezing it.
Quinoa can be consumed raw or cooked. However, the general recommendation is to cook quinoa. Uncooked quinoa is equally nutritious but can cause you some digestive discomfort. It is thus safer to always cook your quinoa before storing it for eating later.
Nevertheless, there is no reason why you can’t also freeze uncooked quinoa. Uncooked quinoa can last for a very long time: 2-3 years in a pantry or cupboard. Some reckon it might even be safe to consume after its expiration date. So, the reason for needing to freeze it would be slightly peculiar, but it is possible and would add a year or two to its already long shelf-life.
Related: Does Quinoa Go Bad?
How to Freeze Quinoa
A few essential things to remember when freezing quinoa to ensure it keeps fresh and fit for consumption involve proper preparation and storage.
Firstly, always allow cooked quinoa to reach room temperature before placing it in the freezer. This cooling down period roughly translates to letting the quinoa stand out for 4 hours after cooking. If you are in a rush, spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet. This method will allow the quinoa to cool down within 20-30 minutes.
The next step is to divide the quinoa into equal portions, depending on your needs, and put it in sealable plastic freezer bags or airtight containers. Make sure to remove air from the bag before sealing it. Another good tip is to flatten the quinoa portions in each bag before you freeze it – it will save you a lot of freezer space.
Alternatively, you can portion out quinoa into containers with other ingredients for ready-to-go freezer meals. Like chicken, for example!
At this stage, you can add labels to your freezer bags that indicate the date and the portion size (e.g., in cup measurements or ounces/grams). Labeling is optional, although it helps to have this information if you plan to store your quinoa for a few months. When done, place your quinoa portions in the freezer and let them freeze for at least 24 hours before defrosting them.
The final thing to remember is always to check your freezer is running at 0° F (-18° C). If unsure, appliance thermometers are usually cheap and the best way to measure these temperatures.
How Long Does Frozen Quinoa Last?
Following proper health and safety guidelines when storing your quinoa in the freezer should make them last between 6-12 months. After six months, regularly check your quinoa to ensure it is still looking and smelling fresh. The moment you notice discoloration, a change in texture, or mold, you should discard the quinoa.
How Do You Defrost Quinoa?
One thing that makes quinoa the ideal ingredient to freeze is that there are numerous ways you can defrost it.
The safest method is to thaw quinoa in the refrigerator. If you have a substantial amount of quinoa, spread it on a baking tray and leave it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Another way to thaw frozen quinoa is to submerge it in a bowl with cold water for 30-60 minutes before cooking.
For a quicker alternative, you can also defrost quinoa in the microwave or heat it straight from frozen in a saucepan on the stovetop. Add oil or water to the pan, so your quinoa does not stick to the bottom. You can also add water if the quinoa seems dry; this will help hydrate it.
You can also put the frozen quinoa portion directly into your pot if you want it as part of another dish, like a soup or stew. It will only extend your cooking time by the few minutes it takes to heat through.
Since quinoa is a plant-based product, you can even get away with letting frozen quinoa thaw on your kitchen counter. Just ensure you do not leave it out for more than 1-2 hours and place it in a cool room area away from direct sunlight.
Quinoa Meal Prep Ideas For The Freezer
Quinoa is a product that freezes well, but what happens if you want to add other ingredients to quinoa meals for freezing?
Many websites provide recipes and meal plans for dishes that can be batch cooked and frozen. An excellent place to start is making a list of ingredients you would like to include with quinoa and researching whether they keep well frozen since not all food can withstand time in the freezer. Here are some products that retain their integrity while frozen and that pair well with quinoa:
Some meal prep dishes benefit from freezing since freezing breaks down cell structure, allowing these foods to release more flavor. Using quinoa in dishes like stews, pasta sauces, chili con carne, and soups can taste better when frozen and reheated. Some freezer-friendly dishes that hero’s quinoa include:
Can You Refreeze Quinoa?
You can safely refreeze raw or cooked quinoa that has thawed in the refrigerator, but preferably not if you allow it to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Ideally, you should refrain from refreezing any food if you can help it, but limiting food waste is sometimes necessary.
One thing to remember is that thawing frozen quinoa and refreezing it might cause the quinoa to lose its quality, resulting in a different texture because of moisture loss during the thawing process.
If you insist on refreezing quinoa, return it to the freezer as soon as possible after you have initially taken it out. For example, if there are still ice crystals on your freezer bag or airtight container, it is safe to put them back in the freezer. If it has thawed completely, you might have to rethink whether it is worth refreezing the quinoa again.
Quinoa is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It is healthy but also delicious. That’s why it is great that you can freeze it for later! Whether you accidentally make too much quinoa, or your purposefully plan ahead, quinoa lasts great in the freezer for meal prep.
P.S. If you ever need a quinoa substitute, here are 10 of the best!