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Here’s how to cook quinoa so it’s fluffy every time! Master making this whole grain as an easy side dish or healthy meal component.

Quinoa

Here’s a whole grain that’s just about as versatile as your favorite pair of shoes: Quinoa! This seed from the Andes had a meteoric rise to popularity in the US: because it’s fluffy, tasty, and fun to make into side dishes, salads and bowl meals. But here’s the thing: quinoa can be tricky to cook. It’s easy to come out soggy and waterlogged. So here’s how to cook quinoa: a trick that makes it come out fluffy every time!

All about quinoa

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a South American grain that was first grown for food 7,000 years ago by people in the Andes mountains. It’s actually the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant, so it’s known as a “psuedograin” since it’s eaten in the same way as whole grains.

Quinoa is gluten-free and high in protein, calcium, Vitamin B, and iron. In fact, the Incas believed the food was sacred, because eating it regularly appeared to provide a long, healthy life. There are several types of quinoa, including:

  • White
  • Red
  • Black
  • Tri Color (a mix of the three above)
How to cook quinoa

How to cook quinoa

Most recipes for quinoa suggest a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. After extensive testing, we’ve found it’s easy to get soggy grains with this method. So we’ve developed a new quinoa to water ratio: try 1 cup quinoa to 1 ¾ cups water. Simmer it up, and it makes for fluffy grains that aren’t waterlogged. Here’s how to cook quinoa:

  • Rinse the quinoa. Rinse it in cold water using a fine mesh strainer, then shake off the water. Why rinse quinoa? It reduces bitterness (it helps to remove the natural coating called saponin) and in our experience, helps it cook more evenly.
  • Simmer covered for 15 to 18 minutes. Place 1 cup quinoa with 1 ¾ cups water in a saucepan with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 15 to 18 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. Check by pulling back the grains with a fork to see if water remains.
  • Allow to sit covered for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes, then fluff the grains with a fork.
Quinoa recipe

How long to cook quinoa?

One more note on cook times! How long to cook quinoa varies depending on how much of the dry grain in the pot at one time and how high the heat is.

  • 1 cup dry quinoa usually takes between 15 and 18 minutes to cook at a gentle simmer.
  • 1 ½ cups to 2 cups dry quinoa may take between 17 and 20 minutes to cook.

Ways to season

Some people are wary of quinoa: and for good reason! This grain can taste bland and uninteresting if you don’t season it correctly. Here are a few ideas on how to season quinoa:

How to season quinoa
Here’s how to season quinoa

Quinoa nutritional benefits

There’s lots of love about quinoa. It’s a good source of antioxidants and minerals, and it provides more magnesium, iron, and zinc than many common grains. Here’s a breakdown of the basic nutrition facts of quinoa, with white and brown rice provided as a comparison (via Healthline). Quinoa is significantly higher in protein and fiber than both white and brown rice.

IngredientCaloriesProteinCarbsFiberFat
Quinoa2228 grams39 grams5 grams4 grams
Brown rice2165 grams44 grams3.5 grams1.8 grams
White rice2044 grams42 grams0.6 grams0.5 grams

Top quinoa recipes

What’s the best way to use quinoa in a meal? There are so many ways to incorporate this grain into your daily meals. Here are a few of our top ideas:

This quinoa recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings (3 cups) 1x

Description

Here’s how to cook quinoa so it’s fluffy every time! Master making this whole grain as an easy side dish or healthy meal component.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the quinoa in cold water using a fine mesh strainer, then drain it and shake out the remaining water. Place it in a saucepan with the water and the kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low where the water is just bubbling.
  2. Cover the pot and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 15 to 18 minutes*, until the water has been completely absorbed. Check by pulling back the quinoa with a fork to see if water remains.
  3. Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork. Taste and add additional salt or other seasonings (see How to Season Quinoa).

Notes

*If you increase the recipe to 1.5x or 2x the quantities, the cook time will be on the longer side.

  • Category: Whole grain
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Essentials
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Quinoa, quinoa recipe, how to cook quinoa

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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3 Comments

  1. If my bag of quinoa does not say to rinse it…is it ok not to? Is this something that anyone making quinoa is expected to just know….? It seems like there are some quinoas on the market now that may be pre-rinsed? I have used some a few times without rinsing (when the bag did not say too–I don’t buy the ones that tell me to rinse first) and thought they tasted fine but I’m wondering if I was just lucky those times. LOL I haven’t made quinoa for “company” yet and am considering doing so soon. I would hate to have it turn out bad since it is the main ingredient in the main dish (which it may be clear already but I do not have a lot of experience cooking meatless meals).