Great Grain: How to Cook Quinoa

Posted by on Jan 21, 2014 in Food & Cooking | Comments


Once you’ve figured out that it’s pronounced “keen-wah,” the question at hand is probably this: “How do I cook quinoa?”

Cooked Quinoa - How to Cook Quinoa, on Craftsy.com

Photos via CakeSpy

Though the pronunciation isn’t intuitive, preparing this healthy and gluten-free grain is a relatively simple feat of cooking. Here, we’ll teach you how to cook quinoa on the stovetop, as well as tips for how to cook quinoa in the microwave, yielding a fluffy, delicately nutty-flavored side dish. Then, we’ll walk through some creative ideas to flavor this extremely versatile grain so you can make your meals memorable.

Recipe notes:

Cooked Quinoa on Spatula

Why wash your quinoa?

It might sound fussy, but please, don’t skip this step. Why? Quinoa contains something called saponin. Saponins are occurring chemical compounds present in a number of specimens of plant and sea life. Among other things, they act as a natural repellent. While that is good for keeping away bugs and animals when the grain grows, the saponin can impart a bitter taste to cooked quinoa, so be sure to wash until the water runs clear.

Storing cooked quinoa

First, be sure the quinoa has cooled to room temperature. Then, you can place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Health benefits

Though the finished texture is fluffy, quinoa is a grain with serious substance. It contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. In language you can easily digest? That means it will fill you up and give you lasting energy.

How to cook quinoa

Serves 2

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch salt

Step 1:

Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer. Run under cold water and stir once or twice. This will clean the quinoa of any possible impurities and the bitter taste of saponin.

Rinsing Quinoa

Step 2:

Place the cleaned quinoa, 2 cups water, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Once it has reached the boiling point, reduce the heat to low-medium (the boiling will reduce to a simmer).

Simmering Quinoa in Water

Step 3:

Cover and let simmer until the water has been absorbed by the grains, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid (you may want to lift it using an oven mitt, as steam will rise once you lift it), and let the quinoa chill out in the pan for 5 minutes (this should absorb any remaining liquid).

Cooking Quinoa, Close to Done

Fluff with a fork, and be amazed at how puffy it suddenly becomes.

Cooked Quinoa

In the microwave:

Follow Step 1 for cleaning the quinoa. Place the quinoa, water and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, and then microwave at 2 minute intervals until most of the water has been absorbed. (Depending on your microwave, this may be 1 or 2 intervals.) Once most of the water has been absorbed, let the quinoa sit for about 10 minutes; the remaining water should be absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Make it interesting:

  • Cooked plain, quinoa acts as a wonderful side dish. Serve it as you would rice, alongside or as a “bed” beneath braised meat and vegetables.
  • Instead of water, cook the quinoa in a vegetable, beef or chicken broth for a full, rich flavor.
  • Use cooked quinoa in stir-fry dishes.
  • Enjoy it in the a.m. Use quinoa as a morning cereal, treating it as a sort of oatmeal substitute. It’s full of protein and good carbs, so it will satisfy you in a healthful way. A delicious breakfast quinoa recipe is below.

Dried Cherries and Cashews for Quinoa Porridge

Recipe for cherry-cashew quinoa “porridge”

Serves 2

  • 1 cup milk (can use half water)
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ cup (or less, if desired) dried cherries
  • ¼ cup cashews
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
  • Yogurt (optional, for serving)

Step 1:

Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer. Run under cold water and stir once or twice. This will clean the quinoa of any possible impurities and the bitter taste of saponin.

Step 2:

Place the cleaned quinoa, 1 cup milk, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Once it has reached the boiling point, reduce the heat to low-medium (the boiling will will reduce to a simmer). Add the cherries, cashews and brown sugar (if using).

Mixing Milk, Cherries and Cashews for Porridge

Step 3:

Cover and let simmer until the water has been absorbed by the grains, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep a careful eye on the simmering liquid — if the heat is too high, the milk may cause the liquid to bubble over.

Remove the lid, and let the quinoa chill out in the pan for 5 minutes (this should absorb any remaining liquid). Fluff with a fork, and serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Quinoa Porridge

What’s your favorite way to enjoy quinoa?