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How to Cook Quinoa (Stovetop Directions)

How to Cook Quinoa – These simple stovetop directions for cooking quinoa make it easy to cook perfect, fluffy quinoa every time. (Scroll down for a how-to video + some of my favorite quinoa recipes!)

Overhead view of cooked quinoa in a saucepan with fresh herbs, salt and pepper
Quinoa is kind of a health food joke now, sort of like kale. It’s been used and talked about in All The Things! I’d never tried it growing up (before it came into popularity), but it quickly became a staple in our household when we went gluten free. We’ve used it in all sorts of ways here on the blog over the years, from salads and soups to meal prep favorites, burrito bowls, and more.

Today, I wanted to spotlight how to cook quinoa on the stovetop. Spoiler alert: it’s easy. Keep reading for my 2 favorite methods for getting perfectly cooked, fluffy quinoa every time (including an energy-saving method that’s a bit more hands-off!).

Let’s get to it!


Close up of perfectly cooked, fluffy quinoa in a white pot.

Quinoa: The Basics

How to say it + what it is: First, a few things about quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwih-NOAH) is a seed that we treat like a grain. It’s naturally gluten free, very versatile, and can easily be used as a substitute for rice or couscous. You can even use it as a breakfast cereal served warm with honey and milk or your favorite oatmeal toppings. People toss it into granola, bake cakes with it, and more. It’s everywhere!

There are different kinds. Similar to rice, quinoa comes in different varieties. Some of the most common varieties and mixtures sold are white, red, and tri-color blends. I haven’t noticed any real taste difference between white and tri-color, though to me the red is slightly more nutty (not in a bad way).

It packs a lot of protein. Quinoa has all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. In one cup of cooked quinoa, there are about 8 grams of protein, which is especially good news for those who follow plant-based diets. Yay protein!

Close up of perfectly cooked quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa

Now that we know what it is (and how to say it–ha!), here are some of my best tips for cooking quinoa.

  1. Rinse it before cooking. Quinoa is covered in a coating called saponin, which has a strong smell and bitter/soapy taste. Rinsing until it’s no longer foamy clears up that saponin, leaving you with a much more neutral, nutty taste.
  2. Water to quinoa ratio. I use a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio, so I use 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry quinoa. Some prefer to use slightly less than 2 cups of water, but I get my most consistent results with the 2:1 ratio.
  3. Set a timer. If you over-cook your quinoa it can get a little mushy. I eyeball and estimate a lot of things in the kitchen, but I usually set a timer for quinoa. It has some flexibility, but for the *best* results, I recommend a timer.
  4. Consider the energy saving/steaming method. One other tip for preventing overcooking is the “energy saving method.” Instead of boiling, then cooking on low, you boil for only 5-8 minutes, then cover it, turn the heat off, and let it steam. The steaming part works really well for me and helps me get light, fluffy quinoa. (And I like that it saves me hands-on energy in addition to the electrical energy!)
  5. Leave the lid off when you boil. Boiling with the lid off helps you get a good amount of evaporation, which means your quinoa will cook through and the liquid will evaporate/absorb at just about the same time. I’ve found if I cover it the whole time, that’s when I’m more likely to over cook it or run into texture issues.

Pan of white quinoa mixed with roasted zucchini and tomatoes.

How to Use Quinoa:

As I mentioned above, there are LOTS of ways to eat quinoa. Some of my favorites are to…

Meal Prep Pico de Gallo Quinoa Bowls with black beans, cilantro lime quinoa, and fresh pico de gallo in glass meal prep containers.

Easy Ways to Add Flavor to Your Quinoa

Add some flavor while you cook! There are a few easy ways to coax the best flavor out of your quinoa.

  • The first suggestion is don’t skip the rinsing step!
  • Next, is to cook quinoa using broth (chicken, veggie, etc.) instead of water, or using 1/2 broth and 1/2 water.
  • My other easy tip is to add a pinch of salt in with the water if you remember (or on top if you forget). Or, you can try some yummy mix-ins

Or add some mix-ins for an easy side dish! Some of my favorites:

  • Garlic + Butter/olive oil – Adding a clove of garlic and about 1 Tbsp of olive oil or butter makes it taste amazing. You can even play with flavored olive oils for a bigger flavor boost!
  • Stir in some fresh herbs! I love using fresh herbs and this is an easy way to use whatever you have on hand. My personal favorites are cilantro or basil. They brighten up the whole dish! Parsley and dill can also be nice, depending on what you want to serve them with.
  • Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Fresh citrus adds some really nice brightness. I love adding a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. So good!
  • Stir in some salsa or pico de gallo. This works especially well if you’re using it as a side dish or as a base for burrito bowls or meal prep. But a scoop of salsa + quinoa = easy and delicious!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Black Beans and Enchilada SauceNotes for How to Cook Quinoa + FAQ

Do you need to rinse quinoa before cooking? Yes. Quinoa is coated with a bitter coating called saponin that smells strong and tastes bitter or soapy. (I didn’t know this when I first started cooking quinoa.) Rinsing removes the saponin and gives you a much more neutral, nutty flavor. I use a fine mesh sieve and it works like a charm. (Colanders have too-large holes and won’t work.)

Do you cook white and red quinoa the same? Yep! Rainbow/tri-color quinoa, white quinoa, and red quinoa will all cook in about the same amount of time (unlike different kinds of rice). These directions will work for any variety of quinoa you choose.

Can you freeze cooked quinoa? Yes! Quinoa re-heats really well and holds its shape when thawed, which means it’s GREAT for making ahead of time. To freeze, I wait till the quinoa has cooled, then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag and lay flat to freeze. (When you freeze it in a thin layer, it’ll thaw faster!). You can also use an airtight container if you prefer. Well covered, frozen quinoa will keep for around 2 months or so.

How much cooked quinoa will 1 cup of uncooked quinoa make? Much like rice, quinoa absorbs liquid and gets larger when cooked. You can expect it to roughly triple when cooked, so 1 cup uncooked quinoa will make about 3 cups cooked quinoa.

Love Quinoa? I Bet You’d Like…

Sun Dried Tomato Quinoa Salad

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Overhead view of cooked quinoa in a saucepan with fresh herbs, salt and pepper

How to Cook Quinoa (Stovetop + Energy Saving Directions)


  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 27 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings (about 3 cups cooked quinoa) 1x

Description

How to Cook Quinoa – These easy stovetop directions for cooking quinoa make it easy to cook perfect, fluffy quinoa every time! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1c quinoa, dry (rinsed)
  • 2c water
  • pinch salt (optional)

Instructions

Energy Saver Instructions:

  1. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes (uncovered), then turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow to stand (covered) for 15 minutes.
  3. Fluff with a fork.

Traditional Stovetop Instructions:

  1. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to LOW and cook an additional 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand (covered) for 5 more minutes.
  4. Fluff with a fork.

Cooked quinoa will keep about 1 week in the refrigerator.

  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Side dish, grains
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: quinoa, how to cook quinoa, stovetop directions for quinoa, how to cook quinoa on the stovetop

Close up of perfectly cooked quinoa with text that reads "How to Cook Quinoa: Light & Fluffy Every Time!"Photos of cooked quinoa in a pan, quinoa salad, and quinoa burrito bowl in a meal prep container with the text "Light & Fluffy Every Time! How to Cook Quinoa"

14 Comments

  1. Thank you! Finally, I know how to pronounce quinoa! I’ll be anxiously awaiting the salad recipe (Sophie-permitting).

  2. I love quinoa, and sometimes I feel like I’m trying to convince the world to try it out because I’m sure once people do they will love it. This is a great, simple way to prepare it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hmmm… you didn’t mention anything about washing/rinsing the quinoa. Did you buy prewashed? I WANT to like the stuff but the few times I’ve tried it it tastsed like dirt or soap or a combo of the two. I’m pretty sure I need to wash it better but haven’t found a good way to do it. My strainer has too big of holes and I loose too much when I try to use cheesecloth (it sticks to it). Any thoughts?

    1. Melissa–Yikes, I’m sorry! I’ve only been able to find it in boxes and it’s pre-washed. I do find the “grainy” taste is a bit stronger than say, rice or oats, but I haven’t had any bad experiences. I’ve heard cooking it with broth instead of water helps kind of “soften” the quinoa taste. I don’t mind it as is. I would definitely just rinse with water, not soap, however. Another idea would be to serve it with something that will help the grain taste, such as a vinaigrette or sauce. Hope that helps!

  4. I love quinoa. I ate it all the time in Ecuador as a breakfast cereal. i’ve found some yummy recipes that I use in the winter for soups and such. I found a salad recipe I want to try. It is a great source of a lot of nutrients! if you want the soup recipe, let me know…

  5. I have seen this product but not tasted it yet. I’m totally going to… Thank you for expanding my horizons!

  6. Thank you for the recipe, Emily! I’ve wanted to try quinoa for a while now, but I’m a bit scared – I’ve heard horror stories about it. 😉 You make me want to try it out!

  7. Where do you buy quinoa? In a health food store or where in the grocery store? By the rice?
    Your recipe looks great! I am dying to try it!

    Thanks

    1. Laura – I’ve found it by grains and beans. Some of the stores I shop at keep it by rice, barley, etc. Others keep it near the beans. Best of luck! I can find it at either health stores (where I listed) or my local Kroger store (in the health food section).

  8. I bought some quinoa tonight to try. While looking at the nutrition label, I found that what I bought had more carbohydrates than white rice. I am new to this I am trying to cut way back on things like white rice, pasta, white bread, etc. I know there is some I just do not know. Can you tell me what makes this better for me than, say, brown rice?

  9. I particularly agree with on finding different ways of making quinoa more enjoyable. I like to add soy or tamari sauce to my quinoa with some cucumbers. I know that sounds weird but it works for me.

    Thanks again for a great article

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