Quinoa has come a long way in the last few years. From health stores to the mainstream, its high protein content and delicate texture have made it a popular substitute for starchier pasta and rice. Several of us here at The Kitchn like to make a big pot of quinoa on the weekends and eat it throughout the week with curry, grilled vegetables, or braised meat. It's one of the most delicious, fast-cooking lunch staples we know (not to mention healthy). Here's how to cook great quinoa — not mushy, not bitter — but delicate and perfectly fluffy.
Cultivated in the Andes for over 5,000 years, quinoa has been called the "mother grain" and "the gold of the Incas." (It's technically not a grain but a seed, but it is used in virtually the same ways as other whole grains.) Today, the popularity of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is growing steadily as people discover its pleasant nutty taste and superfood qualities. As a complete protein source also high in iron, magnesium, and fiber, quinoa is not only one of our healthiest pantry staples, but also one that's incredibly easy and quick to cook.
We've read that there are 1,800(!) varieties of quinoa, but just three main types are found in markets here: the most common white variety, as well as a red one and a black one.
Here is our standard method for cooking any of these.
Basic Quinoa Facts
How much cooked quinoa does 1 cup dry quinoa yield?
1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa?
To cook 1 cup quinoa, you need about 2 cups liquid.
How long does it take to cook quinoa?
1 cup quinoa will cook in about 20 minutes.
How do I make quinoa less bitter?
Nearly, if not all, of the natural bitterness of quinoa's outer coating can be removed by a vigorous rinsing in a mesh strainer.
How do I make better-tasting quinoa?
Quinoa is really excellent when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. Also, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices aromatics during cooking as well: A clove of smashed garlic, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a dash of black pepper.
Can I use my rice cooker to make quinoa?
Yes! Just use the 2:1 liquid to quinoa ratio and follow the instructions on your rice cooker.
How To Cook Quinoa
What You Need
1 cup quinoa (any variety — white or golden, red, or black)
Olive oil (optional)
2 cups liquid, such as broth or water
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Fine mesh strainer
2-quart saucepan with lid
1. Measure quinoa and liquid. Measure out 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups liquid.
2. Rinse the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain.
Why rinse quinoa? Rinsing removes quinoa's natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Although boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, it doesn't hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse at home. Some cookbooks suggest soaking the quinoa but, in our experience, this is unnecessary.
3. Dry and toast quinoa in saucepan. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate.
4. Add liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in the liquid and the salt (if using) and bring to a rolling boil.
5. Lower heat and cook covered for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to the lowest setting. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
6. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered.
7. Fluff and eat! After 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and serve. (You should see tiny spirals (the germ) separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds.)
• One cup of dried quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked.
• Some people like to add olive oil, butter, salt, or pepper. Cooked quinoa can also be used as the basis for pilafs, salads, breakfast porridges, and more.
Delicious Recipes with Quinoa
• Black Bean and Heirloom Tomato Quinoa with Lemon Dressing
• Grilled Halloumi and Quinoa Salad
• Spring Quinoa with Chickpeas, Asparagus, and Fresh Peas
• Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad
• Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili
• 3-Egg Omelet with Quinoa, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
• Quinoa Tabbouleh
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(Images: Emily Ho, Faith Durand)