How to Cook Quinoa (+ 16 ways to use it!)

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It’s easy to cook the perfect pot of fluffy quinoa when you know the right method! You’ll love using this gluten-free grain in all of your favorite soups, salads, and side dishes. 

Overhead view of a bowl of quinoa on a wooden serving board. A spoon of quinoa is in front of the bowl.

Are certain ingredients or food groups that, when you think about it, you realize you eat way more often than you ever would have guessed?

For me, that’s quinoa.

It’s not something that I think about often, but I have SO MANY quinoa recipes and it’s always one of the first ingredients that I gravitate toward when I’m looking for a starch that’s a little off the beaten path. 

If you’ve ever wondered how to cook quinoa perfectly, I have your back!

What you’ll love about this foolproof quinoa recipe:


  • Prep ahead: Quinoa keeps well in the fridge, so you can cook once and have it at the ready throughout the week
  • Nutritious: A complete protein that’s high in fiber, gluten-free, and super delicious!
  • Versatile: Tasty as a side dish — or add it to your favorite soup or salad recipes 
A blue serving bowl of quinoa in front of a light grey background.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a nutritious superfood native to the Andes mountains in South America. Quinoa has grown in worldwide popularity over the past decade because it’s tasty, nutritious, and easy to grow in varied conditions. 

Although it’s technically a seed, it cooks up like whole grain and can be used in many recipes as a replacement for rice. 

Quinoa can be cooked whole, rolled into flakes and eaten like cereal, or ground into flour for gluten-free baking.

What does quinoa taste like?

Quinoa seeds have a mild, slightly nutty flavor that’s similar to brown rice.

I tried quinoa once and it tasted really bitter. What gives?

This is the worst! When prepared properly, quinoa should not be bitter at all. 

When it grows, quinoa is naturally coated with something called saponin, a compound with a bitter taste that helps deter predators like birds.

This natural coating isn’t harmful to ingest, but it definitely doesn’t taste great. Luckily, it’s easy to rinse away the bitter flavor under some water. 

Place your quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cool water for about 30 seconds, or until the water runs clear and all foam subsides. 

These days, most commercially sold quinoa is pre-rinsed but you should always check the packaging to be sure. And it never hurts to give it an extra rinse before cooking it just in case! 

Fun Fact

The word saponin is derived from sapo, which is Latin for “soap.” It foams up when you rinse it and even tastes a bit like soap does! 

How to cook quinoa

The trick to cooking perfect quinoa every time is to use the right ratio of quinoa to liquid.

You’ll also want to boil the quinoa and then let it steam to finish. This is the best method to ensure your quinoa will be light and fluffy — never wet and stodgy. 

The ratio I like to use is:

  • 1 part dry quinoa
  • 2 parts liquid

This means if you want to cook 1 cup of quinoa, you’ll need 2 cups of water.

Using 2 cups of quinoa? You’ll need 4 cups of liquid! 

To give your quinoa more flavor, try cooking it in chicken stock or veggie broth instead of water. You can also add a bay leaf or two. I also like to add a generous pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil.

How much quinoa should I make?

1/4 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa. Plan for 1/4 cup dry quinoa per person for most recipes.

Rinse your quinoa well, then combine it with your liquid in a small pot. Give it a stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the water has been absorbed. 

At this point, your quinoa will still look pretty wet and mushy. Remove the pot from the heat and place a cover on top. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork. Your quinoa will be nice and fluffy! 

At this point, you can season your quinoa with fresh herbs, garlic, or your favorite spices.

Quinoa is soft when the water is absorbed, but it will still be thick and mushy.
Fluffy quinoa after it's sat covered for 5 minutes -- ready to serve!

Are the measurements the same if you want to make a double batch?

The great part about using this method to cook quinoa is that you can make as much as you want!

The only thing that changes is that it might take longer for the water or broth to absorb during the initial simmer. For a small batch of quinoa, this will take about 10 minutes. For a big batch, it can take up to a half hour. 

What about different types of quinoa?

There are so many different varieties of quinoa: red, white, black, and even multicolor quinoa that’s a mix of them all!

There are some slight nutritional differences among the various colors, but they all cook with the same water ratio and taste similar, so go ahead and use whatever color you like best.

How to store cooked quinoa

Store leftover quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. You can also freeze it for up to a year.

What to do with quinoa?

You can use quinoa in place of rice or other grains in so many recipes, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy this pseudo-grain: 

A bowl of cooked quinoa with a serving spoon.
How to Cook Quinoa (+ 16 ways to use it!) 1

How to Cook Quinoa

How to cook perfectly fluffy quinoa every time!
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Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to cook quinoa, quinoa recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 165kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  • Place the dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cold water for 20-30 seconds, swirling it around, until the water runs clear and any foam subsides.
  • Pour the rinsed quinoa into a small pot on the stove top. Stir in the water and olive oil.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until the water is absorbed (abotu 10. minutes).
  • Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff the quinoa with a form and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Quinoa
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 165 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 239mg7%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 3g13%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 6IU0%
Calcium 24mg2%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
By on May 11th, 2022

About Lauren

Hi, I'm Lauren! I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie.

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