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.
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.
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!
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!
Basic Quinoa Ingredients:
Alright, so let’s talk about the basic ingredients that you will need to make a batch of quinoa. Those include:
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.
How To Make Quinoa:
Here is my favorite basic method for how to cook quinoa! Simply…
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.
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.
Fluff and season the quinoa. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Taste, and season with extra salt if needed.
Serve warm. Serve and enjoy!
See the full recipe below for detailed ingredient amounts and recipe instructions.
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.
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 Pot? I 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.
Bring water to boil. Heat the water over high heat in a saucepan until it is boiling.
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.)
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.
Fluff and season the quinoa. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Taste, and season with extra salt if needed.
Serve warm. Serve and enjoy!
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.
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.
Love, love, love quinoa! Great post, Ali! :)
This is awesome! Thanks for posting :)
LOVE quinoa! Just made some yesterday. Perfect post on your cooking method!
Great post! Quinoa rocks. :-) Pinned it.
I LOVE quinoa and I LOVE cooking it in my rice cooker. It is the easiest thing ever!!
What a fantastic tutorial! Pinning!!
Great tutorial! May have to make some tonight!
Great post! I love quinoa :)
What an awesome tutorial, Ali!
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!
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.
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).
What a great tutorial!!
I love your tutorials. And I love quinoa. So this is a win-win for me ;)
Love this tutorial, Ali! Very helpful!
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!
Great job, girl. Rice cooker all the way for me. 1:1.5 is my ratio! We eat a TON of quinoa!
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!
Thanks for the details! I use my rice cooker and beef broth – comes out perfect every time!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Thank you, will use the recipe for cooking quinoa but will ignore the mention of meat because animals are not food.
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!
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?
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…….
This is awesome! I’m always afraid of opening that lid to some soggy quinoa, but this is perfect. Sooo easy too :)
I LOVE quinoa! yes! thanks <3
Us too! : D
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).
Mona, that’s so cool, thank you for sharing with us how you do that!
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! :)
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!
That’s great to know, thanks for sharing with us!
Actually, quinoa is not a grain, but rather, a seed. Even better for you.
Do you have to refrigerate the quinoa after cooking it
Yes, we do. Hope you enjoy!
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! :)
Can you tell me what vegetable broth (store bought) you prefer? I have tried one and hated it.
I really love Trader Joe’s various stocks. Or Kitchen Basics. :)
It’s so good and healthy
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sounds easy and fool proof, important characteristics for me! Have you any data on vitamin loss from leaching out in the excess water??
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!
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.
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!
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!