How to Cook Quinoa (a step-by-step guide + recipes!)


Random cravings. I get them all the time. Could be due to the fact that I’m pregnant, but in fact, I go through these weird phases where I’ll eat the same thing for a month straight. Does that ever happen to you?

Just this past month I’ve been obsessed with all things made with buffalo sauce. Plus honeycrisp apples, blueberry bagels with jalapeno cream cheese, kale smoothies, veggies burgers, pineapple, greek yogurt with strawberries, and of course, my favorite little grain: quinoa!

uncooked quinoa in a bowl

What is quinoa?

While quinoa looks and behaves like a grain, it’s actually a seed that comes from a flowering plant! It has been used in South American cooking for thousands of years and more recently became a “superfood” here in the U.S.

Different types of quinoa

  • Seeds. Quinoa seeds themselves come in white, red and black varieties, so you’ll usually see bags labeled individually or as “tricolor quinoa” with all three. White quinoa takes the shortest amount of time to cook, followed by red quinoa and then black quinoa.
  • Flour. You can also make flour out of quinoa that’s a great, gluten free flour to bake with! Try out my AMAZING quinoa flour chocolate chip cookies.
  • Flakes. Quinoa also comes in flakes, which just means that the quinoa seeds have been pressed & rolled to look and act like a rolled oat. A great way to enjoy quinoa for breakfast!

Taste & texture

  • Taste. Quinoa has a slightly nutty taste to it, which makes it perfect for adding to your favorite dishes or simply seasoning it with a few basic flavors.
  • Texture. Once cooked, quinoa has a fluffy and slightly chewy texture like rice but is smaller in size like couscous. I use it in both sweet & savory recipes!

cooked quinoa in a bowl with a spoon

Health benefits of quinoa

Not only is quinoa delicious & versatile, but it’s also filled with a range of amazing health benefits!

  • Gluten free. Quinoa is naturally gluten free, making it a great whole grain alternative to those with gluten intolerances or allergies.
  • Protein & fiber. One cup of cooked quinoa packs 8g of protein and 5g of fiber. More than regular rice while being lower in carbs and calories. Quinoa is also a complete protein, which means it has all essential amino acids that we can’t produce on our own. Pretty impressive for a plant!
  • Vitamins & minerals. Quinoa also had a great amount of magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc that we may not get enough of. It’s also high in antioxidants compared to other grains.
  • Blood sugar. Unlike processed grains, quinoa has a low glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar. Something that’s great for staying full & satisfied without crashing later on.

Another thing that’s wonderful? Quinoa cooks in only 15 minutes, which makes it perfect to store in the fridge and add to your weeknight dinner menu or toss in your lunch. Of course, making sure you know how to properly cook quinoa will make your meals that much better.

a bowl of cooked quinoa with a spoon

How to cook quinoa

Step 1: rinse your quinoa

You’re probably wondering why we rinse the quinoa first. Quinoa can be pretty bitter if you do not properly rinse it before you cook it because it has a natural coating of a substance called saponin that prevents birds from eating it. To rinse this off, simply place 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it a few times under cool water.

rinsing quinoa with a strainer

Step 2: use the right cooking liquid & ratio

Start with a 1:2 ratio: one part quinoa, two parts water or other cooking liquid (chicken broth, milk, etc). I use 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of liquid, which will make about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. If you want you can double that to make a larger batch. Using different liquids brings a bigger flavor dimension to the quinoa, but water is great too:

  • Milk. Typically if I’m making breakfast quinoa, I cook it in milk. I especially love coconut milk!
  • Broth. If I’m making it as a savory side dish, I’ll cook my quinoa in a chicken or vegetable broth for a bit of flavor from the salt.
  • Water. Cooking your quinoa in water will also work great (and is what we’re using in this tutorial).

pouring water into a pot of quinoa

Step 3: cook the quinoa

If you’ve ever wondered how long to cook quinoa, I’ve got the exact timing and tip for you! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add quinoa and water or broth to a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for exactly 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes remove the pot from the heat and let stand covered for another 5-10 minutes. No peeking!

cooked quinoa in a pot

Step 4: fluff the quinoa with a fork

The quinoa will pop upon cooking and expand. To help separate the grains, use a fork and fluff the quinoa. Add in fruit, nuts, milk, spices, or whatever your heart desires, or serve it in one of these great recipes below.

fluffing quinoa in a pot with a fork

How to store cooked quinoa

Let the quinoa cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Then simply store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.

Can you freeze cooked quinoa?

Actually, yes! To freeze it simply let it cool completely and then place it in airtight, freezer-friendly bags or containers. To reheat it you’ll let it thaw in the refrigerator or at room temp before microwaving it.

cauliflower quinoa salad on a plate

Delicious ways to use quinoa

Once you’ve learned how to make perfect quinoa, it’s time to creative adding it to amazing recipes. Not only is quinoa delicious in tons of different salads, sides and even pancakes, it’s also super tasty on its own with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper or even some parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. YUM. Here are more recipes to try:

Looking for more? Get all of our best quinoa recipes here!

I hope you love this easy, step-by-step tutorial on how to cook quinoa! If you try this method be sure to leave a comment & a rating so I know how it turned out. Enjoy, xo!

How to Cook the Best Fluffy Quinoa

Learn exactly how to cook quinoa on the stovetop and add it to all of your favorite recipes! With this step-by-step tutorial, you’ll learn how long to cook quinoa so it’s nice and fluffy, how to make it taste good on its own and plenty of new ways to use it. Our best quinoa recipes included!

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water or broth of choice
  1. Rinse your quinoa: place 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it a few times under cool water.

  2. Add quinoa and water or broth to a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for exactly 15 minutes.

  3. After 15 minutes, remove the pot from heat and let stand covered for another 5-10 minutes.

  4. Next, fluff quinoa with a fork and serve. Makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

To store: Let the quinoa cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Then simply store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.

To freeze: simply let it cool completely and then place it in airtight, freezer-friendly bags or containers. To reheat it you’ll let it thaw in the refrigerator or at room temp before microwaving it.

Nutrition

Servings: 4 servings

Serving size: 0.75 cups cooked quinoa

Calories: 160kcal

Fat: 2.5g

Carbohydrates: 29g

Fiber: 3g

Protein: 6g

Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats



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