Are you looking for a go-to guide on how to cook quinoa perfectly every time? You’ve found it! Learn how to cook fluffy quinoa through my two fail-proof methods. Plus, learn about the differences between white, red, and black quinoa; plus 6 healthy quinoa recipes!
This is a how-to post for your Cooking Basics collection.
What Is Quinoa?
Let’s start with the basics. What is this food, exactly? Is quinoa a grain?
While it’s often called an “ancient grain,” quinoa is actually an edible seed originating in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes that’s rich in protein and fiber. There is white quinoa (which is the most popular), red, and black (typically the most expensive). Once cooked, it has a nutty taste with the darker quinoa seeds also having an earthy taste to them and a soft rice-like texture.
Is It Gluten-Free?
Since it isn’t a grain but a seed, it is naturally gluten-free. However, it is considered a high-risk food for people with celiac disease. So, while it’s technically gluten-free, quinoa could cause inflammation for people with gluten sensitivities.
Is Quinoa Healthy?
The simple answer is … yes! Quinoa is a nutrition powerhouse. One cup of cooked quinoa has more than 8 grams of protein and is packed with minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. I believe that quinoa, as well as brown rice and wild rice, are one of the best carbohydrates to add to your diet.
The best part about it is that it cooks very fast and holds well in the fridge and freezer, making it perfect for meal-prepping!
What Is the Correct Quinoa To Water Ratio?
The quinoa to water ratio is the No. 1 question people ask when they learn how to cook quinoa. And the answer is that … it depends. It’s quite silly that many packages suggest a specific seed-to-water ratio without taking into consideration what tools are used to cook it in.
The smaller the circumference of the pot and the tighter the lid sits on the pot, the less water is needed. Large pots with lids that have a hole in them, for example, might need as much as double the amount of water.
In an environment in which no water evaporates, like a pressure cooker (aka Instant Pot), a 1:1 quinoa to water ratio is perfect. The same ratio is needed with my stove-top cooking method, and I’ve found through much trial and error that this way yields the best results.
The Best Way to Cook It
I’ve found that there are two cooking methods that result in perfectly fluffy, tender quinoa every time.
How To Cook Quinoa in the Instant Pot
The absolute fail-proof method of cooking quinoa is in the Instant Pot. It’s perfect every time because it’s a controlled environment.
- Add a 1:1 quinoa to water ratio, a little sea salt if desired, put on the lid, and seal it. White quinoa only has to cook for only 1 minute on high pressure. Red quinoa has to cook for 2 minutes on high pressure. And black quinoa has to cook 3 minutes on high pressure. (Regardless, you’re cooking a full batch in 3 minutes or less! It doesn’t get any simpler than that.)
- After the high-pressure cooking time, allow for natural pressure release. This means, do NOT touch the sealing valve at all. Let the pot depressurize all on its own. This can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the volume inside. This step is crucial for ensuring the quinoa is fully cooked and has the texture we’re looking for.
- When the safety pin drops, it’s safe to open the pot, fluff it with a fork, and serve!
How To Cook Quinoa on the Stove Top
To get the same results as with the Instant Pot, make sure to use a pot with a small circumference (8 inches in diameter or less) that has a tight-fitting lid without a hole in it. You want as little water as possible to evaporate during the cooking process so you can still use the 1:1 quinoa to water ratio that yields the best results.
- Bring water, quinoa, and a little sea salt to a boil over high heat. Do NOT walk away from the stove and closely watch the water. As soon as the very first bubbles burst in the water it’s time to immediately put on the lid and reduce the heat to low.
- The quinoa has to simmer on the lowest heat for 15-20 minutes (15 for white quinoa, 20 for red and black). Once the time is up, do NOT lift the lid. Leave the lid on and just remove the quinoa from the stove-top and set aside for an extra 10 minutes so it can continue steaming.
- Fluff with a fork, serve, and enjoy!
PRO TIP: Toast your quinoa in a little bit of oil before adding the water and seasonings to bring out its naturally nutty flavor!
Frequently Asked Questions
Most packaging suggests you rinse quinoa before cooking to remove impurities and saponins, which “can” make the quinoa taste bitter and soapy. However, that being said, I don’t do this most of the time. I do not find quinoa to taste bitter at all, regardless of if I rinse it or not. Absolutely nothing happens if you don’t rinse your quinoa, it just changes the taste ever so slightly.
Store leftover quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in an airtight freezer bag in the freezer.
Properly sealed quinoa lasts 3-5 days in the fridge.
Absolutely! In a small over-the-fridge freezer, it keeps well for 1-3 months. And it will keep in a deep-chest freezer for 8-12 months.
You can reheat leftover thawed quinoa in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, fluffing with a fork halfway through. You can also warm it in a pot on the stove for 10 minutes or so over medium-low heat.
While I wouldn’t recommend blending raw varieties of quinoa yourself (as they’ll require a calculated cooking time to take the different types into account), you can buy a medley or blend from the grocery store. Some even are combined withe brown or wild rice. They also typically cook quickly, so this is a great option for busy weeknights or meal-prepping!
The 6 Best Quinoa Recipes
There’s really no wrong way to eat or serve quinoa. It’s a great addition to salads, soups, and most entrees as a side dish. Here are my top 5 favorite ways to eat quinoa!
The most popular way to eat quinoa in North America is in the form of a Quinoa Salad.
Many restaurants offer at least one colorful Quinoa Bowl, too.
You can even have a Quinoa Breakfast of champions if you with.
Or more creative ways, such as in a Quinoa Crust.
My personal all-time favorite is as Black Quinoa Risotto, a.k.a Quinotto.
It’s the most amazing carb for meal prep, like in this quinoa fried “rice”.
How To Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa - white, red, or black
- 1-2 cups water or broth
- sea salt
- Add quinoa to a sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear.
- Instant Pot Quinoa: Add 1:1 ratio of quinoa and liquid to Instant Pot plus sea salt. Put on the lid and set to high pressure (HP) for x minutes + full natural pressure release (NPR).White Quinoa: 1 minute HP + NPRRed Quinoa: 2 minutes HP + NPRBlack Quinoa: 3 minutes HP + NPRStovetop Quinoa: Add 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio of quinoa and liquid plus sea salt to your pot. The amount of liquid will depend on the circumference of the pot and how tight the lid sits on the pot. For a 7-inch or smaller pot with a super tight-fitting lid 1:1 works great. For a 10-inch pot with a tight-fitting lid 1:1.5 works great. For a pot that has a not so tight-fitting lid or even a lid with a hole in it, 1:2 is often necessary to account for all the evaporation.Bring to the boil uncovered over high heat while closely watching and as soon as the first bubbles burst IMMEDIATELY put on the lid and reduce the heat to low. Set a timer for 15 minutes (white quinoa) or 20 minutes (red and black quinoa) and let simmer. Once the timer goes off, remove the pot from heat (do NOT peek, leave the lid on), and set the timer for another 10 minutes. Then it's time to lift the lid.
- Use a fork to fluff up the quinoa and serve.