Desayuno de Quinoa by Marta in Urcos, Peru

We tried to cram too many activities into too few days in Peru, and so we didn’t always have time to buy breakfast or eat breakfast before some of our tours. Thankfully, our drivers always knew the best places to stop. Our favorite go-to to-go breakfast was a drinkable quinoa porridge – warm, filling and lightly sweet. Marta was a vendor in the main plaza in Urcos, a small town on the way between Cuzco and the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain. She told us that she had done well being a food vendor, and was now helping other women get started with their own food carts – in keeping with the Quechua norm of reciprocity and contributing to the community. Marta makes this in a pressure cooker, but when I’m back in California, I’ll be using my InstantPot. 


  • 250g quinoa*, rinsed well**
  • 1 green apple***, peeled and diced
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 8 cups of water


  • Mix all ingredients together. 
  • In a pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool until you can safely open the pot. (Alternative: bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer on the stovetop 20-30.    
  • Remove whole spices and serve warm.

* Note on quinoa: In the U.S., quinoa has become a trendy superfood recently, and deservedly so. It’s a seed (not a grain) with all nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make on their own, so it’s great for vegan or vegetarian diets. It’s also got B-vitamins, minerals, lots of fiber and is naturally gluten-free. The Incas cultivated the plant in the Andes mountains thousands of years ago, and present-day Quechuans continue to do so. 

** Note on preparing quinoa: Raw quinoa seeds are coated with saponin, a bitter-tasting substance that acts as plant defense against birds and insects. Rinse the seeds in tap water, swish it around until the water runs clear, and drain through a mesh strainer. 

*** Note on apples: Marta uses locally-grown green apples that are each the size of a large plum – about the same volume as the large Granny Smith apples I usually see in American grocery stores. 

**** Variations: Each Peruvian family has their own recipe. Common variations include chunks of pineapple and cloves. Some also add hot milk right before serving. 

Red quinoa
Quinoa plant, grown amongst the corn: an agricultural habit that originated when Spanish colonialists imposed their crop preferences and drove the Quechua people to hide their traditional foods and indigenous practices.

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