How To Cook Quinoa

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A foolproof recipe for making perfect, fluffy quinoa for adding to salads, stir-fries, bowls, and even breakfast dishes and so much more.

A foolproof recipe for making perfect, fluffy quinoa for adding to salads, bowls and so much more.

How To Cook Quinoa

If you’ve ever tried cooking quinoa and it wound up soggy and not fluffy, this recipe is for you! This ancient grain is a fantastic addition to your kitchen repertoire. It’s not just a ‘health food’ ingredient for vegans and gluten-free diets; it’s a delicious, versatile grain that can be used as a foundation in salads, bowls, stir-fries, and even breakfast dishes. Some of my favorite quinoa salads are Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Avocado Quinoa Salad. If you have an Instant Pot, you might also like this Instant Pot Quinoa.

How To Make Perfect Quinoa

What is Quinoa

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a protein packed ancient seed from South America, similar to the texture of brown rice when cooked with a nutty flavor. Loved for its versatility, packed with protein and gluten-free, this ancient grain has grown in popularity over the past decade. It contains all 9 essential amino acids, lysine, phosphorous, copper, iron and magnesium and it is easy to make. It’s not truly a grain, it’s actually a relative of spinach. It comes in many varieties, including white, red, and black. But regardless of the type you choose, the cooking method remains the same. Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1  3/4 cups water or broth
  • Salt to taste (optional)

How To Make Quinoa

  1. Rinse Thoroughly: Begin by thoroughly rinsing the seeds under cool water. This step is crucial in removing the natural coating, called saponin, which can impart a bitter or soapy taste if left unwashed. A fine-mesh strainer works wonders for this process.
  2. Toast It (Optional): Toasting is not necessary, but it adds a delightful, nutty flavor that can elevate your dishes. Just heat a bit of olive oil or butter over medium heat, add your drained quinoa, and cook, stirring, for about 1-2 minutes. It will start to smell fragrant when it’s ready.
  3. Boil: Combine the quinoa and water and salt, to taste (or broth if you prefer a deeper flavor) in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Simmer: Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the lid, letting it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. The Resting Period: When all the liquid is absorbed, remove the pot from heat and let it sit, covered, for about 5 to 10 minutes. This step might seem unnecessary, but it’s an essential one that allows it to steam and become even fluffier.
  6. Fluff: After it has rested, uncover and fluff it gently with a fork to separate the grains.
  7. Let cool: Let it cool and add to your favorite recipes.

Ways To Use

  • Use it to grain bowls with vegetables, sweet potatoes, and beans.
  • Substitute it for cereal grains in breakfast bowls with cinnamon, honey and fresh fruit.
  • Add it to salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice and feta cheese.
  • Use it in place of rice or couscous.
  • Add it to your meatloaf or meatballs as a binder.
  • Use it to crust fish.
  • Add it to soups

How to Take the Bitterness Out

To make it taste better, rinse it well with water to remove its natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Some brands comes pre-rinsed. However, it doesn’t hurt to rinse the seeds again.

What is healthier, quinoa or rice?

Quinoa has several advantages over rice:

  • Complete Protein: It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
  • More Fiber: It has nearly twice the fiber of most grains, aiding digestion.
  • Rich in Nutrients: It’s richer in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B, E, and other antioxidants that can help fight against aging and numerous diseases. It is also rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
  • Lower Glycemic Index: It causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels, beneficial for those with diabetes.
  • High in Antioxidants: It has more antioxidants, promoting overall health.
  • Gluten-Free: Like rice, it’s great for people with celiac disease or those following a gluten-free diet.

What is the ratio of water to quinoa?

The ideal water ratio is essential to cooking perfectly fluffy quinoa. Generally, the directions on a box recommends adding more water than is necessary. The ideal ratio is 1 3/4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of quinoa.

Why is my quinoa soggy and not fluffy?

If the texture is mushy and undesirable, it may be because you’re using too much liquid. I have been making this for years and always use less water than the package instructs. The ideal ratio is 1 3/4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of quinoa. Cook it, covered until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes, then let it rest 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

What type of quinoa is best?

There are different types of quinoa available on the grocery store. Tricolor, black and red are my favorite colors to add to quinoa salads and bowls, as the texture is firmer and has more of a bite. White gives it more of a rice texture, perfect for using in place of rice like this enchilada bake, quinoa fried rice and cilantro lime version.

This healthy Southwestern Black Bean, Quinoa and Mango Salad is delicious, a great way to get more vegetables and plant-based foods to your diet.Quinoa and Spinach Patties with a poached egg on top.Avocado Quinoa Salad

Best Quinoa Recipes

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Basic Quinoa Recipe

4.92 from 12 votes
A foolproof recipe for making perfect, fluffy quinoa for adding to salads, stir-fries, bowls, and even breakfast dishes and so much more.
Course: Meal Prep, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Overhead view of two hands wrapped around a white bowl of perfect, fluffy Instant Pot quinoa.
Prep: 0 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup (cooked)


  • 1 cup quinoa, tricolor, red, white or black
  • 1 3/4 cups water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • salt , optional to taste


  • Rinse the quinoa: Put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. While rinsing, rub the quinoa with your hands. This step is to remove the natural coating of quinoa, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy.
  • Toast the quinoa (optional): You can toast the quinoa in a skillet for a few minutes before cooking it to get a nuttier flavor. Heat a bit of olive oil or butter over medium heat, then add your drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1-2 minutes, until it starts to smell fragrant.
  • Cook the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and salt (or broth). Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover. Let it simmer 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Check it occasionally to prevent burning and add more water if needed.
  • Let it rest: Once the quinoa has absorbed all the water and it's cooked, remove the pot from heat and let it sit, covered, for about 5 to 10 minutes. This step allows the quinoa to steam and makes it fluffier.
  • Fluff it with a fork: After it's rested, uncover and fluff the quinoa gently with a fork to separate the grains.

Last Step:

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You can store it in the refrigerator up to 4 days. This recipe yields 4 cups.


Serving: 1 cup (cooked), Calories: 172 kcal, Carbohydrates: 31 g, Protein: 6 g, Fat: 3 g, Sodium: 3.4 mg, Fiber: 3 g


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58 comments on “How To Cook Quinoa”

  1. I make my quinoa pretty much as stated. Maybe a bit less water. But while it is resting, I cover the pan with a tee towel. This was found in a mexican recipe for rice and I found it definitely makes fluffier rice and quinoa.

  2. I think the easiest way to make quinoa is in an instant pot. It’s failproof. I do like the idea of cooking it in broth because that really gives us some flavor a where and I always rinse first.

  3. I just checked out the link to your Spinach and Quinoa Patties. That recipe calls for 1C quinoa and 2C water….different ratio. Is that because we’re forming patties with it?

  4. Love to use it as a breakfast food. Heat up quinoa with a little coconut milk, maple syrup, and walnuts. It is SO good!

  5. I have this amazing salad recipe that I've eaten for lunch countless times 🙂 It's 1 cup dry quinoa (about 3-4 cups cooked), half a head of red cabbage, 10oz matchstick carrots, and half a bunch of green onions-this makes about 5 large salads. I use this low calorie sesame ginger dressing on it and it's fantastic

  6. I soaked, rinsed, and boiled my quinoa in chicken broth. When I tried eating it, every 5 or so bites had a gritty taste like there was sand or something in it. Anybody else had this before? The quinoa was from the bulk section of the local Sprouts (health food store.) I hate that gritty feeling so bad that I feel sick even thinking about trying again.

    1. I have the same problem with the bag that I bought from Costco. The taste of sand or glass under my teeth is awful! I like quinoa and I didn't have that problems with other bags that I bought from Costco previously..

  7. I just made some warm quinoa salad and on reading this, I was surprised that no one mentions sprouting the quinoa?

  8. I was excited to find it at Walmart and for a reasonable price ! Give Walmart a try. I found it in the rice section

  9. WAlmart certainly does carry quinoa as do they goat cheese and hummus. Maybe you need to look instead of depending on a teenage stock boy to do your work for you!!!

    1. Different Wal-Marts carry different things, depending on what will sell there. Also, it's been two years since that person posted…a lot has changed in the food industry since then. More natural and alternative choices are available now because of demand. No need to be cranky about it.

  10. I wish I would have read this before I cooked mine. Followed the box directions but I think I undercooked it. Still good, though!

  11. I'm a chef and cook Quinoa every day. It's one of the easiest ingredients I've ever worked with. The reason you rinse it is because there's a fine resin on the seeds. If not rined well before cooking, your Quinoa may taste bitter. Take a metal-mesh strainer and rinse your Quinoa under cold water for about 5 – 10 minutes. the Quinoa looks like ant hills in the pot when done! Fluff with fork and add anything you like to make a great salad!

  12. I love Quinoa! I buy it at Walmart in a box. It's the kind that doesn't have to be rinsed. Thanks Gina for all the great recipes!!

  13. I am curious. Why do you rinse the Quinoa? I bought a big bag at Costco. It does not say to rinse it in the cooking directions.

    1. Some brands come pre-rinsed but you do this to rinse off the saponins which would make the quinoa taste bitter otherwise.

  14. I do a ratio of 1:1.25 quinoa to liquid. Bring to simmer and reduce and cover on low 30-35 minutes. let rest and fluff

  15. Something I learned about quinoa – once you rinse it, drain very well and pan toast it (just throw it into whatever pan you're using, no oil) till you hear a few start to pop – makes all the difference! My husband didn't like quinoa, said it tasted "funny" to him, though to me it's a totally neutral flavor. This simple tip has helped me use more quinoa in our diet with fewer objections 🙂

  16. This is a definate try! I make rice for daughter all the time. She does not like brown rice..heck not sure If I am even making it Definately will have to get some. Will use it for my homemade chicken soup she loves. Autum is coming already!

  17. I make mine and add cucumber, lime juice, tomatoes, red pepper and salt/pepper. It's yummy! I used your method for cooking the quinoa.

  18. Avatar photo

    You must rinse quinoa that you buy in bulk as it has saponins that coat it that are toxic, leaving you with numb lips and tongue. Boxed is already washed off, but not the bulk variety~

  19. I've been using Quinoa for many years. I'm sure Wal-Mart has never heard of it, like the time I asked for hummus and goat cheese, the guy looked at me like I was from Mars. Buy in bulk from health food stores or any large grocery store that has an organic section. Boxed costs more. I don't like the red kind, it's chewier, while the white kind is very soft.
    Anyway, do not soak it. Simply bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup quinoa, and simmer on low for TEN minutes, maybe less. When you see the cute curly cues have popped out of the kernel, it's done.
    Look up Quinoa on Wikipedia. It's the most nutritious grain, highest in protein, and some cultures call it "The Grain of the Gods". It is also less acidic than other grains, gluten-free and easier to digest. I choose it every time.

  20. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    Thanks Merrigold! I've never made it in soup, but that sounds like a fantastic idea!!

  21. Quinoa is high in protein & is good as a "rice" replacement or in soups or even in puddings. It takes on the taste of whatever you put it into. We can get it at Costco here in Alberta, Canada.

  22. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    Thanks Lynette, I'm one of those people who can only make rice on the stove, but I know a lot of people swear by their rice cooker.

  23. I am excited to find your site and more recipes for Quinoa. My family LOVES it. We use our rice cooker to make it and I do use various broths when I make plain Quinoa depending on the protein I may be serving with it. I also like the red Quinoa variety. We buy it in bulk at our health food store. I am going to try your Quinoa "Fried Rice" recipe. On a bit of a side note….For those who want an AWESOME rice cook that makes perfect rice plus other grains in addition it keeps your rice warm when its done cooking… invest in a Zojirushi rice cooker. AND I do mean INVEST!…as it's pricey. My hubby & I about had a divorce when he bought one and I found out how much he paid since I already had a rice cooker that I thought did a good job. This makes amazing rice of all kinds as well as steel cut oats etc. We make our Quinoa in it all the time and it turns out perfect. (Probably more info that you wanted to know…LOL)

  24. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    I buy mine in the supermarket, but I think it depends on where you live. Trader Joes sells it, as well as health food stores.

  25. To Make quinoa taste better cook it with broth instead of water and flavor it the same way you would falvor rice. Quinoa cooks just like rice. Quick tip – Red quinoa is better for you that regular quinoa. You can buy it at Trader Joes.

  26. I used a rice cooker and it turned out fine except that the bottom layer got browner than the rest. It was tasty, not burnt. Two to one ratio of water and quinoa.

  27. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    Good question! I don't use a rice cooker but I'm sure it would work. You may need to add more liquid though, I'm not sure.

  28. I'm very excited to see a quinoa recipe for ww. My partner makes a delicious lemon chicken (tagine) and its great with quinoa. Looks like you have a few things I'm going to need to try!

  29. It looks so nice and fluffy. Can this be found in your average grocery store? Does it have a strong flavor?

  30. I am going to post an easy quinoa risotto recipe using the homemade sauce that will be ready in 5 minutes!

  31. Avatar photo
    Marisa (Trim The Fat)

    I’m gonna try to play with this a little more. I’ve been “scared” of it -lol- but made some quinoa granola the other day that was really tasty!

    Thanks for the background info; never knew it was a relative of spinach!