Need to learn how to cook quinoa? Use this fail-proof method for cooking perfect fluffy quinoa every time. It is easy to make, loaded with nutrition, and perfect for meal prep. Use this simple recipe once and you may never make it any other way again.
When did you start eating quinoa?
For me, it was 2010, and I immediately fell in love with it.
I loved how it made me feel almost as much as I loved how versatile it is.
From quinoa muffins to quinoa salad, and casseroles, these nutritious little seeds started playing a major role in my meals.
It was the early days of quinoa being mainstream in the US, and I quickly established myself as a quinoa expert with (affiliate link) two traditionally published quinoa cookbooks (including a best seller), seven ebooks, and more than 1,000 quinoa recipes.
It wasn't always smooth sailing, though.
I struggled to get quinoa to come out right every time in the early days.
Then I developed this fail-safe method for perfect quinoa, and I haven't looked back.
Whether you are a newbie looking for how to cook quinoa perfectly, or a seasoned pro, give this method a try. I think you will be glad you did!
(By the way, this post is going to discuss cooking quinoa on the stovetop. You can check out my posts on How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker and Instant Pot Quinoa for other methods.)
What is Quinoa? A Brief Introduction
Chenopodium quinoa is a member of the goosefoot family.
Although you often hear it referred to as a grain, this is incorrect.
If you were to classify it, the correct classification is a pseudo-grain, that is, a non-grain that is treated like a grain in cooking.
It is a seed that is related to plants like beet, chard, spinach, and the edible weed lambs quarters.
Although the leaves can be eaten in the same way that you can eat spinach or chard leaves, it is the seeds that we commonly refer to.
There are different varieties, including white, red, and black.
One of the best things about it is that it is non-GMO and has not been hybridized.
In a world where GMO’s are a major concern for many, its purity makes it an attractive staple part of our diets.
Another great feature of this gluten-free seed is that it is a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids we need.
You can learn more about quinoa by reading The Quinoa Chronicles, a book by Stephen Gorad, who brought quinoa to the United States.
Read about the health benefits of it here.
The Secret to Perfect Quinoa
There is a simple reason why so many people struggle to learn how to cook quinoa. Most methods of cooking it calls for a 1:2 ratio between seeds and liquid.
Through my experimentation, I have found that I like it a lot more when I used less liquid, lower heat, and cooked it for longer.
The Best Quinoa to Water Ratio is 1:1.25.
This means 1 cup of quinoa to 1 ¼ cups liquid.
Unlike some methods which yield a softer (and sometimes soggy!) quinoa, this technique makes it fluffy every time.
Tips & Tricks for Making It Taste Great
- White quinoa has a softer texture and will cook quicker than black quinoa or red quinoa. You will want to cook the more colorful varieties a bit longer.
- Season it well when cooking. It is great at absorbing flavors - I like to think of it as a blank slate. You can make it taste infinitely better by seasoning it well when cooking. I like to add in salt, pepper, and garlic powder for savory preparations, and cinnamon and nutmeg for breakfast or any other sweet dish.
- Don't cook it in water! Depending on how I'm planning on using it, I always cook it in broth, water, milk or juice. Homemade broth is a game changer when you cook quinoa because it is so packed with flavor.
- Add in Vegetables. Adding in sautéed onion, peppers, and garlic is also helpful when you are struggling with how to make it taste good.
- Use it in recipes. It is always going to be best in a recipe. You can check out my collection of quinoa recipes.
- Use the proper seed to water ratio. (See above and recipe below.)
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Rinse Quinoa?
- Place it over a bowl or the pot you plan to cook in.
- Add the seeds and place it under a steady stream of water. (If you are worried about wasting water, you can always use the run off to water your garden.)
- Rinse until the water runs clear, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- The best tools to use are a fine metal strainer or fine mesh sieve.. If you don’t have a strainer that is fine enough to rinse quinoa, you can use cheesecloth to line your strainer. I find this to be a bit cumbersome, but it does work. Another option is a nut milk bag. (Just make sure it gets washed well so that any nut milk you make in the future doesn't have saponin on it.
- Do not skip rinsing! It is the number one step that people have skipped when they ask me how to make quinoa taste good because they have tried it and it was terrible.
Is Quinoa Bitter?
In its natural state, it is bitter. That is because it is covered with a bitter substance called saponin. Saponin works as a natural protectant, fending off pests. While this is a good thing while it is growing, it is important to rinse it well before cooking. In addition to making it taste bitter, saponin can cause gastrointestinal distress.
To avoid an upset stomach and a bitter dish, rinse it 3 to 5 minutes before cooking. I always rinse it, even if the package says it is pre-rinsed. It should not be bitter when rinsed.
What Are The Calories in Cooked Quinoa?
Each cup has 220 calories, not including any add-ins.
How much does 1 cup of dry quinoa make cooked?
One cup of dry quinoa will yield about 3 cups cooked.
Tools Needed to Make
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- Fine metal strainer
Leftover quinoa can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
You can freeze it for up to three months.
Step By Step Instructions for Making Quinoa
The first thing you want to do is gather your ingredients. Chop your veggies if you are using them and measure everything out.
Making Savory Quinoa? Start with Aromatics
Cooking quinoa with aromatics adds so much flavor!
Quinoa absorbs flavor from what you cook with it, so start by sautéing a cup of aromatics in a tablespoon of oil for 6 to 8 minutes.
Good options include onions, celery carrots, and bell pepper. For extra flavor, you can also add in a teaspoon of minced fresh ginger or a tablespoon of diced jalapeno.
Rinse the Quinoa
While the aromatics are cooking, rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the water runs clear.
Toasting quinoa adds an extra nutty flavor!
When the aromatics are done cooking, add another tablespoon of oil to the pot. Toast the quinoa for 2 to 3 minutes.
Cook in Broth
Layer on the flavor by cooking in broth.
Add 1 ¼ cups of broth to the saucepan. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. (This is the point just below a boil.)
Reduce the heat to low, and cook covered for 30 to 35 minutes.
For optimum flavor, never cook in water — homemade broth will yield the best flavor.
Fluff your quinoa with a fork before adding in herbs and seasonings.
Season and Add Stir-Ins
Stir in herbs and seasonings and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes.
When the quinoa is done, add a ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs to the pot. Stir and cover and allow to sit for another 5 minutes.
The best way to cool it is to place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely before putting it in the refrigerator.
The Best Quinoa Recipes
- Butternut Squash Quinoa Casserole
- Quinoa Patties
- Kid Friendly Quinoa Fritters
- Quinoa Mac and Cheese
- Gluten Free Quinoa Bread
- Quinoa Protein Bars
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Pasta Salad
- Turmeric Chicken and Quinoa
- Quinoa Smoothie
How to Cook Quinoa Perfectly
- Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
- Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender.
- While the aromatics are cooking, rinse quinoa in a fine metal strainer with running water for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the water runs clear.
- If the saucepan is dry, add another tablespoon of oil.
- Add quinoa and toast it for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add broth to the pan.
- Bring to a simmer and then reduce to low.
- Cover and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- Turn of the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs if desired.
- Let sit covered for an additional five minutes. Fluff and add to your favorite dishes.
- How to Cool It: If you are going to be sorting in the refrigerator, place on a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool before transferring to a storage container.
Followed your recipe for perfect Quinoa with one exceptions. After it was soaked and rinsed, I put a little olive oil in the pan and toasted the Quinoa then added the water and cooked. It came out just as perfect as you said! It was so light and fluffy! Thanks so much!
Are you sure? 30-35 minutes, then the quinoa is all mushy. I don't like that. The soaking and rinsing is OK in my opinion, but not the cooking. I cook it for 10 minutes in more water or broth than it can absorb, then drain it and let it sit in the hot pan for 5 minutes. Always perfect, because with the absorption method yuo never can tell if it's just right. It depends on the moisture of the quinoa.
what about boiling the Quinoa and than steaming it?
You can cook it that way! I sometimes do if I am short on time.
Wendy - in step 4 of Perfect Quinoa you use the word "sorting" and probably mean "storing"
Sorry - I'm anal
You can delete this post if you like.
I would love to perfect this in the Insta-pot - you can toast in that also - anybody use it and get perfect quinoa?
This was amazing. Thanks so much!
The rinsing part is vital as I discovered the first time I made quinoa. I did not rinse it and it tasted so gross.
Do you know I have never tried quinoa, both making and eating. But I may just have to change that and follow these tips thank you.
Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly
i had a Vegan co-worker ages ago who was definitely obsessed with Quinoa and she also preferred using broth to water.
Jenn @ EngineerMommy
This is a great overview on how to best prepare quinoa. I love the flavor and texture of quinoa but I have always thought it was hard to make a perfect batch. I will try your method next time.
I will be saving this post for sure. I have never attempted cooking Quinoa simply because nearly every cooking show makes it seem like the Mt. Everest of dishes to get right. Perhaps they are wrong ?
One of the reasons why I dont cook quinoa is because it can be too dry or too soft. I'm going to try the 1:1:25 ratio and add a bit less water and lowering the flame a bit.
Good to know the ratio. I too do not care for mushy quinoa. Another super easy way to make quinoa is in the oven. I put the quinoa and broth in a glass baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes. Then take it out and let it sit (covered) for about 20 minutes more. Fluff and serve! Especially good and healthy with a can of black beans (drained and rinsed) and a diced up sweet potato added to the baking dish before cooking. This makes great burritos.
I love quinoa but I always find it heavy. I guess it’s like rice in that respect. I love buffalo quinoa bowl though!
Kristen from The Road to Domestication
I've only made quinoa once, and I THINK it was okay. Now I'm questioning myself, ha!
I have never attempted cooking Quinoa. But I love the flavor and texture of quinoa . I will try your method soon
I remember the first time I ever tried to cook quinoa. I put it in the oven thinking it would cook. A half hour later, the grains were still as hard and grainy as before. That’s when I realized that I had to cook it like I would rice. Since then, quinoa has become a favorite around here.
Leigh Anne Borders
I may be one of the few remaining people left to not try QUINOA before. I really need to do it. It sounds amazing.
My husband is from the Philippines and grew up eating rice cooked in a rice cooker. We now use the rice cooker solely for cooking our quinoa! Definitely use the less liquid ratio and it comes out perfectly,
Thank you Wendy. Life changer!
I have actually never tried quinoa before but I will have to try making it sometime soon.
I have never had quinoa, nor have I ever really heard of it before. It looks very interesting thouhg, I'm going to have to try this out sometime. Thanks for sharing!
This is very informed. I would have no idea where to start when it comes to quinoa.
The article says 1:1.75 ratio, the recipe has 1:1.25 - which is it?
Hi Megan, If you read, there are two different methods depending on how much time you have. My preferred method is the one that uses less water, but you can use more if you are short on time.
Like the way you organize the information. It's very easy to catch up! Thanks for sharing.
When a recipe says that you can toast it on the stove before cooking it would this be after you have rinsed it? Would you have to let it dry completely before toasting it...because I wouldn't think it would toast if it was moist. Thanks!
Toasting it will dry it very quickly!