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Once you know how to cook quinoa to fluffy, tender perfection, you’ll want to add this protein- and fiber-rich whole grain to your menu or meal prep every week.

Cooked quinoa in a sliver bowl with someone spooning some out.

Quinoa, (pronounced keen-wah) is often considered a whole grain, but is actually the seed of a plant that is related to leafy greens, similar to spinach and chard.

This plant has a fascinating heritage. Quinoa originated in and around the Andes Mountains, and was cultivated in Peru and Bolivia by pre-Columbian civilizations, who used it for thousands of years as a staple in their diet. To this day, quinoa is still grown in South America, but its popularity and growing regions have now spread globally.

Quinoa is supremely healthy, delivering a good dose of fiber and protein. But what I love more than quinoa’s nutrition facts is the fact that it has a mild, creamy, nutty taste and fluffy, slightly-crunchy texture that works well in almost any recipe that calls for rice, couscous, or another whole grain.

Instead of buying it at the deli counter or in those shelf-stable packages pre-cooked, invest 25 minutes in my foolproof method for how to cook quinoa and you’ll save so much money.

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredient notes
  2. Step-by-step instructions
  3. Recipe tips and variations
  4. Recipe FAQ
  5. How to Cook Quinoa Recipe

Ingredient notes

  • Quinoa: Dry, uncooked quinoa (I love Bob’s Red Mill), any color you desire.
  • Water or chicken broth: Water works wonderfully, and is free and sodium-free. For more flavor, cook quinoa in chicken broth; homemade or store-bought.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To rinse the quinoa (see “Recipe FAQ” for more about when you can skip this step), using a fine-mesh sieve, rinse quinoa thoroughly under cold running water.
Quinoa being rinsed over a sink.
  1. In a 2-quart or large pot, bring water and salt to boil. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. 
A silver saucepan with quinoa in it.
  1. Remove from heat, fluff, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes to 10 minutes. To use in salads or to cool quickly for storage, spread on a rimmed baking sheet.
Quinoa on a baking sheet.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This method for how to cook quinoa creates 3 cups, enough for six 1/2-cup side dish-sized servings.
  • Storage: Transfer cooked, cooled quinoa to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: To keep the cooked quinoa from clumping together as it freezes, spread it out on a sheet tray in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container and keep on ice for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or defrost in the microwave.
Various types of quinoa on a countertop.
Varieties of quinoa (clockwise from top left): Tri-color, white, and red.

Recipe FAQ

Do I have to rinse quinoa?

Rinsing quinoa removes the saponins on the outside of the seed. Saponins are bitter compounds that are naturally present in quinoa—along with lots of other legumes, vegetables, and herbs. They get their name because they lather up a bit in water, like soap suds. Boxed quinoa may come pre-rinsed, so if your label says it’s already been washed, feel free to skip that step.

How do you suggest using cooked quinoa?

Sweet or savory, there are countless ways to enjoy quinoa in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes. Serve it as-is for a simple side dish, or incorporate quinoa into your diet….
As a side: Add toasted nuts, herbs, and/or dried fruit for a quinoa pilaf.
As a breakfast cereal: Dress up cooked quinoa like oats or porridge.
In soups and stews: Stir a scoop of cooked quinoa into soups or stews for a satisfying grain element.
In salads: Try my Quinoa Tabbouleh to get a jump start, or use it in your favorite grain salad recipe to layer on more fiber and protein.
As a bowl: Score some inspiration from my Mediterranean Buddha Bowl. Or improvise and make a quinoa-based grain bowl with leftover or rotisserie chicken and roasted vegetables (with salad dressing on the side) for a meal prep lunch that travels beautifully.

How can I infuse more flavor into quinoa as it cooks?

Add aromatics. This healthy grain is a blank canvas for other flavors you’d like to incorporate. Instead of simmering it in chicken broth, try vegetable stock, apple cider, or toss some chopped vegetables or sturdy herbs (carrot, onion, celery, rosemary, bay leaf) to the pot as the quinoa cooks.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Freshen up your summer menu with a Quinoa Tabbouleh side dish. This healthy Mediterranean recipe is easy and ideal for showcasing all of your seasonal herbs and vegetables. Whether you’re craving a new idea for…

1 hour 20 minutes
View Recipe

More grain basics

Cooked quinoa in a sliver bowl with someone spooning some out.

How to Cook Quinoa

Once you know how to cook quinoa to fluffy, tender perfection, you'll want to add this protein- and fiber-rich whole grain to your menu or meal prep every week.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 6 servings (½ cup each)
Course Pantry
Cuisine American, Mediterranean
Calories 156

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup quinoa (see note 1)
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth (see note 2)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • To rinse the quinoa (if needed, see notes), using a large, fine-mesh sieve, rinse quinoa thoroughly under cold running water.
  • In a 2-quart or large pot, bring water and salt to boil. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat, fluff, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes to 10 minutes.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Quinoa: Dry, uncooked quinoa (I love Bob’s Red Mill), any color you desire. If you can find pre-rinsed quinoa, that’s ideal.
  2. Water or chicken broth: Water works wonderfully, and is free and sodium-free. For more flavor, cook quinoa in chicken broth; homemade or store-bought.
  3. Yield: This method for how to cook quinoa creates 3 cups, enough for six 1/2-cup side dish-sized servings.
  4. Storage: Transfer cooked, cooled quinoa to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  5. Freezer: To keep the cooked quinoa from clumping together as it freezes, spread it out on a sheet tray in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container and keep on ice for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or defrost in the microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 156kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 6gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 2mgPotassium: 239mgFiber: 3gVitamin A: 6IUCalcium: 20mgIron: 2mg
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I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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