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.
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!
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.