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. It took us a while to hop on the bandwagon, but we love quinoa in our house now! I always cook mine in chicken broth too – it just makes it so much more flavorful.

  2. Love, love, love quinoa! Great post, Ali! :)

  3. This is awesome! Thanks for posting :)

  4. LOVE quinoa! Just made some yesterday. Perfect post on your cooking method!

  5. Great post! Quinoa rocks. :-) Pinned it.

  6. I LOVE quinoa and I LOVE cooking it in my rice cooker. It is the easiest thing ever!!

  7. What a fantastic tutorial! Pinning!!

  8. Great tutorial! May have to make some tonight!

  9. Great post! I love quinoa :)

  10. What an awesome tutorial, Ali!

  11. Thank you so much for this super easy tutorial, Ali! As embarrassing as it is, I’ve never made quinoa before. I do, however, have some sitting in my cabinet that should be made and eaten STAT. I just didn’t realize it was so easy!

  12. Favorite grain to cook with and my kids actually like it a lot. I always add kale and pine nuts. It is a great base under grilled fish. yum. Great tutorial.

  13. Is toasting an alternative to the simmering, or just a prep option before simmering?

    • Just a prep option before simmering (you’ll have to cook quinoa in liquid whether you toast it first or not).

  14. I love your tutorials. And I love quinoa. So this is a win-win for me ;)

  15. Love this tutorial, Ali! Very helpful!

  16. Such a great tutorial! I cooked some yesterday a couple hours before I saw this. Quick Quinoa Question: the package says to refrigerate after opening… do you keep your uncooked Quinoa refrigerated? Thanks for your help!

  17. Great job, girl. Rice cooker all the way for me. 1:1.5 is my ratio! We eat a TON of quinoa!

  18. You make cooking quinoa sound so exciting! lol! I love the multicolored quinoa from Trader Joe’s. Thanks for this tutorial. I am always forgetting the ratio and then using the “Throw some in and hope for the best” rule!

  19. Thanks for the details! I use my rice cooker and beef broth – comes out perfect every time!

  20. Quinoa- perfection!

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  22. I have found a super easy way for perfect quinoa in the microwave. Same ratio of water/broth to dry, rinsed quinoa, Microwave in bowl with extra room until boiling, reset timer and boil for five minutes. Both the to-boil time and the boiling time are uncovered and need to be watched carefully to catch any boil-over. Cover and let sit in the microwave for 15 minutes. Presto: perfect microwave quinoa.

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  28. Rinse quinoa this way: In a large, clean container with a decent lid, shake the grain in lots of water then strain. It’s more effective than a kitchen sprayer as it washes every bit on all sides. Do you spray your kids or bathe them?

  29. Wow, I am so impressed with your instruction and all the DETAILED details about how to use different ways to get different results. It is a marvelous blog to learn cooking. Your have great cooking tips.
    Thanks.

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  32. Wow. So you cook it just like rice? I can even cook it in my rice maker? And that bag of quinoa has been sitting on my counter for two weeks because I was scared of it!

  33. Hi I cooked it as per instructions. 1 Cup Quinoa and 2 cups water for 15 mins and let it stand for 5 mins. Is the Quinoa ment to look soggy or dry similar to couscous?

    • It will look slightly soggier than couscous. But once you fluff it with a fork, it will look a little more dry.

  34. Just throwing this out there:

    I read an article that suggested that the 2:1 ratio of water:quinoa we’ve all been using is wrong and we should be using a 1:1 ratio. I tried it and they’re right! And FWIW, I always toast my quinoa.

    http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2014/03/18/how-to-cook-quinoa/

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  40. Thank you,  will use the recipe for cooking quinoa but will ignore the mention of meat because animals are not food.

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  43. I love quinoa, and use a lot of these tips already but i had never tried toasting it first so will be trying this next time i use it!

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  47. I haven’t cooked quinoa in a long time but recently purchased some at Costco and decided to make it tonight as one of our sides. I didn’t rinse it beforehand because the package says it was pre-washed, so there’s no need to rinse or soak it. I cooked it in chicken stock and when we went to eat it, it was awful!! It almost tasted like it was old and left a horrible aftertaste in our mouths. The date on the package is 12/2015, so I know it isn’t old. Could this be because I didn’t rinse it beforehand? That’s the only thing I can think of……. :-(

    • Hey Suzette, oh no, I’m so sorry! I’ve gotta say that’s kind of puzzling though. I’ve cooked quinoa before without rinsing it and never found that it tasted funny. Could it have been the chicken stock you used?

  48. That’s another possibility I was considering. I’m going to try making a small portion again today using only water and see what happens. If it still comes out yucky, I’ll have to assume it’s the quinoa and I’ll be returning it. I’ll keep you posted…….

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