Quinoa Atamalada – Eating The Andean Way

We have talked a lot about quinoa in previous posts. Why?

Simply because it’s such an awesome ingredient. We can’t get enough of this super seed, that looks and tastes like a grain, but is actually a complete protein. I eat quinoa every single morning of my life, and the more I eat it, the more I seem to like it. Apparently too much of a good thing doesn’t apply to this ingredient. Today I had quinoa for breakfast like I always do, then I added the leftovers to my salad. Yesterday for lunch, guess what was on the menu? Quinoa again. Surprise, surprise!

I don’t intend to make you quinoa obsessed like I am (although it wouldn’t be such a bad idea), but starting to include this Andean ingredient in your diet at least once a month, would only bring good things to your life. And I’m not referring only to its healthy, nutritious properties. What I love the most about quinoa is that it’s so versatile. I can add it to pretty much any dish, and it always seems to enhance it. I even use it to replace flour in some cookie, muffin and cake preparations (recipes coming soon!), and it is a wonderful baby food (I wrote an article about this for Multiplicity magazine), and even dog food.

Although it’s very neutral, for some the taste of quinoa may be a bit difficult to get used to. It happened to me at first too. I don’t know how to decribe this flavor very well, but the best I can say is that it is a bit overpowering, and can get bored of it after just a couple mouthfuls. Once you get used to it, however, this superfood inevitably becomes your best friend in the kitchen. Mark my words.

In the meantime, for those of you who haven’t gotten used to eating plain quinoa yet, here’s one of the tastiest ways I know of making it. In Peru we call this dish quinoa atamalada, and it is is one of the most typical ways in which it is eaten in Peru. The name literally means “tamale-like quinoa”, although I think the consistency is more similar to a risotto. If you’re new to Andean flavors, you will find that the spicy aji amarillo and queso fresco cubes give it a completely original taste, which is very typical of regional stews. If you’re Peruvian, this recipe will take you back home.

Have a very healthy and delicious week!

*Tip 1: In Peru we eat quinoa with rice. But then again, in Peru we eat EVERYTHING with rice. You can mix it up a bit, and add anything you like to this dish. Yesterday I made some zuchini, tomato, red pepper and mushroom ratatouille, and it combined beautifully with this stew.

**Tip 2: When you first make it, this entree has the consistency of a thick soup or freshly-made risotto. You can let it cool if you want it to become a bit firmer. This way it will be easier to mold into a prettier presentation.
Quinoa Atamalada
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup queso freso in cubes (or any white, fresh cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan, and saute the onion, garlic, and aji amarillo paste for a 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Stir constantly.
  2. Add the quinoa, stir well, and cover with water (about 4 times the amount of quinoa).
  3. Bring to a boil, and simmer for half an hour. If it dries out, add more water. It should have the consistency of a thick soup. Add salt and pepper.
  4. When ready, add the milk, cheese cubes and parsley. Taste for seasoning and serve with rice.


  1. Hello to both Morenas. I found your blog/recipe on FoodBlogs.com. The word “quinoa” caught my eye. I’ve recently discovered quinoa. So easy to prepare and you can add anything to it, or it to anything! Like you, I can eat it for any meal of the day. Just had it cold tonight with diced apples, prunes, green onions, lemon juice and olive oil mixed it.

    Keep writing…

  2. I made this last night for dinner, making use of the copious quinoa and aji amarillo available in Lima. It was absolutely delicious. I will be making it again!

  3. What would be a good meat to serve with this? I have a very carnivorous husband lol. On the other hand, this looks amazing all on its own.

    • We love it on its own, with some white rice, but you can serve it with sirloin steak, baby alpaca, fish filets, and even shrimp. Thanks for visiting.

  4. I love quinoa! I found on my recent trip to Peru that since it has become so popular people in Peru are having a difficult time affording this staple. It is all being exported and the Andean people’s are being forced to eat corn..bummer

  5. I am making this recipe tonight. I LOVE quinoa. Question: Should the cheese melt when added?

    • Peru Delights says:

      Yes, red quinoa is great for this recipe but it takes longer to cook and it’s firmer than white quinoa. The cheese should be soft but not melted.

  6. I am making this recipe tonight. Can I make it with red quinoa and should the cheese melt when added?

  7. Riquisimo!!

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