Say hello to the ultimate guide on How to Cook Quinoa. We'll walk you through the simple steps to achieve light, fluffy quinoa every single time! It's as versatile as rice but supercharged with nutrients - a real game-changer in your kitchen repertoire. Whether you're serving it up as a hearty side dish or as a base for your favorite salads and bowls, perfectly cooked quinoa is just a few easy steps away.
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.
- What is Quinoa? A Brief Introduction
- The Secret to Perfect Quinoa
- Rinsing Quinoa
- How to Tell When Quinoa is Cooked
- Tips & Tricks for Making It Taste Great
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Tools Needed to Make Quinoa
- Step By Step Instructions for Making Quinoa
- The Best Quinoa Recipes
- Email This Recipe
- How to Cook Quinoa Perfectly
It wasn't always smooth sailing, though.
I struggled to get quinoa to come out right in the beginning. I was confused by the correct water to quinoa ratio, and after disappointing results from following package instructions, I did a lot of experimentation.
That is how I developed this fail-safe method for perfect quinoa on the stove top, 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.
A 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.
The Secret to Perfect 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.
- Place it in a fine metal strainer.
- 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.
How to Tell When Quinoa is Cooked
When you first put the seeds into a pot, they are hard and opaque.
As they cook and soak up liquid, they become translucent. Each of the seeds will unfurl a tiny spiral - that is, the germ of the seed. That is when you know it is done.
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. You can make quinoa 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, 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 in adding flavor.
- Rinsing Alternatives: 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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 Quinoa
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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
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.