Learn how to cook perfectly fluffy and flavorful Quinoa every time with my easy step-by-step instructions, tips, and tricks. You’ll be a quinoa-cooking pro in no time!
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced “kēnwä” or “KEEN-wah”) is a flowering plant grown for its edible seeds. When compared to many other grains, quinoa is higher in protein (containing all nine essential amino acids), dietary fiber, B vitamins, and minerals (source).
Technically, quinoa is not a grass, and therefore not a cereal grain, but rather a pseudo-cereal (source). A pseudocereal is any type of non-grass used in the same way as cereals. With their seeds either ground into flour or used as a cereal (all true cereals are grasses). Other types of pseudocereals include buckwheat, amaranth, and chia.
A modern-day “superfood”, quinoa was cultivated and consumed by the people of the Incan Empire who considered it to be sacred and the “mother of all grains”.
Coming in three main types, red, white, and black, all quinoa is non-GMO, gluten-free, and while it is not technically a cereal grain, it is still considered a whole-grain food.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many varieties of quinoa are there?
According to the Whole Grains Council, there are approximately 120 known varieties of quinoa. However, the most common types of this whole grain are red, white, and black.
- Red quinoa: has a somewhat heavier, nuttier texture and taste. Given it’s heavier texture, red quinoa holds its shape better after cooking, making it a great choice for use in cold salads or dishes that could use a little extra color.
- White quinoa: the most common variety found in stores. Generally, the lightest and fluffiest of the three once cooked.
- Black quinoa: the least common of the two, black quinoa has a similar texture to the red variety, but has a somewhat earthier, sweeter taste when compared to white quinoa.
Why do I need to rinse my quinoa?
So what is the purpose of rinsing quinoa, anyway? Well, rinsing removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which makes it taste bitter and soapy. Fortunately, most boxed quinoa sold here in the states comes pre-washed so there’s no need for anything more than a light rinse.
What is the proper quinoa to water ratio?
For every one cup of quinoa, you will need 1 and 3/4 cups of liquid. Use water, or add a little extra flavor by replacing the water with vegetable broth or chicken broth.
Is Quinoa Healthy?
For every 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa (source):
- Calories: 222
- Carbs: 39 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA
- Folate: 19% of the RDA
- Copper: 18% of the RDA
- Iron: 15% of the RDA
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA
- Potassium 9% of the RDA
How to Cook Quinoa
1. Rinse Quinoa
Just like cooking rice, we need to rinse the dry quinoa before cooking. Place 1 measured cup of uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cold, running water, then drain and set aside.
Grab a medium-sized pot or pan and set it over medium to medium-high heat. Add approximately 2 teaspoons of oil. Once the oil is warm, stir in any desired spices or flavors. I added ground cumin, ground onion, and ground garlic. Any added spices and herbs are completely optional.
Add the drained quinoa and stir to coat in olive oil. Toast the quinoa, stirring continuously, for 1-2 minutes. Toasting helps accentuate the naturally nutty flavor in the quinoa.
Note: Broth or stock typically contains added sodium, pick reduced-sodium store-bought options, or reduce the total amount of added salt. Remember, you can always add additional salt after your quinoa has been cooked.
Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce your stove to low heat. Season with salt and pepper (see the note above). Cover the pot and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes.
Do not remove the lid from the pot. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
5. Fluff and Serve
Remove the lid, and gently fluff with a fork. Season with any additional salt and pepper, to taste, or season with fresh herbs including freshly chopped parsley or cilantro.
Serve your fluffy quinoa with all your favorite dinnertime recipes. Enjoy!
There are so many amazing uses for this tiny little seed. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
So many salad recipes: This is actually my favorite way to enjoy (and eat more!) quinoa. Make sure to fully cool your quinoa before adding to any salad, especially if it’s filled with leafy greens like spinach. This Beet, Avocado, and Quinoa Salad with Herb Vinaigrette is one of my all-time favorite salads, ever.
- Cool completely
- Transfer single-serving portions to freezer-safe reusable bags
- Squeeze out as much air as possible
- Transfer to the freezer
Swap out the rice in your favorite casseroles: rice casseroles like this Chicken Broccoli Casserole are absolutely delicious. Swap the rice for quinoa for an instant bump in protein and fiber without compromising on taste. Try this Easy Mexican Quinoa Casseroleor this BBQ Chicken Quinoa Casserole.
Add it to your holiday table: Stuffing may be a favorite come the holidays, but this holiday try swapping (or adding) this Quinoa Salad with Garlic Roasted Butternut Squash, Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash, or Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Cranberry Salad.
More Easy Side Dish Recipes,
If you try making this Quinoa Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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How to Cook Quinoa
- Place 1 measured cup of quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse well with water, drain, and set aside.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium-sized pot or saucepan set over medium heat. Swirl to coat the entire surface of your pan. Stir in desired spices (optional) followed by the rinsed and drained dried quinoa. Toast the quinoa, stirring continuously, for 1-2 minutes.
- Add 1 and 3/4 cup vegetable broth (what I used), or water, low-sodium chicken broth, or even beef or bone broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce your stove to low heat. Season with salt and pepper. If I'm using broth (homemade or store-bought), I will start with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. If I'm using water, I will add a full teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes.
- With the lid still on, remove the pot from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, and gently fluff with a fork. Season with any additional salt and pepper, to taste, or season with fresh herbs including freshly chopped parsley or cilantro.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)