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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!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

One cup of uncooked, dry quinoa will yield about 3-4 cups cooked (depending on how much you fluff it). 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, some of which we found incredibly helpful in researching and writing this article:

How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}


  1. Hi there, I’ve just bought my first packet of Quinoa flakes.
    I decided to egg and ‘breadcrumb’ my pieces of raw chicken but used the Quinoa flakes instead of breadcrumbs.
    I then fried them in hot olive oil each side and finished off in the oven.
    Is this ok to do this or do they have to be boiled in water first?

    1. Hi Dawn! That’s a terrific nutritional upgrade, swapping quinoa flakes for traditional breadcrumbs! I’ve never tried that specific application, but I know it’s one suggested use for quinoa flakes (no need to pre-boil), and it surely sounds like it worked well for you – I’d definitely keep doing that and taking advantage of the extra health kick the quinoa brings.

      I did find one further idea I wanted to pass along, in case you want to try it – an article that suggests you can process the quinoa flakes in a food processor or spice grinder first, to create a more finely textured powder for breading the chicken (https://oureverydaylife.com/substitute-quinoa-breadcrumbs-27608.html). I think that’s a matter of personal preference, and the exact texture you’re going for in your breading, but it’s an idea I hadn’t thought of before and wanted to suggest.

      Also, I found a terrific article on Simply Quinoa with specific recipe ideas using quinoa flakes (https://www.simplyquinoa.com/10-amazing-ways-to-use-quinoa-flakes/) – I thought you might enjoy looking through that if you’re trying to use up your bag of quinoa flakes, and wanted to pass it along, since we don’t have any recipes specifically for quinoa flakes here on our own blog (at least not yet! 😉 ).

      Hope all this info helps you out – thanks for the great question! ~Shelley

    1. Hi there! What were you hoping to do with the quinoa? Can you give me a little more info on what quinoa cooking methods you’re asking about? Typically, you cook quinoa before adding it to things like salads (like in our Quinoa Chicken Salad or our Kale and Quinoa Tabouli, for instance), but we do have a terrific Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake recipe in which the quinoa actually cooks along with all the other ingredients in the casserole, as the casserole bakes. Also, just like with our Chicken Tortilla Soup, quinoa is a great addition to soups and chilis where it can simmer with the other ingredients. I hope that helps, but please let me know if I can clarify further. ~Shelley

  2. How does quiona affect swallowing ? Hope it doesn’t block your passage way to swallow like philum husk.

    1. That’s a really interesting question, Freda. I’ve never experienced any problems or known of anyone who did, but I went ahead and did a quick Google search for you to see if I could find anything about this, and I didn’t turn up any reference to people having trouble with this. That’s not a very definitive answer, I know, but I hope it helps! ~Shelley

    1. 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: http://www.superhealthykids.com/make-quinoa-flour/.

      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

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