How To Cook Quinoa

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The best method I’ve found for how to cook quinoa!  Plus tips for how to toast and season quinoa, how to freeze quinoa, and a collection of my favorite easy quinoa recipes.

How To Cook Quinoa

For too many years, I cooked my quinoa the way that everyone else on the internet seemed to recommend it — with a 1:2 quinoa to water ratio, simmered with the lid on, then drained and briefly steamed.  And for too many years, I found myself dealing with unpredictable and far-too-often mushy batches of quinoa — which simply will not do!  I tried experimenting with the amount of water, I tried cooking my quinoa both covered and uncovered, and I tried a dozen other ideas that the internet recommended.  But still, I couldn’t quite seem to figure out the elusive formula for consistently perfect light and fluffy quinoa.

Enter Bon Appetit. ♡

About a year ago, I happened upon an article from their Basically team for how to cook quinoa and popular grains “perfectly, every time.”  I was officially intrigued, and dove in ready to memorize yet a new round of ratios and cooking instructions.  But as it turns out, their solution was incredibly simple — just cook quinoa like pasta!

It’s as easy as it sounds and it actually works.  Simply bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the quinoa and cook until it is perfectly tender, drain and let the quinoa steam for a few minutes, then enjoy!  No more crossing your fingers that the quinoa will be perfectly cooked, no more overly-dry or overly-mushy quinoa, no more having to memorize different ratios for differently-sized batches.  All you’ll need is a fine-mesh strainer to drain the quinoa once it has been cooked, and you’re ready to go.  Brilliant.

If you are interested in boosting the flavor of your quinoa, I have also included a bunch of different options below for various aromatics you can add to the water.  (Or if you have an extra 3 minutes, I highly recommend toasting the dry quinoa before it is cooked.)  Plus, I’ve also included lots of tips for how to store or freeze quinoa, as well as lots of my favorite easy quinoa recipes to put this superfood to delicious use.

Alright friends, let’s make some perfectly-cooked quinoa!

Different Colors Of Quinoa -- White (Pearl), Red, Black and Tri-Color Quinoa

What Is Quinoa?

First, though, a quick word about why this superfood is so amazing. ♡

As many of you probably already know, quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it includes all 9 of the essential amino acids.  It is also incredibly rich in fiber (it actually contains twice the fiber of most other grains), vitamins B and E, and other minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  It is naturally gluten-free and has a low glycemic index.  And — bonus — it’s easy to whip up in just 20ish minutes!

Best of all, though, quinoa is one of my favorite pantry staples because it’s so versatile and delicious.  Its mild, nutty, earthy flavor can be seasoned to pair with just about any kind of cuisine.  And it tastes fabulous in everything from quinoa salads, to quinoa fried rice, quinoa burrito bowls, quinoa burgers and so much more.

There are actually more than 100 different types of quinoa available.  But most grocery stores sell either white (pearl) quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, or a tri-color quinoa blend.  You can typically find quinoa located in the grains or health food section of your grocery store.  Or you can order it easily on Amazon too.

So many reasons to cook with quinoa!

How To Make Quinoa

Basic Quinoa Ingredients:

Alright, so let’s talk about the basic ingredients that you will need to make a batch of quinoa.  Those include:

  • Quinoa: Uncooked quinoa in the color of your preference (white, red, black or tri-color), rinsed and drained.
  • Water: Or you can use vegetable or chicken broth, for extra flavor.
  • Sea salt: To bring out the flavor of the quinoa.
  • (Optional) Aromatics: Such as bay leaf, garlic, fresh herbs or other seasonings.

Quinoa Recipes

How To Make Quinoa:

Here is my favorite basic method for how to cook quinoa!  Simply…

  1. Simmer the quinoa.  Add the quinoa, salt (plus any optional aromatics) to a large pot of boiling water and stir to combine. Simmer for about 12-15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and translucent and those cute little white curlicues have poked out from the seeds.
  2. Drain the quinoa.  Drain the quinoa completely through a fine-mesh strainer.
  3. Steam the quinoa.  Transfer the quinoa back to the saucepan, and remove the saucepan from the heat.  Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the quinoa rest for 5-10 minutes so that it can steam.
  4. Fluff and season the quinoa.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Taste, and season with extra salt if needed.
  5. Serve warm.  Serve and enjoy!

See the full recipe below for detailed ingredient amounts and recipe instructions.

How To Cook Quinoa Perfectly

Quinoa Flavor Boosters:

If you would like to kick up the flavor of your quinoa, feel free to use one or more of these flavor boosters too:

  • Toast the quinoa: This easy step only takes 3 minutes, but it makes a major difference in bringing out the nutty, toasty, natural flavors of quinoa.  Simply heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the dry uncooked quinoa and let it toast for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa is fragrant.  Remove from heat and cook as directed.
  • Add aromatics to the water: I almost always add a bay leaf to my quinoa for extra flavor, plus maybe a clove or two of fresh garlic.  But you can also add in any other fresh herbs that go with your quinoa recipe, chicken or veggie bouillon, or any of your favorite spices or seasonings.
  • Season the quinoa after it has cooked: I also like to add a few twists of freshly-cracked black pepper to my quinoa after it has cooked.  But feel free to also add in any fresh or dried herbs that you love.

Instant Pot Quinoa Recipe

Quinoa FAQ:

How to pronounce quinoa?  The original quinoa pronunciation in Spanish is “keen-oh-ah,” but most English speakers pronounce it with just two syllables — “keen-wah.”

Is quinoa gluten-free? Yes, quinoa is gluten-free.

Is quinoa keto? Unfortunately, no, quinoa is not keto.  It has too high of a carb count for the keto diet.

Is quinoa a grain? Technically, no, quinoa is a seed.  Although many consider it a “pseudo-grain,” because quinoa is typically cooked and consumed in the same manner of most other grains.

Why do you have to rinse quinoa?  Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin, that adds a bitter taste to the quinoa.  So it is important to give your dry uncooked quinoa a good rinse with water in a fine-mesh strainer before it is cooked.  (That said, if your package notes that the quinoa is pre-rinsed, you can skip this step.)

How do you know when quinoa is cooked?  Quinoa is finished cooking once the texture of the quinoa is chewy and tender (no longer crunchy) and the quinoa germs (those cute little white curlicue tails) have separated from the quinoa seeds.

How do you freeze quinoa? It’s best to spread the quinoa out in a shallow layer on a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 2 hours until the quinoa is frozen.  Then you can remove and transfer the quinoa to a food storage container or ziplock, so that the quinoa does not freeze together as one large brick.

Can you make quinoa in the Instant PotI have to admit that I prefer the stovetop method mentioned above, but you can definitely cook quinoa in the Instant Pot too!  To make Instant Pot quinoa, simply add a 1:1 quinoa to water ratio to your Instant Pot (plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt per cup of quinoa).  Cover and cook on high pressure for 2 minutes, followed by a 10 minute natural release, followed by a quick release.  Fluff and serve!

Quinoa nutrition facts?  Here are a few quick stats!  One cup of cooked quinoa includes: 222 calories, 8g protein, 39g carbs, 4g fat, and 5g fiber.

Quinoa Fried Rice

Favorite Quinoa Recipes:

Here are some of my favorite easy quinoa recipes!

Print
How To Cook Quinoa

How To Cook Quinoa

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x

Description

My favorite method for how to cook quinoa!  See notes above for various seasoning options, plus my favorite quinoa recipes.


Scale

Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Bring water to boil.  Heat the water over high heat in a saucepan until it is boiling.
  2. Simmer the quinoa.  Add the quinoa, salt (plus any optional aromatics, see below) and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium to maintain a vigorous simmer.  Cook the quinoa for 12-15 minutes, or until it is chewy and tender to the taste and looks translucent.  (The white curlicue germs should also be poking out from the seeds.)
  3. Drain the quinoa.  Drain the quinoa completely through a fine-mesh strainer.
  4. Steam the quinoa.  Tranfer the quinoa back to the saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and rest for 5-10 minutes so that the quinoa can steam.
  5. Fluff and season the quinoa.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Taste, and season with extra salt if needed.
  6. Serve warm.  Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Optional aromatics: To add more flavor to the quinoa, feel free to add a bay leaf, 1-2 whole cloves of fresh garlic, chicken or veggie bouillon, and/or any of your favorite herbs or spices to the water.  (Then be sure to discard the aromatics before serving the quinoa.)  Or you can also simply use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water.

Larger batch instructions: To double or triple this batch size, just double or triple the ingredient amounts and cook as directed in the instructions.  The quinoa to water ratio will not change with a larger batch.

Storage instructions: To store the quinoa, spread it out on a flat surface (like a large plate or a baking sheet) and cool to room temperature.  Then transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Source: Thanks to Bon Appetit and The Kitchn for their great tips with this method!

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108 comments on “How To Cook Quinoa”

  1. This is awesome! I’m always afraid of opening that lid to some soggy quinoa, but this is perfect. Sooo easy too :)

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  5. I LOVE quinoa!  yes! thanks <3

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  13. I cook quinoa in the microwave. I use a glass dish, and put the quinoa and water in the microwave for about 6 minutes on high power without a lid. This basically brings it to a boil. Then I put the lid on, and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes on half power (my microwave has a setting for power level – High is 10, so I cook it on power level 5).

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  18. Hi, Ali!  I’m new to your site but have really enjoyed and shared several of the recipes you have posted.  Your photography is lovely!  Sorry to ask a rather dumb question as my first contact with you, but I really liked the idea of toasting quinoa and was wondering if it needs to be thoroughly dried after rinsing and before toasting.  Water and hot oil don’t play well together.   : )
    Thanks for listening!

    • Hi Cheryl! Thanks for commenting! Ali is actually in New Zealand, so I’m responding to comments on her behalf. This is not a dumb question at all! We think toasting quinoa is great, but we don’t think you need to worry about making sure it’s thoroughly dry first. We’ve had good results with rinsing it, shaking out all of the excess water, and then adding it to the pan with a little butter/oil. We hope this helps! :)

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  20. Thank you for this nice how to article… I use to cook my quinoa with broth till i got my hands on Miriams Earthen Cookware pot for cooking grains, since then my quinoa has turned soft, fluffy and delicious just with water.  The heat cooking in these pots is different and does not make the food harder or chewy so i didn’t have to use broth (which in most cases is preserved with a ton of salt).  You do not need to even fluff it with a fork afterwards!

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  22. Actually, quinoa is not a grain, but rather, a seed. Even better for you.

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  25. Do you have to refrigerate the quinoa after cooking it

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  29. Hey Ali,

    What a great site you have here. I love your recipes. For me, quinoa was only ever “okay”. That was until I learned a new way to cook it. Traditionally, I would cook it 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa. Like I said “okay” and I felt like the leftovers were less than “okay”. Now I cook 3/4 cup of quinoa with 7/8 cup of water (you can double or triple). I toast it first — just dry with no oil — until it starts to crackle. I typically use quinoa that has already been rinsed, but if I have to rinse it, it just takes a bit longer to toast. Then, add the liquid, bring to a boil cover and cook for 18 minutes. Yum, yum, yum.

    If I am making it for breakfast, I add spices. If I am making a savory version, I might cook it in water or stock and then add good frozen mixed veggies for the last 5 minutes of cook time. Try it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It gives the quinoa a much better texture — not so gelatinous — particularly when it is left over. Keep those recipes coming!

    • Hi Sandy! Thank you for your sweet comment, we’re so happy you enjoy the blog! And we love the idea of dry toasting the quinoa — that’s a great idea! :)

  30. Can you tell me what vegetable broth (store bought) you prefer? I have tried one and hated it.

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  32. It’s so good and healthy

    Rating: 5
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  38. Hmmm….my quinoa still turned out soggy. Should I have left at low heat for longer or removed with lid off and let cool? Figured keeping lid on would keep moisture in too long?

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  41. THANK YOU!! I’ve always struggled to make quinoa without getting some mush. This sounds like a breeze. I just happened to buy some quinoa to stock up today, so this is perfect.

  42. If you want to toast the quinoa for more flavor, do you still rinse the quinoa first before toasting or toast first and then rinse? I understand quinoa will have a bitter taste if it is not rinsed.

  43. Sorry Ali, I just read through some of the comments below and see that you answered my question about rinsing the quinoa before toasting. Thank you.

  44. Sounds easy and fool proof, important characteristics for me! Have you any data on vitamin loss from leaching out in the excess water??

  45. We’ve been cooking lots of quinoa while we’ve been home! Makes me glad that I figured out how to cook dried grains and beans last year!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  46. I have found that it is very important to ALWAYS rinse quinoa first. There is a natural saponin that can be off-putting and easily rinsed away. Then toast or proceed as above.

  47. This recipe is fantastic. At last, no more soggy quinoa. I loved the idea of adding a bay leave and herbs to enhance the flavor. I just finished making this recipe, and am in the process of freezing it for the long ‘isolation’ weeks ahead due to COVID-19. My only reason for giving four stars, is that I have not tried it after it’s been frozen. Thanks so much!

  48. Hi Ali! Thanks for the quinoa cooking tips. I recently discovered that you can also get quinoa in flake form (kind of like rolled oats). It would be fun to see some quinoa flake recipes here on the blog if you’re able to get them where you are. Blessings to you!