Not sure how to cook Quinoa? Find out here with this easy to follow, illustrated guide and downloadable Infographic.
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Do You Know How to Cook Quinoa?
I thought I knew how to cook Quinoa. But the first time I prepared this much-hailed superfood, it was an outright disaster. The carefully boiled and drained attempt was bland, crunchy and not very appetising.
Clearly, I didn’t know how to cook Quinoa! Yet when served in restaurants, Quinoa had always been light, fluffy and flavoursome. The mission was on. Time to work on it and work it out…
If you already have Quinoa sussed, hats off to you. On the other hand, if this amazingly nutritious naturally gluten free staple has been ‘written off’, please please think again.
This Guide Will Help You cook Quinoa perfectly… Every time
This super straight-forward illustrated guide will show you how to cook Quinoa to fluffy perfection… EVERY time. And once you’ve eaten well-cooked and flavoursome Quinoa, you will start to understand what all the superfood fuss is about
To make it even easier and memorable for you, I’ve put together a downloadable infographic to print off and keep safe (you’ll find it at the bottom of this post). So if you ever forget the magic wisdom, you’ll have a handy guide ready and waiting. My brain is like a sieve and even though I’m a regular cook, I still have to remind myself how to do the most basic processes day after day! Am I alone?
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wah) has had a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. But what exactly is it and why has it become so trendy?
Quinoa is actually a tiny edible seed which comes from the Chenopodium quinoa plant (although many people think of it as a grain). If you cook quinoa well, it will have a delicious, fluffy texture and nutty flavour.
Somewhat surprisingly, there are known to be over 120 varieties of Quinoa. You may find it in any number of colours, although it is most commonly sold in the UK as white, red or black. Sometimes, you will find it mixed as two or three varieties together, which make it (perhaps) more interesting both to look at and to eat.
Why? Because the different types of Quinoa vary in both texture and flavour. The White variety (that I have cooked for this post) is the most easily sourced and (arguably) the most versatile. It is softer and fluffier and makes the best substitute for rice or cous cous in cooking. Black and red quinoa seeds are delicious too, but they may also be a little chewier, crunchier and even slightly sweeter. Whilst white Quinoa breaks open relatively easily on cooking, the red and black varieties like to keep their kernels closed, giving them that different texture.
Origins of Quinoa
Quinoa is a seriously ancient South American staple. Known as ‘The Mother Grain’ it can be dated back to the 15th Century, where it was grown in the Andes and eaten by the Incas.
In more recent times however, its versatility as a crop (it will grow across many climates and conditions) has been noted. So much so, that 2013 was even declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Quinoa, in recognition of its potential to contribute to the fight against world hunger and poverty. This powerful plant has the capacity to “raise awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural value of a food that has been traditionally cultivated for thousands of years” (UN).
Interestingly, Quinoa is now even grown in the UK!
What Makes Quinoa a Superfood?
Quinoa is more than a buzzy health-food trend. It is also massively nourishing! And it’s incredible nutritional profile makes it a food that should put it in the shopping baskets of more people more often! The particular qualities of Quinoa make it a positive contributor to low cholesterol diets as well as potentially helping to lower the risk of gastrointestinal cancers.
Designated a ‘superfood’ Quinoa is a low fat, low carbohydrate and high fibre wholegrain. But importantly, it is also a complete protein. This means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids needed by the body for growth and repair. Complete proteins are most commonly animal proteins, which makes this forceful plant-based source incredibly rare. And that also makes it perfect for anyone following a plant-based (Vegan) diet (whether full or part time).
Quinoa is also a little powerhouse of key vitamins and minerals, in particular the B vitamins and folate, Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. And for the Coeliacs amongst us take note… it is naturally gluten free too (although it is important to check the packaging for any risk of cross-contamination). If you haven’t learnt how to cook Quinoa yet, it’s time you did!
Once I have learnT How to Cook Quinoa, What Can I Do With It?
Quinoa does not just come as a straight seed, it is also processed into Quinoa flour and Quinoa Flakes. The flour makes an excellent nutritional addition to gluten free flour blends (check out my gluten free flour blending guide). The flakes are a good alternative to oats, particularly for those who are oat-intolerant. For the purposes of this guide however, I am focussing on how to cook Quinoa seeds.
Quinoa can be eaten hot or cold and in savoury or sweet dishes. To get the best out of it, I would suggest that it should be cooked using a liquid that imparts flavour… For savoury Quinoa, I always cook in a well-seasoned stock or home-made vegetable broth. This makes it delicious as a simple side in place of rice or cous cous.
Savoury Dishes with cooked quinoa
Alternatively, try adding cooked Quinoa to a tasty lunch-time Buddha Bowl or Quinoa Bowl (like this Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Bowl from Crunch & Cream). Or use it as a base in delicious veggie burgers or these Potato & Quinoa Burgers (from Sneaky Veg).
Quinoa also gives a delicious, wholesome texture to stuffings and would be an ideal substitute for the Soya TVP in my Vegan Keema Recipe (Keema Matar Curry).
If you are more of a soup or salad person, cooked Quinoa is great for pepping them up. Just sprinkle a little over the top of salad or stir into soup for added interest and texture. Or make it a considered part of the dish, like in this Chicken, Kale, Quinoa and Pumpkin Salad or Roasted Squash, Quinoa, Avocado & Feta Salad (both from Easy Peasy Foodie).
Although most sweeter recipes with Quinoa use flakes, the cooked seeds make a yummy addition to rice puddings, fruit salads, protein shakes and even added to mousse. But my favourite way to eat Quinoa at the sweeter end, is to use it in a healthy and sustaining Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. Prepare the Quinoa in advance (obviously not using vegetable stock) and keep in the fridge ready to grab and munch as soon as you are out of bed. You can even make a bowl of pink Quinoa! Check out how I cook Quinoa for my beautiful, fruit-topped Rainbow Breakfast Bowl here.
If you prefer the idea of Quinoa Porridge made with Quinoa Flakes, advice on how to cook it (so that it doesn’t become mush) can be found in my How to Make Gluten Free Porridge Post.
How To Cook Quinoa – An Illustrated Guide
What You Need
- Stock (for savoury)
- Measuring Cups or Scales
- Running Tap (or a bowl of cold, clean water)
- Saucepan with Lid
- Wooden/Silicone Spoon
How to Measure Your Quinoa & Water
Quinoa increases in size by three times once cooked, so you need to think about how much you want to end up with. Actually, it doesn’t really matter if you cook too much, because you can use any left-overs in so many ways (as above). Just be careful not to end up with too little. But essentially if you want to end up with 3 cups of cooked Quinoa, you will start with 1 cup of dry seeds.
To cook, you will need a dry Quinoa to liquid ratio of 1:2. So for every 1 cup of dry Quinoa, you will use 2 cups of liquid. I find it easiest to measure by volume using American Cups, but you can also measure by weight.
1 cup dry Quinoa (weighs 180g) to 2 cups water/stock/milk (weighs per cup 220g (ml) = 440g (ml) for 2 cups)
Rinse the Quinoa
Most Quinoa has an outer coating known as Saponin, which if not washed, can result in a bitter flavour. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly rinse. To do this :
- Transfer your measured Quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve.
- Rinse under cold running water for 2 to 3 minutes, making sure the water runs through the whole batch. If you don’t have access to running water (maybe you are camping), put the Quinoa in a good-sized bowl of clean, cold water and allow to wash for a few minutes (stirring occasionally).
- Once washed, drain the quinoa well in the sieve.
How to Cook Quinoa
- Put the Quinoa, liquid (at correct ratio 1:2 Quinoa to liquid)) and stock cube (if using) in the saucepan.
- Place the pan over a high heat to bring to the boil. Whilst heating, stir intermittently. This will help the stock cube to dissolve and ensure equal distribution of any other seasoning/flavouring.
- Once the liquid has come to a full boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer.
- Put the lid on the pan.
- Leave to simmer for 15 minutes (or until the liquid has been fully absorbed and the kernels have opened (for black/red Quinoa, they will not all open).
- Remove the pan from the heat. Put the lid back on and leave to stand for a further 5 minutes to enable any remaining liquid to absorb.
- Fluff the Quinoa with a fork and serve warm or cold.
- Quinoa can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
So there you have it. How to Cook Quinoa to fluffy Perfection… Every time! I hope you found this helpful and will now be eating this amazing superfood often. Let me know if you do and if this guide has helped you take the Quinoa plunge.
If looking for alternatives, I can also thoroughly recommend Buckwheat. Read my post on all you need to know about Buckwheat Groats and how to cook them.
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How to Cook Quinoa shared with :
- What’s For Dinner #242 with The Lazy Gastronome
- Inspire Me Monday #424 with Create With Joy
- Full Plate Thursday with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
Miz Helen says
This is a great tutorial for Quinoa! Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday and come back to see us soon!
Thank You Helen. And you’re so welcome x
Chloe Edges says
The one and only time I have cooked quinoa, I thought it was coucous (unlabelled jars!). Lets just say it didn’t go well and I’ve avoided it ever since. But I’ll def grab some next time I’m at the shop and give it a go now I know how easy it is! Thank!
Oh no Chloe. That would have been enough to put anyone off! Absolutely give it another try…. I love the stuff x
Helen at the Lazy Gastronome says
Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party!
You’re welcome x
Jenny Walters says
Another epic post. I have never cooked with quinoa but now I feel like I so could! Everything I could ever imagine I needed to know answered! Thank you so much for sharing with #CookBlogShare
Thank You Jenny! If you have never cooked Quinoa, now is the time to start… It’s amazing stuff xx
What an incredible comprehensive guide. I know that cooking quinoa is something that a lot of people struggle with so I’ll be sure to send them this way next time someone asks me about it.
Thank you so much Mandy. Cooking Quinoa does seem to be something that is easy to get wrong. The trouble is, a ‘bad’ batch can put you off for life… and that’s such a shame for such a wonderful food xx
Wow, that’s a pretty comprehensive guide Kate. I’ve been cooking quinoa well over twenty years now and before it came into fashion, so I’ve had plenty of time to perfect the cooking. The only thing I do differently to you is I cook the quinoa for five minutes rather than rinsing it immediately. This allows some of those soapy saponins to come out. I then rinse well in a sieve and then cook it properly.
Thank you Choclette. As the person who has introduced me to so many new ingredients, I have absolutely no doubt that Quinoa has been on your menu forever. Interesting difference in preparation. I think the important bit is that there is stage that cleans the seeds. Although interestingly, the British-grown Quinoa claims to be saponin free!!! x
louise Gunstone says
Great guide, thanks. I’ve never cooked it but need to learn as my gorgeous little nephew is visiting this summer and he has celiac.
Thank you Louise. Quinoa is an amazing food and absolutely worth knowing how to cook well. Such a great addition to a Coeliac diet too x
Deborah Brooks says
I also like to cook my quinoa with veggie broth to enhance the flavor. Great explanation here
Thanks Deborah. Quinoa is so much better cooked with flavour x
Love quinoa!! I burnt my family out on it years ago but slowly I’ve been bringing it back to regular rotation.
Me too Sarah. But I guess you can always have too much of a good thing! I hope they grow to love it again soon x