Keen on Quinoa? Not? Try This Recipe First

By on February 14, 2013

By Jennifer Cote –

Valentine’s Day might be coming up, but just the day before that, Lent begins. So… some of us might be considering what to give up, for the 40 days of Lent. Candidates should not be chosen lightly. One year, we gave up flour. That was the year of our 3rd grandson’s first birthday cake. It seemed so wrong to not have any of that cake.

We gave up chocolate one year. Went with family to an ice cream parlor. Carefully selected non-chocolate sundaes. So how was it that our son wanted to will us the other half of his Chocolate Peanut-Butter Split? That was just cruel!

natural sunscreen with zinc oxide

I haven’t figured out what it will be this year. I may go “gluten-free” for health reasons on occasion, but I don’t think I’ll give up flour this year. As my daughter-in-law wisely noted, the act of Lent should not be interchangeable with taking up a diet plan we’d been meaning to follow.

Even without the religious reasons behind this occasion, the practice of giving something up for a time has merit. It’s easy to take things for granted. It’s easy to believe we aren’t controlled by emotional and physical needs and cravings. But when put to the test, we may find ourselves spiritually flabby, unable to master self-discipline without feeling seriously deprived.

But a little discipline’s good for the soul! It can develop a grateful heart.

Whatever your inclination, to give something up or not, I’ll share a favorite gluten-free recipe. If you’ve given up flour, you can still have these cupcakes, made with quinoa (a healthy grain substitute). For those with celiac disease, who have to adopt a non-gluten lifestyle, it might be easier to live with if these cupcakes were on the menu regularly!

Meanwhile, I’ve seriously considered giving up quinoa for Lent this year. But that’s hardly fair, right? I haven’t yet grown to love it, unless (as in this recipe) it contains a lot of other tasty ingredients.

Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

One doesn’t need to have a gluten-intolerance to enjoy these cupcakes, adapted from the “Quinoa 365” cookbook. And this chocolate cake alternative actually tastes better than many standard wheat-based recipes.

Quick and easy, the technique for this uses a blender or food processor; ingredients are added a step at a time—no extra creaming of ingredients, or pre-mixing dry ingredients. The cocoa powder doesn’t even need sifting. For that reason (and because it tastes so good), it’s my favorite chocolate cake recipe!

A simple faux-buttercream frosting, flavored with almond extract, is optional. Some folks prefer their cupcakes sans frosting. Makes 36 mini-cupcakes, or 12 standard-size, or two 8” layer cakes.


  • 2/3 c. black quinoa (or substitute red, beige, or mixed)*
  • 1/3 c. yogurt (or substitute milk)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3/4 c. lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1TBS. cream
  • Scant 2 c. confectioner’s sugar


1. Quinoa contains a bitter element which can be rinsed off. It should always be rinsed, although some recipes don’t mention that. One can also presoak the quinoa overnight. The night before, in quart-sized container, soak: > 2/3 c. quinoa (black or other) > cold water to cover

2. Prepare pans for baking. For cupcakes, use cupcake liners; if those aren’t available, butter the cupcake/tart pans. For cake, butter two round layer pans, adding wax paper rounds to bottom of pans; butter again.

3. After soaking overnight, drain quinoa and cook in saucepan. (*See note below recipe if not pre-soaking quinoa.) Start on high heat, but turn to simmer, cooking for 12-15 minutes: > 2/3 c. quinoa, soaked and drained > 2/3 c. boiling water

4. Let quinoa cool some, then process it until somewhat pureed, in food processor or blender. Add and process again with the yogurt: > The cooked, processed quinoa > 1/3 c. yogurt (or substitute milk)

5. To the processed quinoa/yogurt mixture, add and process until smooth: > 1/2 c. butter, room temperature > 1/4 c. olive oil > 3/4 c. lightly-packed brown sugar > 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

6. Add the eggs to the processor/blender, pulsing just until mixed: > 4 eggs

7. Last, add the dry ingredients to the mixture, again pulsing just until smooth: > 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder > 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder > 1/2 tsp. baking soda > 1/4 tsp. salt

8. Divide the batter into one prepared standard-size cupcake tin (making 12), or into three tart-sized (making 36 mini cupcakes). (Or use 2 8” round pans.) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven. Standard-size cupcakes should take 22 minutes; bake minis for about 17 minutes or so (until a tester comes out clean.) (Alternatively, two 8” round layers should bake for 40 minutes or so.)

9. Let cool before unmolding.


1. For frosting, whip together in mixer until light and fluffy: > 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature > 1/2 tsp. almond extract > 1 TBS. cream > Scant 2 c. confectioner’s sugar

2. Frosting can be put into a quart-sized zip-lock back until ready to frost. To decorate, snip the tip off one of the frosting bag’s corners, squeezing frosting in dollops onto each cupcake. Serve, or freeze for up to several weeks.

* Alternatively, quinoa can be rinsed instead of pre-soaking. In that case, cook in double the water—1 1/3 c. boiling water to 2/3 c. quinoa
** 2/3 c. uncooked equals 2 c. cooked quinoa, if using pre-cooked quinoa


Jen offers simple strategies for preparing healthy, homemade meals for family and friends. She runs The New Deli café with husband Tom, working on her 2nd cookbook in her spare time. More can be found at; email Jennifer at [email protected].

About Jennifer Cote

Jennifer's love of cooking with natural ingredients is inspired by the organic garden she's cultivated for over 25 years. A cutting garden provides flowers for The New Deli Cafe, an herb garden lends herbs for culinary creations, and twenty-some fruit and nut trees are scattered throughout her fairly urban back yard. New Deli compost keeps the garden flourishing, as Jen and her family carry on the family business, established in 1985. A blessed grandmother, mother, and wife, Jen gets much joy from sharing recipes (and perhaps an occasional basket of figs or platter of home-baked goodies).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Keen on Quinoa? Not? Try This Recipe First