Most of us are reluctant to pack sticky sambar rice or dal in a lunch box. We prefer something that is more elegant to eat. Coconut rice falls under that category. The beauty of coconut rice is that it has low moisture content. So, it holds up really well with travel and fresh for a long time. It makes an ideal lunch box dish.
This section is for beginner cooks (everyone starts off this way). Skip this section if you are a pro already. Coconut rice is basically tadka (standard Indian tempering) + grated coconut + rice. That’s it. Nothing fancy. But there are a few tricks you can do to get it right –
1) Tadka tips – While tempering use chana dal + urad dal for more crunch. Other tempering ingredients include ginger, green chilies, red chilies, nuts, curry leaves etc. Don’t worry about getting everything right. As long as you have some crunch and some chili source, you are fine.
2) Use coconut oil to tadka. It ties well with the whole coconut theme. It also smells wonderful.
3) You HAVE to get the rice grains (or any carb) separate – This makes or breaks the dish . If it is sticky, you will end up with a goopy mess. 2 ways to do this -1) use a day old rice (or any carb), with starch retrogradation – the grains automatically separates. 2) with fresh rice, use extra fat (oil) to spread between the grains and separate it.
1) Quinoa instead of rice
Rice is delicious, but fares poorly when it comes to protein, fiber and its Glycemic index values. See my report on grains here. Qunioa has 15% protein per serving, while rice has less than half the protein compared to quinoa.
2) Walnuts instead of cashews
I am yet to put out a detailed report on nuts (I know, I know …your fervor excitement for my detailed nutrition report is palpable :)). But rest assured, cashews do not score well in terms of health benefits. Use walnuts for omega-3 instead. It may be a small amount , but vegetarians should take any opportunity to consume omega-3 in food form when possible.
3) Anything BUT potato curry as a side dish
What is the point of layering carbs with more carbs, people? Even if you use quinoa to make your coconut rice, each serving still has 71% carbs per serving (rice has about 90% carbs). Coconut adds fat to the dish. The resultant dish has carbs, fats and some protein, but very little fiber. So, make sure you pair your coconut rice with a low carb, high fiber vegetable like brocolli, cabbage, etc.
Total cook time was 9 minutes from start to finish in the morning. But there is prep work involved, which is best done the night before.
1) I cooked quinoa the night before, so that the grains are not sticky and it saves me time in the morning.
2) I got all tadka ingredients in a plate ready the night before. Most of the tadka ingredients are pantry staples. However, I also got the ginger and chillies cleaned and chopped to shave a few minutes in the morning.
3) I used frozen coconut in my recipe. Frozen coconut is a fantastic product to have at hand at all times in your freezer.
Coconut Quinoa Recipe
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
for cooking quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1-1.5 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ tablespoon urad dal
½ tablespoon chana dal
Handful of chopped walnut pieces
1 or 2 dry red chilies (based on spice level your kids can handle)
1 or 2 green chilies destemmed (based on spice level your kids can handle)
1 pinch asafoetida
1 inch finely chopped ginger
1.5 cup frozen coconut
Curry leaves, chopped coriander (depending on availability, morning frustration levels etc)
1 spoon sugar (a tip from VahreVah chef, optional)
salt as required
The night before prep work:
1. Cook 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water in a saucepan – open flame medium for about 15 minutes. Close the lid and let it sit in the steam for about 5 more minutes. Quinoa is ready. Stovetop cooking leads to fluffier and separate grains compared to pressure cooking.
2. Prep all tadka ingredients in a plate. Take about 1.5 cups worth of frozen coconut and place it in the fridge or outside depending on the night time temperatures of where you live.
1. Heat about 1 tbsp coconut oil in a pan.
2. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds and let it splutter
3. Add the chana dal first and saute for about a minute.
4. Add urad dal next
5. Add asafoetida
6. Add 1 or 2 dry red chilies
7. Add chopped walnuts, keep stirring..you know the drill
8. Add chopped green chilies and ginger pieces
9. Once all the flavoring is cooked and ready, add grated coconut and stir for a couple of minutes
10. Add a spoon of sugar (a tip from VahreVah chef, optional)
11. Now add the cooked quinoa and stir well.
Ta-da!! Coconut quinoa ready in 9 minutes
Coconut quinoa would be an easy lunch box recipe on a busy weekday. You can pair it with a curry made with frozen broccoli (7 minutes to steam) and another 5 minutes to saute. Overall in 15-20 minutes, you can have a wholesome lunch ready for your family.
I would love to hear from you. Tell me what you think of this recipe. Do you have any other suggestions to “healthify” this recipe? I welcome all comments, ideas, tips and feedback. Thanks!!
If you want to follow step by step procedure of making coconut rice, I will suggest www.vegrecipesofindia.com which is an extensive resource for all Indian recipes. I also recommend Vahrevah chef, who teaches recipes with information and humor in his videos.