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How to Cook Quinoa

Learn how to cook quinoa with this easy-to-follow guide to cooking tender, fluffy quinoa with a bite. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for additional flavors or add-ins and it’s meal prep and freezer friendly too! 

cooked quinoa in white bowl

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Perfectly cooked quinoa

Quinoa is a delicious and healthy alternative to rice and can be eaten in much the same way. In fact, it is cooked the same way, so I assure you, if you know how to cook rice, you know how to cook quinoa! If this is your first time, or you’ve tried and failed before, you’ve come to the right place. Gone are the days of overcooked mushy quinoa, or worse, undercooked and possibly burnt quinoa.

It has a nutty earthy flavor, but otherwise a bit bland, so it is typically used as a vessel for other delicious flavors. Once you’ve made a big batch, it’s perfect for meal prep for the week and whatever doesn’t get used can be kept frozen for months.

This superfood has all 9 essential amino acids which make it a complete protein and suitable to eat on its own or as an ingredient in all kinds of other dishes like salads, soups, or even breakfast porridge. It is versatile, naturally gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan, which makes it a welcome addition to any meal!

What is quinoa?

Although quinoa is technically a seed and part of the amaranth family, it’s widely used as a grain, mostly due to its nutritional makeup. It is not low carb, but it is high in protein, vitamin B, folate, fiber, and a slew of other nutrients. It is used for a variety of dishes throughout the day, from porridge in the morning to salad at lunch and dishes like this baked teriyaki chicken bowl for dinner!

quinoa and water on table

Red vs white quinoa

Did you know that quinoa comes in a variety of colors? White, red, black, purple, orange, green, grey…you get the idea. The most commonly used are white and red but there are also times when you may see a combination of white red and black. This is known as tri-color quinoa.

White quinoa is milder in taste and texture, it’s lighter and becomes fluffier when cooked than the others. Red quinoa is a bit heavier. It’s darker in color but also has a deeper, nuttier flavor. It doesn’t fluff up as much and it holds its shape a bit better.

Do I need to wash it?

In the same way that you would wash your rice, you do need to rinse your quinoa under cold water. Quinoa starts off with a coating called saponin, which when ingested, isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it is super bitter. Most packages of the quinoa sold in stores will come pre-rinsed because of this, but it doesn’t hurt to run it under some water again.

quinoa and water in pot

Other easy methods for cooking quinoa

  • Instant Pot: Once you do this, you may never use the stovetop again! Add quinoa, water, and a bit of salt to the Instant Pot. Set it to 1 minute, if you’re using white quinoa, and allow it to naturally release. Open the lid, fluff it up, and there you have it! Totally hands-off.
  • Rice cooker: For added convenience, you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker the same way you would rice. Stir, cover, and cook as directed.
  • Microwave: Cover and cook water and quinoa on high for 4 minutes, in a microwave-safe bowl. Remove and stir. Continue cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the microwave and let it stand for a couple of minutes before fluffing and serving.

Tips & variations

  • Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter to the quinoa while it cooks to add a little extra flavor.
  • Use chicken or vegetable broth instead of water for great flavor.
  • To make this a complete side dish, add diced veggies such as onions or bell pepper.
  • Add diced or shredded chicken with steamed vegetables for a quick lunch.
  • Toss in some raisins or a sprinkling of cinnamon for a breakfast bowl.

Storing, freezing, & reheating

  • To store: Allow to cool completely and place in an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
  • To freeze: Quinoa is very freezer friendly and is super helpful with meal prep, especially when divided into portions, so you only thaw what you need. Freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • To reheat: The easiest way to reheat is in the microwave. If you choose to reheat on the stove, you’ll want to add a splash of water or broth to add a little moisture back in and to avoid burn.

cooked quinoa in white bowl

Favorite ways to use cooked quinoa:

cooked quinoa in white bowl

How to Cook Quinoa

Learn how to cook quinoa with this easy-to-follow guide to cooking tender, fluffy quinoa with a bite. It's the perfect jumping-off point for additional flavors or add-ins and it's meal prep and freezer friendly too! 
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups water , or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup quinoa , rinsed

Salt and Pepper, to taste

    Instructions

    • Place the water, quinoa and salt in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Don't over stir. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat to low. Let simmer for 15-17 minutes, or until all the water has absorbed. Try not remove the lid while it's cooking. 
      quinoa and water in pot
    • Remove the lid and allow the water to evaporate. If the quinoa is not tender, place the lid back on top for 10 minutes. The grain should appear soft and you'll be able to see the germ ring along the outside edge. Just before serving, gently fluff the rice with a fork.
      cooked quinoa in white pot
    • Salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm or cold. Store in a covered container.
      cooked quinoa in white bowl

    Notes

    Variations: You can add 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter to the quinoa while cooking to add a little bit extra flavor. Cooking in chicken or vegetable broth also adds a great flavor. You can also add diced vegetables to amp up this side dish.
    How to cook in the microwave: Place water and quinoa in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and cook on high for 4 minutes. Remove and stir. Then cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until water is absorbed. Let stand a couple minutes when removed from the microwave. 
    How to cook in a rice cooker: Cook the quinoa how you would cook rice. Stir, cover and cook as directed. 
    Storage: Store leftovers in a covered container for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. 

    Calories: 156kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 298mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 3g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: American
    Author: Jamielyn Nye

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