How to Cook Quinoa (the tasty way)

What is quinoa? Quinoa is a tiny seed high in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most cereal grains. When cooked, it has a light, mild, and fluffy texture with a slight nutty flavor. Because Quinoa is gluten-free, it can be used as an alternative in meals and recipes that call for pasta, rice or any other starchy food. Just add your favorite vegetables, meats or seasonings and enjoy.

cooking quinoa how to cook quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker

If you have a rice cooker at home, then go ahead and use it! To add a little extra flavor to quinoa while cooking, try replacing the water with homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth. Here’s how to do it:

Simple Rice Cooker Instructions:

  • Combine one cup of quinoa with two cups water in a rice cooker. Cook for around 15 minutes, let sit 3 minutes, and serve.

I’ve also added a different herbs and spices to my rice cooker with fantastic results. A few chili pepper flakes, fresh basil leaves, or a half teaspoon of cumin can really spice things up!

How to Cook Quinoa

It takes only 15 minutes to cook a family portion of this wonder food, so try it in place of rice, pasta, or in recipes calling for some kind of carbohydrate. For extra flavor (and a little fun) try replacing the water with homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth.

Cooking quinoa on your stovetop:

  1. For every cup of quinoa, bring two cups of water to a boil (just like rice). Use 1.5 cups water if you prefer a more al dente texture.
  2. Cover when boiling and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the seeds turn fluffy. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl. See right-side photograph above comparing cooked quinoa to uncooked quinoa.
  3. Let stand for about 3 minutes to become fully fluffy.

Note: Check if your quinoa has a saponin coating. If it has a waxy coating then the first step is to soak it in water for 2 hours. Change the water and then resoak for another hour. Vigorously rinse under running water in a fine strainer or cheese cloth to remove the final traces of saponin. Most quinoa bought in boxes or in bulk stores comes pre-rinsed without this coating — just like in the photograph above, left side.

A little more about Quinoa

Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids, it is naturally gluten free (unlike wheat) so it can be eaten by those with Celiac disease, and it’s easy to prepare. Quinoa is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, and is high in magnesium and iron.

In its natural state, quinoa has a waxy coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it terribly untasty. However, most organic quinoa sold in North America is processed to remove this coating through a rinsing process.

Where to buy Quinoa

Quinoa can be purchased in grocery stores across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Depending on where you live, you may have to find this sensational seed in a specialty or organic food store.

Frugal places to buy quinoa:

Quinoa Recipes

There are many recipes on this blog that include quinoa, but I also like the book The New Whole Grain Cookbook since it explains how to use ancient grains like farro, brown rice, barley, and a multitude of others as well.

cooking quinoa cook quinoa

Here’s a quick list of quinoa recipes on this site:

Your Turn: How do you cook quinoa?

Your two cents:

  1. Hedy August 12th, 2008

    Yum! I love Quinoa.

  2. Heidi August 12th, 2008

    I love quinoa!

    I make a savory version prepared as you describe as above. Then I add a tiny bit of basil-infused olive oil, some roasted red peppers (chopped), salt, pepper, a handful of fresh basil broken into little bits, some fresh lemon juice, and about a quarter cup of parmesan cheese. Delish by itself or served as a side/salad with some grilled chicken. Can be served warm, chilled, or at room temp.

    I also make a version with fresh corn, black beans, cilantro, a can of rotelle – or fresh tomatoes & chilies (when I have them around) and lime juice. I serve this wrapped up in corn tortillas.

  3. Kerry August 12th, 2008

    @Hedy Yum! So do I! I’m a little strange through, I eat it for breakfast like oatmeal, with apple slices and cinnamon.

    @Heidi Ok, those recipes sound delicious. My “better half” often wraps quinoa into a tortilla. :)

  4. Sean August 12th, 2008

    I do no like quinoa’s smell so I mix it oat, spelt and kasha. I love the mixture in the morning. Another meal that I make is with wheat. I buy soft or hard kernel wheat and soak it in water over night for 10 hrs (preferably Friday). Saturday morning, I make a puree and heat it over low temp with some salt. You need extra water and need to mix it evenly and frequently to avoid burning. After it thickens I add some cinemmon and let it cool. Then serve with banana or apple. A good butter makes a very rich smell. enjoy.

  5. Beth August 12th, 2008

    I like to steam it using a yunnan clay pot cooker and it turns out great! i also like to substitute it for rice in a risotto and for coucous in a tabbouleh-style salad. yum.

  6. SP August 17th, 2008

    Trader Joe’s sells quinoa, though price recently jumped from 2.50/lb to 3.99/lb in soCal. Yikes! I like to eat it like oatmeal, mixed with milk and banana for breakfast.

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Quinoa-Pudding-2/Detail.aspx

  7. Francois Viljoen September 11th, 2008

    I bought my first packet of quinoa a while ago, mainly for it’s protein content.

    It’s a great alternative to rice / pasta!!

  8. A.J. November 1st, 2008

    This post has been in the back of my mind for months, but I finally went to the local grocery store and hunted down some quinoa.

    It was sorta pricey, about $7 for a small box, but it’s delicious! I’ll need to visit some other grocery stores and see if I can find it cheaper.

  9. Kerry November 1st, 2008

    @A.J. So happy you like it! Quinoa is an excellent source of protein! I buy mine in bulk, without a brand, so it’s A LOT cheaper. I’d say at $7 a box, your brand is probably being sold as a “specialty” product, therefore more expensive.

  10. Mandi January 12th, 2009

    Sautee kale, spinach and swiss chard with garlic. Add these vegetables along with fresh, raw cucumbers, tomatoes and avocados to cooked quinoa. Season with Braggs. Amazing and so many good greens!

  11. Daddyo March 15th, 2009

    I bought a pound of bulk quinoa at the store, not sure how to tell if it’s been pre washed?

  12. Kerry March 15th, 2009

    @Daddyo Great question. I’ve only found the pre-washed quinoa in bulk stores. If you look in the photo above the pre-washed variety is pictured on the left side. If yours looks different, I would suggest soaking it for a while to remove the husks. Hope this helps.

  13. Daddyo March 15th, 2009

    Oh, big difference. (looking at the picture). I see the husks now. I wasn’t clear on what was in the bowl on the right, silly me.
    I have the pre-washed stuff.
    Thanks Soooo much.

    BTW WHO lists quinoa as one of the super foods.

  14. Kerry March 16th, 2009

    @Daddyo Ahh. The quinoa pictured on the right is cooked. It gets really fluffy when done. :)

  15. Catgurl October 16th, 2009

    I also have just discovered Quinoa and really like it. I got mine from Costco for about $8.99 a bag of 1.36kg, and it was the pre-washed organic kind too, so even better!

    I just cook mine in the rice cooker and have it in a container in the fridge. When I have soups or stews, I add a few spoonfuls. Tastes yummy and really hits the spot!

    My mom also mentioned that they make dessert out if quinoa as well in my home country. We cook it with coconut milk and sugar. I will have to try it and let you know what it tastes like!

  16. Terry September 15th, 2010

    Does anyone have a recommendation for how to use as a substitute for breading when deep frying? I had an excellent dish of shrimp coated in quinoa.

  17. Brenda May 29th, 2012

    I made “MaQui & cheese” the other day – a version of macaroni & cheese using quinoa – it was delicious. My husband loved it and no bg spike!

  18. Cinderelladressmaker September 4th, 2012

    Great recipes! Could you please do us all a favour and duplicate the Costco quinoa salad? Thank you!

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