How to Cook Quinoa + Best Quinoa Recipes
Find out how to cook perfect fluffy quinoa. Plus get the best quinoa recipes from breakfast, to salad, to main dishes.
I’ve been asked a few times recently about cooking perfect fluffy quinoa. Several friends mentioned that their quinoa often turns out too mushy, and others had questions about the most delicious ways to use quinoa. Some just said they plain didn’t like it and wondered if there is a way to make it “taste good.” I get it – quinoa can be a little “blah” but it can be a really tasty, filling, nutritious ingredient too.
So I put together this comprehensive post all about quinoa: how to cook quinoa, tips and tricks, and my favorite quinoa recipes! You can think of this as the cousin to my How to Cook Lentils + the Best Lentil Recipes and How to Cook Chickpeas + Best Chickpea Recipes posts! Be sure to pin this post to Pinterest, as I plan to add more quinoa recipes as I make them!
What is Quinoa
While most people think of quinoa as a grain, it’s actually a seed. Quinoa plants are really cool looking: tall and skinny, in a variety of colors, covered in edible greens and seeds. If you have a green thumb (I don’t) you can even grow quinoa plants at home. And while those new to this ancient seed may feel like it’s a new vegan hippie ingredient, it’s actually been used for thousands of years. Quinoa is a complete plant-based protein that’s a delicious, hearty, and nutritious addition to many recipes from salads, to soups and stews, to breakfast bowls. It’s a great alternative to rice, cous cous, and other small grains.
Types of Quinoa:
- White: I personally use white quinoa most of the time as it has a mild flavor and soft texture that works well in salads.
- Red: I find red quinoa to have a nuttier flavor and chewier texture than white. It works well for heartier recipes like veggie burgers, but some people love it in breakfast porridge and salads too.
- Tricolor: A mix of white, red, and black quinoa.
Where to Buy Quinoa
You can find quinoa in most grocery stores (at least in the US) these days in the rice and grain aisle. Trader Joe’s carries both white and tricolor quinoa in bags. My recommendation is to go plastic-free and get your quinoa in the bulk bins at a grocery store like Whole Foods or Sprouts. It’s usually less expensive and better for the environment. Just ask if you can bring your own jars.
How to Cook Quinoa on the Stovetop
Stovetop is probably the most common way to cook quinoa, so I’ll focus on that method here. Keep reading for microwave, Instant Pot, and rice cooker instructions.
Step 1: Rinse and drain the quinoa unless using a pre-rinsed quinoa such as Ancient Harvest. Notice how much water is still left on the drained quinoa – this will affect how much water you want to add to the pan. A ratio of 1:2 (quinoa to water) is standard. If your quinoa is still wet from rinsing, you can reduce the water to about 1 3/4 cup per cup of quinoa.
Step 2: Add quinoa and water or vegetable broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Step 3: Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, undisturbed, until the water is absorbed. A glass lid is helpful here.
You’ll know the quinoa is done when it’s translucent, soft, and the white germ is visible.
Step 4: Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork.
How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker
You can cook quinoa in a rice cooker the same way you would cook rice. Simply add 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to the rice cooker and give it a stir. Cook as usual.
How to Cook Quinoa in the Microwave
Add 1 cup of quinoa and 1 3/4 cup water to a microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 4 minutes. Stir and continue microwaving for 2 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
How to Cook Quinoa in an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
I cook quinoa in the Instant Pot 90% of the time. For me it’s the easiest and most fool-proof. Keep in mind that less liquid is required for pressure cooking.
- 1 cup of quinoa and 1 1/4 cups water or broth
- Cook on rice mode then quick pressure release
- Or cook on manual mode for 5 minutes, then natural pressure release
- Don’t leave the quinoa in the pot on warm for more than 15 minutes or it may start to stick to the bottom and dry out
Tips & Tricks for Perfect Quinoa
- For more flavor cook in vegetable broth instead of water.
- To avoid mushy quinoa, use 1 3/4 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, rather than the often called for 2:1 ratio. If there is too much water at the end, simmer on low uncovered.
- Add flavor by seasoning with a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, or your favorite vinaigrette.
How to Use Quinoa
- Add to salads
- Simmer with soups
- A bed for Buddha Bowls
- Soak up Chickpea Curry
- As an oat alternative in porridge
- Stuffed in tomatoes, peppers, or squash
- In place of rice
- Bake in a Casserole
- Cook with warm broth while stirring to make quinoa risotto
Is Quinoa Gluten Free?
Yes! Quinoa is a great alternative to pasta, farro, and other gluten-filled grains. You can even find quinoa flour for baking. However, quinoa can be cross-contaminated during processing, so it’s always a good idea to check packaging if you’re sensitive.
How much does quinoa expand?
One cup of dry quinoa will equal about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
How many calories are in one cup of cooked quinoa?
According to VeryWellFit, one cup of quinoa has 222 calories. Though quinoa isn’t high in calories if high calorie ingredients like oil are added, that number will quickly rise.
How long does cooked quinoa last?
Cooked quinoa tends to dry out pretty quickly. To store it for later, let quinoa cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze.
Cooked quinoa lasts:
- Up to 2 hours at room temperature
- 3-5 days in the refrigerator
- 1-2 months in the freezer
Quinoa to Water Ratio: 1:2 is standard, but after rinsing I find using 1 1/2-1 3/4 cup water per cup of quinoa helps avoid soggy quinoa. How Long Does Quinoa Last: Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator 3-5 days or up to 2 months in the freezer. How to Cook Quinoa in Rice Cooker: Cook quinoa in the rice cooker just like you would cook rice, with a 1:2 ratio or a little less water if quinoa is wet from rinsing.
Nutrition Information: Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 222 Total Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrates: 39g Fiber: 5g Protein: 8g
Quinoa to Water Ratio: 1:2 is standard, but after rinsing I find using 1 1/2-1 3/4 cup water per cup of quinoa helps avoid soggy quinoa.
How Long Does Quinoa Last: Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator 3-5 days or up to 2 months in the freezer.
How to Cook Quinoa in Rice Cooker: Cook quinoa in the rice cooker just like you would cook rice, with a 1:2 ratio or a little less water if quinoa is wet from rinsing.