Learn how to cook quinoa with these basic methods and you'll have light and fluffy quinoa every single time! With a step-by-step video too!
There are many schools of thought on how to cook quinoa, but personally, I like to go the old school route: just water and a stove. If you're just getting started, I suggest watching the video above. It will show you my fool-proof method for cooking the perfect, fluffiest pot of quinoa possible.
Once you get comfortable with my basic method, I recommend starting to play around and find what works best for you and your family. This page will show you the most popular ways for cooking quinoa, with personal tips and tricks from me.
How To Cook Quinoa
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- 1/2 cup raw quinoa (80g)
- 1/4 tsp salt – optional
- 1 2/3 cup water
- optional 2 tsp oil
How to cook quinoa: In a strainer, rinse quinoa and drain. Bring a small pot with the 1 2/3 cup water to a boil, then add the quinoa and all optional ingredients. Lower the heat to the lowest simmer, and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, covered, then do not open the lid but turn off the heat completely. Let sit an additional 20 minutes, covered. After this time, the quinoa should be light and fluffy. If it’s still too liquidy for some reason, simply turn the heat back on and stir for a few minutes until fluffy.
NOTE: When found in nature, quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins. These occur naturally in the quinoa to prevent insects from eating the plant. Most packaged quinoa will be pre-washed; however it is always a good idea to wash the quinoa again just in case.
View Quinoa Nutrition Facts
Edit: How To Make Quinoa – The Quick Way!
- 1 cup raw quinoa (160g)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups water
Instructions: In a strainer, rinse quinoa well. Drain. Now combine the raw quinoa with the other ingredients and bring to a boil uncovered. When it starts to boil, cover and simmer (or cook on low if your “simmer” is too gentle like mine is) 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy.
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How to Cook Quinoa
On your stovetop
Just like rice, quinoa is very easy to cook on the stove. Simply add you water and quinoa into a small saucepan, turn on high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to a simmer for 8 – 15 minutes (depending on how much quinoa you are cooking). You'll know the quinoa is done cooking when the water has been absorbed and the germ has separated from the seed. (it looks like a little, white curly-q)
As I said before, this is my favorite method of cooking quinoa. I enjoy that it's easy to monitor as I’m preparing the rest of my meal. Because it's right there on the stove next to me, I don't have to worry about burning or overcooking it.
Using a rice cooker
When cooking quinoa in a rice cooker, you treat it exactly as you would white or brown rice. Add your water and quinoa into the cooker and turn it on. The rice cooker should automatically turn off or switch to the “warming” setting when the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is ready. (it does this by weight so the cooking time will vary depending on how much quinoa you're making)
I will say that when using a rice cooker, you should carefully monitor how the quinoa is cooking as it gets close to being done. Personally, I have overcooked it before and had the quinoa stick and burn to the bottom of pan…not fun to eat and most definitely not fun to clean.
The boil & drain method
Another way to cook quinoa, which I have to admit I've never tried, is cooking it just like you would pasta. Using this method, you cook the quinoa in twice as much water as you would using a simmering technique (so 4 cups water to 1 cup quinoa) and then drain the quinoa after it looks done.
How do you know when it's done? Just watch for the separation between the germ and the seed to signify that it’s ready to be drained. If you’re using this method, I would suggest draining the cooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. You don’t want to lose any of those little seeds down the drain!
I will admit, I have never tried this method and honestly don’t really see the point. If this is how you roll when your quinoa cooking, then more power to you, but I think the other two methods above are way easier.
Added to slow cooker meals
Who doesn't love slow cooker meals, right? And I'm going to tell how you can add even more nutrients to your favorite slow cooker meal by cooking it with quinoa.
Quinoa can simply be added to your favorite soup, stew, chili or casserole. Really any recipe that you would integrate pasta or rice, you can use quinoa instead.
A few tips for cooking quinoa in a slow cooker:
- Make sure you have enough liquid to support the cooking process. For example, add an extra cup of liquid for 1 cup of quinoa.
- Add uncooked quinoa halfway through the cooking process and let it simmer away. It will absorb some of the liquid so don’t be afraid if your meal starts a little watery.
This might be a new way of cooking for you, so if that's the case, check out this vegetarian chili recipe to get you started.
What you need to cook quinoa in the microwave..
Then all you need to do is microwave (covered), stir, microwave more, and let steam!
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Prep your lunch or dinner for the entire week with these Healthy Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken Bowls
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 8 mins
- Total Time: 13 minutes
- First, begin by rinsing your quinoa under warm water to remove residue.
- Then, place in a microwave-safe bowl or container and add in 2 cups of water. Cover with a lid (I used a plate) and cook quinoa for 6 minutes. Remove and stir. At this point, more than half the water should be absorbed. Place back in the microwave for about 2 more minutes. Then, let sit covered for an additional 5-10 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: ~ 1 cup cooked
- Calories: 636
- Sodium: 36
- Fat: 10
- Carbohydrates: 117
- Fiber: 10
- Protein: 22
I know you guys love quinoa as much as I do because the quinoa recipes on FFF are some of the most popular, so get ready for a bajillion and one quinoa recipes coming your way! For now, get inspired and make one of these lovely quinoa casserole recipes!
Get a $1 using Ancient Harvest’s coupon HERE.
This post is sponsored by Ancient Harvest Quinoa. I was compensated and all opinions are my own.
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How to Cook Quinoa
Although quinoa can act as a substitute for rice, it doesn’t cook exactly like rice.
You need to know the proper way to cook quinoa or else you’re going to get an extremely crunchy, unsatisfying meal.
Quinoa should have a texture that is going to remind you of rice. Besides, how many people actually want nothing but crunch in every bite they take?
The amount of crunch or lack of crunch you have is going to be determined by how you cook the quinoa.
It’s not a hard process, but you need to pay attention to it during the entire cooking process.
If you want to get a normal taste that isn’t bitter or soapy, then you need to rinse your quinoa.
All you need to do is put the quinoa in a strainer and run water over it.
You need to do this because quinoa has a natural coating on it called saponin. The easiest way to get it off is to rinse it off. It’s just like rinsing dirt off your skin.
You may read some things that suggest soaking the quinoa for some amount of time, but this is a step that’s unnecessary. Thoroughly rinsing the quinoa should be enough to get the saponin off.
If you buy boxed quinoa then you may not have to rinse it since a lot of the time, boxed quinoa is already rinsed for you.
You’re going to be making your quinoa in a pot. It’s just the easiest way to do things. Like I said it’s similar in a lot of ways to rice.
For every cup of quinoa that you use, you’re going to want to add 2 cups of water to the pot. Quinoa is going to absorb liquid while you’re cooking it so it’s important to have enough water.
If you don’t have enough quinoa then it’s going to end up getting hard or burning. This is something we definitely don’t want to happen. You’ll have to start over with brand new quinoa.
If you don’t want to use water, you can use a broth of your choosing. This is going to add a bit more flavor to your quinoa which is going to add another dynamic to any recipe you may be making.
Once you have the quinoa and liquid ready, put them in the pot and bring the pot to a boil.
After you’ve brought the bought to a boil, you’re going to need to turn the heat down enough so that your quinoa can start simmering.
This can be difficult because some people may either keep the heat too hot or turn it down too low.
You need to try and find that right balance of heat. To see if you’ve got the right temperature for a simmer you should still see some heat bubbles.
The quinoa should still be hot to the point where it looks like parts of it are boiling.
Think of movies where you’ve seen a volcano and the lava was slightly bubbling. This is how the pot should look during it’s simmering stage.
Once you’ve got the right temperature, let the quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes.
It’s important to occasionally stir the quinoa to ensure that you don’t have any sticking to the pan.
Another point that should be mentioned is that you want to keep the quinoa covered during this step. If you don’t keep it covered too much heat is going to escape and this could cause you to have to keep the heat level higher than it should be.
When you cover the quinoa, the heat level doesn’t need to be nearly as high so you can get a much better cook of the quinoa.
Nothing is more discouraging than finishing the cooking process but realizing you can only eat half of what you made since the other half is stuck to the pan.
After the simmering process, you’re going to want to take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. This is going to complete the cooking process.
Make sure the quinoa stays covered. You don’t want any heat escaping the pot for those 5 minutes.
The quinoa isn’t quite done when you first take the pot off the heat. This is why we let the quinoa sit for about 5 minutes.
Doing this is also going to allow the quinoa to absorb the rest of the liquid. Quinoa should not be served as a soup type food.
It’s great when you add it to soup, but if you have an excess amount of liquid still in the pot, you should really consider cooking the quinoa a little longer.
You may also want to consider starting over with a new batch of quinoa because if you cook the quinoa longer, you could overcook it. This is going to leave an unsatisfying taste in your mouth when you start eating it.
After those steps, your quinoa should be ready to eat.
Take the lid off the pot and use a fork to stir around the quinoa.
Once you see that there is no liquid in the pot, you are ready to serve the quinoa. However, if you do see any excess liquid, you’re going to want to put the pot back on the stove as I mentioned earlier.
If you do have to cook the quinoa longer, make sure it’s only 5 minutes at a time. This almost ensures that you aren’t going to overcook the quinoa and restart.
How to Cook Quinoa: Basic Guide
The three best way to cook quinoa are: on the stove, in a rice cooker, or in a pressure cooker. Each one has its merits. This basic guide walks you through how to cook quinoa each way.
How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove
Cooking quinoa on the stove is a lot like cooking white rice. This method takes the longest (about 25 minutes total) but doesn’t require any special kitchen gadgets.
- Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water or broth in a saucepan or Dutch oven.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes. Your quinoa is ready when all of the water is absorbed.
The time variation depends on the type of quinoa you use. Packaged quinoa will have directions on it, just like rice or pasta, so check the label if you’d rather not monitor the pot for that last 5 minutes.
How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker
Realizing that I could cook quinoa in my rice cooker was a game-changer. No need to monitor a thing. Rice cookers are pretty budget-friendly, and since you can use them to cook any grain except steel cut oats, they’re a great investment!
- Stir 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water together in your rice cooker, turn it on, and when it pops, you’re ready to eat.
- If your cooker has white and brown rice settings, choose white.
How to Cook Quinoa in a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot (2 ways!)
If time is of the essence, your pressure cooker is your best friend. A pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, is the most pricey gadget for cooking quinoa, but it’s also the fastest. Pressure cookers are versatile, so you will use it even more than a rice cooker. If you need help picking the right one for you, check out Kathy Hester’s FAQ to slow cookers and pressure cookers.
Quinoa takes just minutes to cook in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. My Instant Pot instructions say to cook for 8 minutes, but I’ve had much more consistent results when I let it go a bit longer. 10 minutes is still only 2/3 the time it takes on the stove!
- Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a colander, transfer to your cooker, add 2 cups water or broth, and lock the lid.
- Cook for 10 minutes on high pressure (“manual” on the Instant Pot), then release the pressure manually.
You can also use a natural release to reduce the cooking time further. My friend JL Fields gave me permission to excerpt the 1-minute quinoa recipe from her (amazing) cookbook, Vegan Pressure Cooking:
“Quinoa cooks up in one minute in the pressure cooker. You read that right! One minute at pressure and then allow for a natural release (up to ten minutes). Make this hearty grain staple—which is actually a seed (and an honorary legume)—and use it in endless dishes.
- 1 cup (175 g) quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) water or broth
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
- Rinse and drain the quinoa. Place all the ingredients in the pressure cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cover and bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Allow for a natural release; if after 10 minutes the pressure has still not come down fully, manually release. Fluff and serve. Yield: 4 servings”
Where to Buy Quinoa
Now that quinoa is super popular, you can find it at almost any grocery store alongside the other whole grains. If you’re looking for a bargain, though, buying quinoa in bulk is your best option. Whole Foods and natural grocery stores usually stock quinoa in their bulk bins. Since you’re paying for the grain and not the packaging, you save some cash this way.
If you do buy your quinoa in bulk, I’d recommend storing it in an airtight container to keep it fresh. Regular mouth quart-sized mason jars work well, because they hold a lot, are air tight, and are easy to pour from. I also like mason jars for storing bulk grains because you can see at a glance what’s in your pantry.
Having trouble finding quinoa at the store or looking to branch out into some more interesting types? You can shop online for quinoa. Sometimes online prices are better than in-store, and you can find interesting varieties, too!
When you’re shopping for quinoa, look for organic and Fair Trade on the labels. Quinoa can be produced very responsibly, and these certifications ensure that the quinoa you’re buying is as good for the planet as it is for your body. Read more about the ethics of shopping for quinoa here.
If you want to broaden your quinoa horizons, I can’t recommend Alter Eco’s Rainbow Quinoa enough. It’s a blend of white, red, and black quinoa and is lovely in soups, salads, and as the base for grain bowls. The white is mild and chewy, the red has a nutty flavor similar to brown rice, and the black gives this mix just a little bit of crunch.
Got your quinoa ready? Let’s look at some great quinoa recipes and quinoa salad recipes!