How to Cook Quinoa

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How to cook quinoa on the stove-top with all my tips and tricks to make it light and flavorful every single time!

How to cook quinoa guide: photo shows wooden spoons filled with different varieties of quinoa with text "How To Cook Quinoa : step-by-step guide + quinoa recipes"

Quinoa

If you aren’t familiar with quinoa, it is a naturally gluten-free seed that makes a great substitute for rice and other grains. It’s gaining popularity due to how healthy it is and is even considered a superfood.

Quinoa is pronounced “KEEN-wah” and is so easy to prepare! I’ve been making and experimenting with quinoa for years and it’s one of my family’s favorite side dishes. I’ve shared dozens of recipes over the years and today I’ll share how to cook quinoa, my go-to quinoa recipe, helpful tools, answer commonly asked quinoa questions, and share links to my other quinoa recipes!

Let’s dive in!

How To Cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa is very similar to cooking rice. Check out the steps below to make quinoa light, fluffy, and flavorful every single time!

Step One: Measure

Measure out one level cup of quinoa. There are over 120 known varieties of quinoa but the most popular varieties are white, red, or black. The photo below is tri-colored quinoa (combining all three!). So what’s the difference between the varieties?

  • White quinoa: most common variety available in stores (you’ll often see it just called quinoa)
  • Red quinoa: holds its shape after cooking a bit better than white quinoa, making it great for cold salads
  • Black quinoa: a bit earthier and sweeter in flavor than white quinoa

    One cup of uncooked quinoa

Step Two: Rinse

Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can make it taste bitter. Pour the cup of quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly for 30 seconds to one minute. This bitter coating serves a purpose in nature–it discourages bugs and other pests from eating it. Unfortunately, that bitter coating also keeps humans away, and rinsing the quinoa before cooking removes it.

Even when quinoa says it’s been pre-rinsed, I’ll still give it another quick rinse!

TIP: if you have the extra time/patience, you can soak your cup of quinoa in water for a couple of minutes before rinsing to really ensure that the outer coating is really gone.

Rinsing quinoa in a strainer

Step Three: Flavor (optional)

If you’re making quinoa as a stand-alone dish, then I’d recommend adding seasonings to enhance the flavor. However, if you’re using the quinoa in a salad, soup, casserole dish, or any other recipe, then adding seasonings isn’t necessary.

To add seasonings to the quinoa, first add 1 tablespoon oil (extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, etc. – any oil works!) to a pot. Put over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in 1 teaspoon of spices. Use your favorite spice blend or a single seasoning. Some of my favorite seasonings to use are turmeric, curry powder, paprika, chili powder, and Italian seasoning. Experiment with different seasonings to find the ones you like the best!

As a substitute for spices, you can add a teaspoon of minced garlic.

Once you add the seasonings/garlic to the shimmering oil, stir for about 30 seconds and then add in the rinsed and dried quinoa. 

Toast the quinoa by stirring it frequently in the oil/seasoning mixture over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. 

Oil, seasonings, and quinoa in a pot

Step Four: Cook

Quinoa cooks by simmering in liquid over the stove. While water works just fine to cook the quinoa in, I prefer to use vegetable or chicken stock for extra flavor.

With the quinoa in a pot, add 1 and 3/4 cup of liquid and bring the quinoa to a boil. Add a bit of salt and pepper at this point to flavor (just a pinch of each if I’m using stock and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of each if I’m using water). As soon as the quinoa is boiling, cover the pot, and lower the stove to its lowest heat setting. Let cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.

The quinoa is ready when most of the liquid has been absorbed (the small amount of remaining liquid will absorb after removing from heat). As the quinoa is cooking, try to remove the lid as little as possible. That will become easier as your experience with cooking quinoa grows. 🙂

Adding vegetable stock to a pot

 

Step Five: Let Stand and Fluff with a Fork

Remove the pot from the stove and, while keeping the lid on, let it stand off the heat for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and enjoy!

Fluffing quinoa with a fork

Quinoa FAQs

1Is quinoa healthier than rice?

Is Quinoa better for you than rice?

Quinoa is very nutritious* —it’s full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. From purely a calorie perspective: one cup of cooked quinoa has approximately 40 fewer calories than an equal amount of white rice. From more of a nutritional profile, white rice has almost 15 times more grams of carbohydrates while quinoa provides 5 more grams of fiber and double the protein.

 

*While I have my background in Exercise and Wellness (B.S.), all the content in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult a doctor or dietician for any specific dietary needs/questions.

2How much will uncooked quinoa make?

One cup of dry quinoa yields approximately three cups of cooked quinoa.

3What's the best way to cook quinoa?

I’ve found cooking quinoa on the stovetop is the very best way to make it. However, here are some alternative ways to cook quinoa:

  • How to cook quinoa in a slow cooker: Tutorial Here
  • How to cook quinoa in an Instant Pot: Tutorial Here
  • How to cook quinoa in a rice cooker: Use the same liquid-to-quinoa ratio as in the recipe above and follow the instructions on your rice cooker.
  • How to cook quinoa in the microwave: Tutorial Here

4How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa?

To cook one cup quinoa, you need 1 3/4 cups liquid — use water, broth, or stock.

5How long does quinoa take to cook?

One cup of quinoa will cook in about 15-20 minutes and will need to stand off the heat for about 5 minutes.

6How do you improve the flavor of quinoa?

Just as with any side dish like rice or barley, you can add lots of flavor enhancers, including:

  • Cook it in a good broth or stock. (Use vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian)
  • Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt to each cup of dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices during cooking such as a clove of minced garlic, a pinch of black pepper, and/or a teaspoon of your favorite spice.
  • Garnish: After the quinoa is cooked top it with some freshly grated Parmesan on top, fresh herbs, etc.

7How do you store leftover cooked quinoa?

Leftover quinoa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

8Is quinoa gluten free?

Short answer: Naturally yes. However, a lot of quinoa is produced in facilities where cross-contamination could occur. Make sure to check the label on your package!

My Favorite Quinoa Recipes:

View ALL of my quinoa recipes here.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad: roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa, spinach, cranberries, and avocado salad topped with a healthy and delicious lemon vinaigrette.

One reader said: “I love this salad a lot! Amazing flavours and it’s my go to for friends lunches! I’m obsessed with the dressing and am actually using it on my green salads too. Perfect excuse to use my stash of herbed mustard jars! Thank you so much for sharing!”

Bruschetta Chicken with Quinoa

Bruschetta Chicken: balsamic marinated chicken topped with bruschetta and fresh avocado, served over quinoa. This bruschetta chicken is fresh, flavorful, and made with good-for-you ingredients!

One reader said: “By far one of the best dinners I’ve made!! It was a huge family hit”

 

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad: An avocado, cucumber, and tomato quinoa salad recipe that is simple to make, kid-friendly, and healthy.

One reader said: “Made this for lunch today, as I had on hand all the ingredients. It was fantastic! My husband loved it. Thank you, for this amazing recipe. I will definitely be making it again in the future, as it was easy, quick and delicious.”

Close-up of Quinoa Salad

More Quinoa Recipes (& A Detox Quinoa Salad)

One reader said: “I have made this salad 3 times now and it is my all-time favourite, easy to make and low in calories. I am taking it to a party Friday night as well.”

 

More delicious quinoa recipes to try:

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How to Cook Quinoa

5 from 7 votes
How to cook quinoa on the stovetop and all my tips/tricks to make it light, fluffy, and flavorful every single time!
Print Recipe

How to Cook Quinoa

5 from 7 votes
How to cook quinoa on the stovetop and all my tips/tricks to make it light, fluffy, and flavorful every single time!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword how to cook quinoa
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Rest Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 3 cups cooked quinoa
Calories 300kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of your favorite spice or spice blend, Note 1
  • 1 and 3/4 cup water, vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • Kosher salt and pepper (I use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper)

Instructions

  • Measure out one level cup of quinoa. Pour the cup of quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • If you have the extra time/patience, you can soak your cup of quinoa in water for a couple of minutes before rinsing to really ensure that outer coating is gone.
  • In a small pot, add in 1 tablespoon oil and once the oil is shimmering, add in 1 teaspoon of a spice or spice blend mix. Stir for about 30 seconds and then add in the rinsed and dried quinoa. Toast the quinoa by stirring it frequently over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add 1 and 3/4 cup water, vegetable or chicken stock, or broth and then bring the quinoa to a boil. I also like to add some salt and pepper at this point (just a pinch of each if I'm using a stock and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of each if I'm using water; add to your preference). As soon as the quinoa is boiling, cover the pot, and lower it to your lowest heat setting. Let cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on the actual heat of your stove).
  • Remove the pot from the stove and, while keeping the lid on, let it stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and enjoy. If adding to a salad, let cool completely first.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Seasoning blend: We like lemon pepper seasoning, turmeric, half chili powder/half paprika, Tuscan seasoning blend, etc.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 203mg | Potassium: 466mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 12IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love all these tips! I will be having quinoa with my salad today at lunch so I couldn’t have seen this at a better time!

  2. 5 stars
    These dishes look so tasty! Thanks for sharing this! I haven’t cooked quinoa a lot, so these help!

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this! I’ve tried making it before and it just wasn’t right. I feel more confident trying again now.

  4. Thank you so much for this, it was so helpful! I don’t know why I have been so intimidated to make it!

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this, it was so helpful! I don’t know why I have been so intimidated to make it!

  6. 5 stars
    I could never get my quinoa to taste good until I tried your method. I love your easy step by step instructions too. Thank you!

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