Aug 26, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

Material Handling: Quinoa – Dessert Applications Beyond Gluten-Free

The column explores the ancient South American grain, Quinoa, and its applications in the modern dessert world.

Photo by Julie MacMillan.

We started working with quinoa to address special diets requesting no gluten, but found this seed (non-grain, non-grass) to be a great source of flavor. Its mild, slightly nutty taste has been favorable to us for custards, quick breads, cake, muffins and cookies. 

Quinoa is a species of goosefoot that originated in the Andean region of South America, where it has been an important food for 6,000 years. The Incas considered Quinoa sacred, referring to it as the “mother of all grains”. 

It’s possible to mill the raw seeds into flour using a spice grinder or high-powered blender, but we recommend quinoa flour from Zocalo Gourmet for restaurant and bakery applications. It’s best to toast the flour before using, as this will enhance the nut flavors and diminish some bitter notes that can result from residual saponins from the external seed. If using the raw seeds, additional washing of the seed will give the same positive result. For more info on this organic, non-GMO and naturally gluten-free flour, visit:

Alter Eco’s Dark Quinoa chocolate bar is a combination of native Ecuadorian cacao from the Fortaleza coast and crispy toasted quinoa seeds.

There is a notable trend of chocolate bars with quinoa inclusions this year. Our favorite is the 100% Organic Dark Quinoa bar from Alter Eco. It’s 60% Ecuadorian chocolate with ample amounts of puffed royal pearl quinoa to provide a pleasant, satisfying crunch. Alter Eco also retails non-GMO, organic, fair trade black, red, pearl and rainbow quinoa. See more of their dynamic, sustainable ingredients and chocolates at

Our quinoa dessert for the summer season pairs Mountain Rose Peaches with banana quinoa cake and puffed quinoa. The sweetness of the banana complements the nuttiness of the quinoa flour and puffed seeds. The addition of aged pu-erh tea in the peach semifreddo gives complexity to the earthy quinoa notes in the cake.

Pastry Chef Jimmy MacMillan’s dessert featuring quinoa banana cake, puffed quinoa and summer peaches. Click image above or link below for recipe.
Kei Hasegawa combines the flavors of quinoa with coconut and lavender to create a dessert with a luxurious cream, pudding and cracker. Click image above or link below for recipe.

One of the exciting young pastry chefs from California is Kei Hasagawa. Beginning his career as a savory cook in Japan and moving to the States in 2005, Hasegawa spent time at Nobu with Gabriele Riva. Perhaps two reasons he is unafraid to work quinoa into his composed desserts. “I’ve loved eating quinoa for couple of years, but I’ve never eaten a quinoa dessert at a restaurant,” says Chef Kei. “I really want to make dessert using healthy ingredients on my menu. I believe that quinoa has so much potential for dessert, not just for gluten-free diets.” Chef Hasegawa is currently the Executive Pastry Chef at Matsuhisa in Los Angeles. 

As we close, we’d like to give a generous thank you to all the pastry chefs who have included work in Material Handling for the past year! Check us out next issue as we look at modern variations using the classic material pâte à choux. 


Find 'Material Handling: Quinoa' recipes in the Recipe section or click the links below.


Jimmy & Julie MacMillan of JMPurePastry
Jimmy & Julie MacMillan of JMPurePastry. Photo by Anthony Tahlier.

Any trends or inspirations you’d like to see in the Material Handling spotlight? Email Jimmy and Julie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

JMPurePastry is a Chicago-based pastry solutions group specializing in high quality, well designed products for the restaurant, baking and hospitality industry. The duo is also responsible for the 2-time Emmy-Award-winning Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition video series. For more information, visit

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