How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!)

~ Seems everybody’s loving quinoa recipes these days. But are you wondering just exactly how you cook quinoa? Maybe looking for a few quinoa cooking tips and tricks? Or curious about quinoa nutrition and what exactly all the buzz is about? Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve developed quite a few quinoa recipes over the years, so we’ve got lots of experience making perfect quinoa for any recipe! ~

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is one of the hot topics in America’s food scene, especially for health-conscious foodies. Here at Two Healthy Kitchens, we love it, too! In fact, on our Pinterest boards, some of our most repinned recipes are those that include quinoa. People just can’t get enough! In its April 2013 issue, Cooking Light magazine even said that “quinoa” is one of the most searched terms at their web site. It’s that popular!

Recently, we posted one of our favorite quinoa recipes – Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette. As excited as everyone is to cook with quinoa, though, some people are still a little unsure where to begin. Never fear – we’re here to help!

But really, why is quinoa all the rage? Good question! It’s definitely not a superstar because of its fashion sense (ever notice the funny little tails it has – what’s up with that???). Really, though, if you’ve ever tried quinoa, you know that it’s delicious but also really mild and neutral tasting – kind of like rice – so it plays nicely with just about any flavors you want to add. Savory, sweet, Mexican, Mediterannean … with quinoa, it’s all good!

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}

Quinoa is usually lumped into discussions about whole grains, along with others like barley, amaranth, spelt and oats. But, technically, quinoa isn’t a cereal grain at all. (According to the Whole Grains Council, quinoa is actually botanically related to beets, chard and spinach – just a little fun fact!) Still, it’s cooked and eaten like grains and has a similar nutrient profile, and you often see it used in recipes in place of oats (like in hot breakfast cereal), rice and other whole grains.

What’s really fantastic about quinoa is that it’s one of the only plants that has all the amino acids needed to be a complete protein (great for vegetarians!), and it has a very high ratio of protein to carbohydrates. The carbs it does have, though, are complex carbs, so, like other whole grains, quinoa will help you feel full longer and is a better source of sustained energy than simple carbs. Plus, quinoa is loaded with goodies like fiber, potassium, magnesium and iron. And it’s gluten free!

Depending on your grocery store, you’re probably most likely to find quinoa in the organic/natural foods section or near the rice and couscous. It’s usually in small boxes or bags, about 12-16 ounces each.

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}

Cooking quinoa is a snap – really! It’s quick and easy, which is just another reason why we love it here at THK!

You may have heard that quinoa needs to be rinsed first, and sometimes that’s true. Quinoa has a coating called saponin which is quite bitter. (That’s why you want to rinse it away!) Oooooooh – another fun fact for you: The bitter saponin layer protects the growing quinoa against pests, which is why it’s so easy to grow quinoa without pesticides and why quinoa is often able to be sold as organic – bonus!

Sometimes, though, you can skip the whole rinsing step (we love skipping steps!), as some quinoa will say right on the package that it’s pre-rinsed. If that’s not labeled or you’re just not sure, go ahead and rinse it in a sieve under running water until the water’s clear. It won’t take but a moment and can remove any residual bitter taste. (Some people prefer to rinse even pre-rinsed quinoa, just to be certain there’s no bitter taste left. But, honestly, here at Two Healthy Kitchens, we don’t bother. We’ll leave that decision up to you, though!)

Next, just follow the directions on your package. (Red quinoa, for example, may need a slightly longer cook time.) Typically, you just dump quinoa and water together in a saucepan with twice the amount of water as quinoa (for example, 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Bring it to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}

Clever little quinoa even has its own “doneness” indicator! Those weird tails you see on cooked quinoa (they’re actually the kernel’s germ) – they come out as the quinoa cooks! You may want to give the quinoa a quick fluff with a fork, and you’re good to go!

Most brands of quinoa specify that you can also prepare it in a rice cooker, following your manufacturer’s directions for white rice. And, you may see suggestions for cooking quinoa in the microwave. But, with no real time savings and potentially inconsistent results, microwaving isn’t our favorite cooking method for quinoa. Bottom line: Quinoa is super-easy to prepare and you can choose whatever cooking method works best for you (we love that kind of flexibility!).

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}

One cup of uncooked, dry quinoa will yield about 3 cups cooked. You can cook more than the exact amount you need for a specific recipe and store the extra in the fridge for a few days to add into soups, chilis, salads, breakfast oatmeals … or, try our delicious recipes for:

For other quinoa recipe ideas, check out:

For more information on quinoa’s nutrition profile and how to cook it, hop over to these great sites, which we found incredibly helpful in researching and writing this article:

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Have you tried cooking with quinoa? Scroll down to our comments box and tell us about your quinoa success stories (or any quinoa disasters – sometimes kitchen goofs make the best stories, anyway!). We can’t wait to hear from you!

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How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}
How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {}


How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) — 22 Comments

    • If I understand your question correctly, what you’d basically be doing by grinding the quinoa in a coffee grinder is making quinoa flour. That’s absolutely a terrific thing to do with quinoa! Here’s an entire article about grinding your own quinoa flour, as well as some ideas for recipes to use it:

      However, after grinding the quinoa (since what you end up with is actually a fine flour), I don’t think you’ll be happy with the result if you then cook it in water as you would whole quinoa. It will no longer perform in the same way once ground – so you’re better off using it in different ways at that point – basically, as a flour.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for the great question! ~Shelley

  1. Do quinoa flakes need to be cooked? I’ve been putting them raw into a protein shake but am wondering now if this isn’t such a good idea. Also, I used to make a couscous salad where the couscous is soaked in pair juice. Can I do the same with quinoa or would it need to be cooked first? If so, could it still be soaked in the pair juice after being cooked or is it a non-starter? TIA.

    • Hi Ben! First, I apologize for the delay in responding to your great questions – we were away last week on a big, extended-family vacation, and I’m just today getting back into the “office.”

      The key to making sure that your body can access quinoa’s nutrients seems to be in making sure that you actually digest the quinoa – that it doesn’t pass through whole. This can include cooking it … or using it in a way that has been cracked, rolled, ground into flour, etc. I found a couple of great articles for you that go into more detail about a variety of ways to NOT cook quinoa. I think you’l find them really interesting and a great extension of the information we compiled on how to cook quinoa. I hope they’re helpful! and and

      Thanks so much for the terrific question! ~Shelley

    • Hi Monica! Thanks for the question! You don’t need to rinse the quinoa AFTER cooking. You simply fluff it (much like you would with rice). If your brand of quinoa isn’t pre-rinsed (or you aren’t sure if it is), you’ll want to rinse it BEFORE cooking, to rinse away any bitter saponins that might be left after harvest. As we mentioned, it’s really easy to do – just rinse the uncooked quinoa in a sieve under running water until the water runs clear. Then, proceed with cooking. I hope that helps! Have a wonderful day! 🙂 ~Shelley

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  4. Love your site! I only recently started using quinoa but am hooked! Since I am the only one in my family who eats it, I make smaller batches and find 1/2 cup cooked is plenty.

    So far, I’ve tried the following ways to eat it:
    Served warm with veggies and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
    1/2 cup cooked, warmed in a sauce pan with 1/2 cup mexi-blend cheese and a little milk to melt it all together.
    Also love it warm with a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips!
    1 cup milk, 1/2 cup uncooked, cook as usual, add a little brown sugar and some fresh fruit! Great breakfast!
    I am a Quinoa convert!

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  11. I’ve loved it since discovering it in Peru several years ago. Glad you can find it here – in all it’s pretty colors. In additon to red, there is also a blue version.
    One of my favorites combines cooked quiona with cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, olive oil, garlic,basil, walnuts, dash of salt and parmesan for a main dish.

    • Oh, Judy! You have us absolutely drooling with that description of your favorite quinoa recipe! Can’t wait to try it – thank you so much for sharing! Of course, it would probably taste even more spectacular if eaten in Peru! ~G&S

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