Learn how to cook quinoa with this easy, fail proof recipe!
This post contains affiliate links.
Is there one thing you always stock in your kitchen?
I keep around plenty of basics like canned beans and tomatoes, eggs, pasta, etc. … and always, quinoa. It’s my go to grain (okay … technically, it’s a seed), and it’s so versatile.
Quinoa is the perfect base for a healthy bowl meal, it makes an excellent addition to salads, it’s ideal as fast side dish, and so much more. Plus, it’s super healthy and very easy to make. And that’s a pretty awesome combo, if you ask me.
Keep reading to learn how to make the best, most tender, fluffy quinoa. Plus, I’ve rounded up my favorite quinoa recipes.
How to Cook Quinoa Perfectly
I thought I would go back to basics today and talk about quinoa.
Quinoa is my favorite grain … it’s tasty, easy to make, and super healthy. If you’re looking for something different from regular old rice, you definitely need to give quinoa a try.
Learn more about quinoa below, plus my foolproof method for cooking it!
What is Quinoa?
Since we’re going back to basics, let’s start at the beginning. If you’ve never had quinoa before, you may be wondering what exactly it is.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an edible seed that was first raised in Peru and Bolivia about 3000 to 4000 years ago. It’s a staple in Andean cooking, and the Incas even considered quinoa sacred, calling it the “mother of all grains”.
This highly nutritious seed (which is part of the amaranth family) started catching on around the rest of the world in the 21st century. These days, it’s grown many places, but Peru and Bolivia still produce the majority of quinoa we consume.
There are three main types of quinoa (white, red, and black), and all have a subtle nutty flavor.
Health Benefits of Quinoa
My favorite thing about quinoa, besides its yummy taste, is that it’s so nutritious. We’re talking superfood-level good for you!
Quinoa has a lot going for it, making it a healthier alternative to rice, couscous, and many grains. This healthy seed is an excellent source protein (it contains all nine essential amino acids), fiber, and iron. It’s also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Plus, quinoa is gluten-free. What’s not to love?
What You’ll Need to Prepare Quinoa
You’re going to love how simple quinoa is to make, and the fact that you don’t need a lot of ingredients (or supplies):
- Water (or Broth)
- Kosher Salt
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Heavy Bottom Pot with Lid
A few notes … first, quinoa comes in three varieties: white (the most common kind), red, and black, although blends of the three types of quinoa are also available. You can use any type of quinoa for this recipe.
You’ll also need a fine mesh strainer, because you’re going to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. And for best results, use a heavy bottom pot (with a lid), like enamel coated cast iron. I also prefer to use kosher salt for all my cooking. It just tastes better.
Quinoa Preparation: How to Make Quinoa Step-by-Step
So, let’s talk about how to cook quinoa! Basically, you’re going to:
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.
- Combine quinoa, water, and a little salt in a pot.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and cook quinoa for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
- Fluff quinoa with a fork, recover pot, and let quinoa sit for 5 minutes (off heat).
Sounds pretty simple, right? But let’s break down those steps a little further. (Make sure to the watch the video in the recipe card, too, to see these steps in action.)
Rinsing the Quinoa
Quinoa is naturally coated with saponin, and it can make the cooked seed taste bitter or soapy.
Most quinoa you buy in the U.S. has already been pre-rinsed to remove the saponin. To be on the safe side though, simply rinse the quinoa under running water before cooking. You’ll need a fine mesh strainer to do this.
To be honest, I do not rinse quinoa about 90% of the time I make it. Like I said, most quinoa is already pre-rinsed. But you can rinse it to be on the safe side if you’re concerned about bitter quinoa.
Cooking the Quinoa
There are a few ways to cook quinoa. I’m going to show you how to make steamed quinoa on the stove.
After rinsing the quinoa (or not), combine it in a heavy bottom pot (I use an enamel coated cast iron pan), along with water and a little kosher salt. The ratio of quinoa to water is 1:2 (and 1 cup of dry quinoa will make about 3 cups of cooked quinoa). So if you’re using 1 cup of quinoa, you’ll need 2 cups of water.
Bring the water to a boil, cover your pot, and reduce the burner’s heat to low. Then cook the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, then let it sit (covered) for 5 minutes before eating.
How Do You Know When the Quinoa Done?
You’ll know that the quinoa is done a few ways.
First, taste it. It should be tender, but not mushy. Two, if you used the right proportion of water, it should be absorbed. Three, the quinoa should be translucent, and each grain will have a little thread around the outside.
Variations on the Basic Quinoa Recipe
There are a few ways to make quinoa even tastier. Here are a few ideas:
- Toast the quinoa in a little butter or olive oil before cooking it.
- Replace the water with vegetable broth.
- Saute some garlic or veggies (like onions, shallots, carrots, or mushrooms) in the pot before adding the quinoa, water, and salt.
- Add dried herbs and spices while cooking, or stir fresh herbs into the cooked quinoa.
- Use the cooked quinoa is your favorite recipes, like salads, bowls, casseroles, and more. Keep reading after the quinoa recipe below for my fave quinoa dishes.
Once you learn how to cook quinoa, you’ll find a million uses for it!
How to Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse well, then drain.
- Combine quinoa, water, and salt in a heavy bottom pan. Bring water to a boil, then cover pan and reduce heat to low.
- Cook quinoa for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
- Fluff quinoa with a fork, then cover pot and let sit for 5 minutes (off heat).
- Serve quinoa hot. Enjoy!
Easy Quinoa Recipes
Now that you know how to prepare quinoa, you’ll discover there are so many ways to enjoy it!
These are some of my favorite recipes using quinoa.
Quinoa for Breakfast
Quinoa Stuffed Vegetables
Veggie Burgers with Quinoa
Other Quinoa Main Dishes
What is your favorite way to eat quinoa?