Popped Quinoa Bon Bons


Every year as the holidays approached, the cookie cutters and family recipe cards would start to emerge from the dusty corners of the kitchen. As kids our favorites were the cut-out sugar cookies because of all of the obvious reasons: the pure creativity and fun of rolling, cutting and baking the snowmen, santas, and pumpkins, the scraps of dough that quickly made their way into our mouths while no one was looking, and the sticky, colorful icing and sprinkles that clung to our fingers and just had to be licked off. But in all honesty, after the fun of production was over they would often sit untouched as the molasses cookies and peanut butter bon bons got devoured. The bon bons were, and still are a delicious favorite of my mom. Their popabilty makes them far too easy to snack on and it never takes long for the platter to be nothing but crumbs.

I know that the holidays are still a ways away, but both the change in weather and returning from traveling gets me craving comfort foods. So, as soon as I discovered quinoa could be popped, my mind jetted right to bon bons. This is a healthy twist on my mom’s famous peanut butter bon bons. The quinoa adds a little protein to these cookies compared to the original rice crispy recipe, and is also a whole grain that has not been processed. I’ve cut back the sugar a fair amount, but the balance with the rich dark chocolate makes these morsels just as delicious as the original without the refined sugar and butter.

I have exciting news folks, quinoa is popable! Although it doesn’t pop quite like popcorn, these little grains will gently poof up resulting in a crisp grain that can be baked with or simply popped in your mouth as a snack. I have to admit, trying this for the first time made me feel like a kid again. My excitement was a bit ridiculous, but it was so fun to see these little grains jumping in the pan and transforming instantly from something hard and inedible to a little crisp snack. I recently saw some popped quinoa at work which gave me the the idea to try this at home. Some retailers are now selling popped quinoa that is similar in texture to rice krispies. Popping your own quinoa at home will result in a grain with a texture between raw quinoa and rice krispies. If you are able to find the popped quinoa cereal you can substitute it in this recipe, and it will have a lighter texture than if popping the grain on your own. However, you will miss out on the fun and excitement of popping the grains yourself!

Popped Quinoa Bon Bons for my Mom
  • 1 c quinoa, dry and uncooked
  • ⅓ c almond butter
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 2 T brown rice syrup
  • 1 T agave
  • 3 oz bar of dark chocolate
  • Sea Salt

Follow the directions below to pop quinoa and place it in a medium bowl with chia and flax seeds.

In a small pot warm almond butter just until it is soft and melted.  Remove from heat and add in brown rice syrup and agave. Pour this mixture over the quinoa and use your hands to mix it all together. If should be slightly crumbly, but when you pack it into balls it should hold together. If needed add more almond butter one teaspoon at a time until it holds together.

Before rolling the bon bons, chop up ½ of the chocolate and add it to the mix.

To melt the remaining chocolate: Fill a small pot with about ½” of water and bring to a boil. Place chocolate in a small metal bowl over the boiling water and mix the chocolate until just melted. Remove from heat.

To assemble, roll the quinoa bon bons into teaspoon sized balls. This works best with slightly wet hands. Once all of the balls are formed, drop them in the chocolate and gently roll around until coated. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and place in the fridge until cool.

Popping quinoa:

- I recommend buying pre washed quinoa for this. If not, you will need to rinse your quinoa thoroughly and then layout to dry completely on a large baking sheet.

- Heat a deep, heavy pan until it gets really hot. You may need to lower the heat depending on the quality and type of pan you are using, so a little extra quinoa for testing may be needed. No oil is needed here, just a hot pan.

- To test, drop a pinch of quinoa into the pan. If they pop within a few seconds the pan is hot enough. Pour your testers into a bowl and get poppin’.

- Start by adding a few tablespoons at a time. You want to have a single layer of quinoa on the bottom of the pan. As soon as the quinoa begins to pop, lift the pan off the heat and shake and swirl until the grains have all popped. As soon as the popping stops, pour quinoa into a bowl. The grains only pop a few inches in the air so as long as your pan is deep enough you do not need a lid. If the grains are burning, reduce heat and start again.

- Repeat this process until all of the quinoa is popped. The end result will look just slightly bigger and pouffier than the original grain of quinoa, but they will be lighter and easy to chew and munch on.

Recipe makes 2 dozen 1t size bon bons. Refrigerate for up to one week in an airtight container.