If you are wondering how to cook quinoa so it turns out perfectly fluffy every time, this tutorial will walk you through the process step-by-step. It’s a great way to add more protein into your meals this week!
Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal, meaning it looks like a grain, but it doesn’t grow on grass like wheat, barley, and oats do. It is an ancient grain that originated in South America, though it is now grown in almost 70 countries, due to its growing demand and popularity.
I’ve cooked so many quinoa recipes lately, I consider myself a bit of a quinoa expert.
For years, I followed the traditional guidance, which you may already be familiar with, especially if you’ve cooked other grains. Use a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water (so, 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water) and cook in a covered pot for 15 minutes.
Sounds simple enough, right?
However, I have never achieved fluffy quinoa with this method. It’s fine; it’s edible… but I almost always have a thin layer of quinoa that burns, or sticks, to the bottom of the pan by the time the 15 minute cooking time is complete. Sometimes the quinoa even starts to crisp up around the side of my saucepan, creating an uneven texture. It’s not ideal.
Tips for Cooking the Best Quinoa
After learning more about quinoa, and doing a little experimenting on my own, I’ve discovered 3 tricks that will help you cook fool-proof quinoa every time.
1. Soak or rinse the quinoa first.
Quinoa is a gluten-free seed, and just like other nuts and seeds, it contains phytic acid, which may inhibit nutrient absorption. Soaking quinoa in water may help to lower its phytic acid content, and at the same time, it may also help to remove the saponin found in its natural coating. (This can give quinoa a bitter taste.)
Quinoa can be soaked in fresh water for as little as 2 hours, or you can leave it soaking in water in the fridge overnight. Be sure to cover the dry quinoa with double the amount of water, to allow for expansion as it soaks.
If you don’t have the time to soak quinoa, I recommend rinsing it under running water in a fine mesh strainer for at least 30 seconds. This will help to remove that bitter flavor that can sometimes be found in its outer coating, and it will greatly improve the flavor and texture in the final cooked dish.
2. Cook with less water.
Because you’ve already soaked or rinsed the quinoa, you don’t need to use a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. This ratio will give you soggy, or mushy results.
Instead, I recommend using 1 1/2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rinsed or soaked quinoa.
3. Remove it from the heat early.
Instead of cooking the quinoa over low-heat for 15 minutes, I recommend removing it from the heat after only 10 minutes– but don’t remove the lid just yet!
Keep the lid on for an additional 5 minutes (so it’s still covered for a full 15 minutes) so the quinoa can finish absorbing the water.
When you remove the lid, it will be perfectly cooked, with nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. All you have to do is fluff it with a fork and serve!
Health Benefits of Quinoa
What’s so great about quinoa? (Pronouced keen-wah.) It’s a nutrient-dense grain alternative that happens to contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. This makes it a complete source of plant-based protein, which may be especially helpful for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
FYI: Some experts consider quinoa to be “nearly” a complete source of protein, if you’d like to read about that discussion.
Here’s more to love:
- Quinoa contains quercetin and kaempferol, which are two flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- One cup of cooked quinoa has a little over 5 grams of fiber, which is more than other cooked whole grains, like brown rice.
- Quinoa also contains 8 grams of protein per cooked cup.
- Eating quinoa may help with blood sugar regulation in prediabetic patients.
- Quinoa may also help to lower triglyceride levels and the presence of metabolic syndrome when studied in overweight patients for 12 weeks.
It should be noted, if you are concerned with kidney stones, that quinoa is high in oxalates. Studies suggest that there might be a minor risk associated with dietary oxalate intake and kidney stones. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any concerns.
How to Cook Quinoa
Now that you know all the tricks, let’s cover how to cook this gluten-free pseudograin.
1. Soak or rinse.
To soak quinoa: Place the dry quinoa in a large bowl or mason jar and cover it with double the amount of water. Let it rest for at least 2 hours on the counter, or place it in the fridge to soak overnight. Drain and rinse well before using it in the next step.
To rinse quinoa: Place the dry quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse it under running tap water for at least 30 seconds. Let the excess water drip off, then it’s ready to cook.
2. Cook covered.
Transfer the drained quinoa to a small saucepan, cover it with water, and stir well. For every 1 cup of quinoa, use 1 1/2 cups of water for cooking. You can also use veggie or chicken broth, if you’d prefer.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let it cook for 10 minutes covered.
3. Remove from the heat.
After 10 minutes have passed, keep the pot covered but remove it from the heat. This will ensure the quinoa doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.
Keep the lid on the pan for an additional 5 minutes, then remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Now it’s ready to serve!
Note: I’ve tested this method with white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, and tricolor quinoa. Keep in mind that the more colorful varieties of quinoa will have a more chewy texture compared to white quinoa.
If you’d like them to become more tender, keep the lid on the pot for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. (But still remove the pan from the heat after 10 minutes!)
How to Use Quinoa
You can use quinoa as a protein-packed substitute for rice in a main course or side dish, but I think you’ll also love it in these recipes below.
- Hearty Quinoa Soup
- Quinoa Porridge
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Black Bean Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Pilaf
- Instant Pot Quinoa Burrito Bowls
Or, try using quinoa instead of rice in my Veggie Fried Rice recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which color quinoa is the healthiest? The different types of quinoa all have a similar macronutrient profile, but red quinoa does seem to have a slightly higher antioxidant content, thanks to the betalains it contains. (Which give red quinoa its signature color, similar to beets!)
Can you cook quinoa in the Instant Pot? Yes! Check out my tutorial here.
If you have any other questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below. I’m happy to help when I can!
How to Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse it under running water for at least 30 seconds. This quick step will help remove any bitter flavor from the quinoa's outer coating. (See quinoa soaking tips in the full post, if you'd prefer to do that.)
- Transfer the drained quinoa to a small saucepan, and cover it with 1 1/2 cups of fresh water. Bring the liquid to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat and cover the pot. Let the quinoa cook for 10 minutes covered.
- When the timer goes off, remove the pan from the heat but keep the lid on the pan for another 5 minutes. (So the pan will be covered for 15 minutes total.) Then, remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. It should have absorbed all of the water and be fluffy, without sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Serve the quinoa warm right away, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It's perfect for meal prep! You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
If you try this quinoa recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below, letting me know how it works out for you!