How to Cook Quinoa
Learn how to cook quinoa that is fluffy and perfect for adding to a variety of meals. This nutritious seed is packed with protein and is extremely versatile – see my easy quinoa recipes below. Cooking quinoa is quick and easy!
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is one of my favorite healthy ingredients because it is easy to prepare and it cooks up quickly. You can make so many different healthy meals with quinoa!
The possibilities include Quinoa Frittatas for breakfast, delicious vegetarian meals such as Quinoa Stuffed Peppers or Mexican Quinoa, and Quinoa Salad for lunch or a side dish.
If you have an Instant Pot, you’ll also love my easy Instant Pot Quinoa recipe!
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa originated in South America, and it can take the place of whole grains in many recipes that you make. However, quinoa is actually not a grain at all – it is a seed. Quinoa is nutrient-dense and a great protein source for vegetarian meals.
Quinoa has a nutty, earthy flavor and can be slightly chewy in texture. Quinoa is packed with even more protein and fiber than rice.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. You can make quinoa ahead and refrigerate it for up to 3-4 days, or even freeze it, so it is a great option for meal prep. It is a great substitute for rice and is just as easy to cook. You might also like my Instant Pot Rice.
Types of Quinoa
There are three main types of quinoa that you may find in your local grocery store: white quinoa, red quinoa and black quinoa. White quinoa is the mildest in flavor and the softest in texture. Red quinoa is a bit crunchier and has more of an earthy flavor. Black quinoa is the strongest in both flavor and texture. All three types of quinoa can be prepared similarly.
Quinoa to Water Ratio
I’ve tested different quinoa to water ratios when cooking quinoa on the stove. After cooking many batches of quinoa, I’ve settled on the perfect water to quinoa ratio to make the best fluffy quinoa.
I use 1 ¾ cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. Many recipes will tell you to use a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio. I have found that this produces quinoa that is slightly mushy and almost gummy in texture. Reducing the amount of liquid to 1 ¾ cups per cup of quinoa produces perfectly fluffy quinoa with just the slightest bit of chewiness.
How to Cook Quinoa
Cooking quinoa on the stove takes less than 20 minutes. It’s simple! You’ll find the full ingredients and instructions in the recipe card below.
1. Rinse Quinoa: Quinoa seeds have a bitter coating on them called saponin. Rinsing quinoa under cool running water will remove this bitterness. Place your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse for about 1 minute. Let the excess water drain out.
2. Cook Quinoa: You can cook your quinoa in water or broth. Using vegetable broth or chicken broth flavors the quinoa as it cooks. If you cook your quinoa in water, I recommend adding ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt for flavor. You do not need to add salt if using broth.
Place the quinoa, liquid and salt (if using) in a pot. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot and cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed. This will take anywhere from 10-18 minutes, depending on how much quinoa you are cooking.
3. Rest and Fluff: Once the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid, remove the pot from the heat. Let the quinoa rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Then use a fork to fluff and separate the quinoa.
You will notice that some of the quinoa seeds will look like they have popped open as they cooked. This is normal.
Notes about Cooking Quinoa
- Be sure to rinse quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer before cooking. This will remove the bitter coating on the seeds called saponin.
- When cooking quinoa on the stove, the quantity of quinoa that you are cooking will affect the cook time. A smaller amount of quinoa will cook faster than a larger amount. Check on your quinoa every few minutes. It is done when all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- For more flavorful quinoa, cook it in vegetable broth or chicken broth instead of water.
- One cup of dry quinoa will yield about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
You can refrigerate or freeze your cooked quinoa. Cool quinoa completely and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not let quinoa sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, for food safety.
How to Make Quinoa more Flavorful
- You can toast your quinoa in a pan on the stove before cooking it to develop its nutty flavor. Stir rinsed quinoa over medium heat until you smell a nutty aroma.
- Cooking quinoa in chicken or vegetable broth gives more flavor to the quinoa than cooking it in water. If you use salted broth, do not add extra salt to the pot.
- You can add dried herbs and spices to the pot as you cook quinoa. I often add chili powder and cumin to make Mexican spiced quinoa.
- You can flavor your warm quinoa after cooking by mixing in minced garlic, fresh herbs or lime juice. Or try adding cinnamon, pure maple syrup and vanilla extract to make quinoa porridge for breakfast.
- Southwest Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Tabouli Salad Recipe
- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
- Roasted Mushrooms and Quinoa
- Spinach and Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Zucchini Boats
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
- Kale Quinoa Salad
- Grain Bowls
- Quinoa Frittatas
- Stuffed Delicata Squash
- Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
How to Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 ¾ cups water or low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt, optional (omit if cooking quinoa in broth)
- Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for about 1 minute. Drain.
- Place quinoa, water or broth, and salt (optional) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until all of the water is absorbed. This will take between 10-18 minutes, depending on how much quinoa you are cooking. My 1 cup of quinoa took 14 minutes to cook at a low simmer.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff and separate the quinoa.
- Recipe may be scaled up or down to cook more or less quinoa. The quantity of quinoa you are cooking will affect the cook time. A smaller amount of quinoa will cook faster than a larger amount. Check on your quinoa every few minutes. It is done when all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- You can refrigerate or freeze your cooked quinoa. Cool quinoa and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. For food safety, refrigerate cooked quinoa within 2 hours of cooking.
- Nutrition information is for quinoa cooked in water with salt.