How to Cook Quinoa

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Straight from the Forq Kitchen!
by Becca Pusey


How to Cook Quinoa

For such an honest, humble little ingredient, it’s surprising how high the demand is out there for information simply on how to cook quinoa. Let me blow this whole article by giving away the secret for “how to cook quinoa” right here at the beginning: cooking quinoa is really easy. I mean, dead easy. Literally. The process we’re going to talk through today is as simple as “rinse, boil, drain, fluff” and that may be all you ever need to know about cooking quinoa. But, there is a huge demand for information on this little known grain (seed!), so I will give you a step by step guide anyway on How to Cook Quinoa.

The second secret, of course, is that there’s ‘easy’ and then there’s ‘easy + plus a few tricks I’ve learned’, and here at FORQ, we’re all about sharing the tricks our experience of food. So expect here a Master Class on How to Cook Quinoa. My methods have not yet failed to produce light and fluffy quinoa–not mushy, not undercooked, certainly not bitter… just perfectly cooked quinoa every time. The real secret to what makes quinoa great isn’t *how* you cook the grain (seed!) itself. It’s what you prepare the quinoa with that steals the show.

Roll up your sleeves and let’s cook quinoa together. Here’s how to cook quinoa.

Yes, cooking quinoa is so easy that one step of a five-step process is just putting the quinoa in a pan. Told you it wasn’t tricky!

Cooking Quinoa
Step 1: Rinse the quinoa under cold water.

Quinoa seeds have a slightly bitter coating called saponin, and rinsing helps to wash this bitterness away. Depending on what brand of quinoa you buy, rinsing can sometimes be skipped if you’re in a rush; if you’re using a more expensive brand of quinoa, it’s probably not going to ruin your dinner if you throw the quinoa straight into the pan without rinsing it first. In fact, sometimes upper-end quinoa has even been pre-rinsed for you. But if you’re not sure, rinsing your quinoa is worth the one minute it takes to rinse, especially if you’re using the cheap stuff.

Rinsing quinoa also begins to hydrate the seeds, making the end result noticeably fluffier. If you do opt for rinsing, make sure you use a fine mesh sieve or strainer to avoid losing half your dinner down the drain!

Cooking Quinoa
Step 2: Add quinoa to a saucepan.

Yes, cooking quinoa is so easy that one step of a five-step process is just putting the quinoa in a pan. Told you it wasn’t tricky!

Go for a relatively large pan so the quinoa has plenty of room to move around; we don’t want any clumps.

MAKE IT BETTER: For extra tasty quinoa, you can toast the quinoa for 5 minutes in a little oil before adding any water. This additional step is entirely optional when you cook quinoa, but it helps bring out the lovely, nutty flavour of the quinoa seeds. Stir constantly to stop your quinoa from burning, and cook the quinoa gently until it’s golden brown.

Once you’ve toasted your quinoa – or without toasting it, if you’re pushed for time – pour lots of water over it. Cooking quinoa isn’t the same as cooking rice, where the amount of water needs to be measured precisely. Here, we’re going to use as much water as we like, and drain off any excess later. It’s better to use too much than not enough, so make sure the dry quinoa is generously covered with water before you cook it.

MAKE IT BETTER: You can also use vegetable stock (or chicken if you aren’t a purist) instead of plain water if you prefer to give the quinoa extra flavour, especially if you’re serving the quinoa plain.

Here’s a top tip for you: if you have an electric kettle (which everyone does here in the UK), boil up a kettle full of water to use for your quinoa, rather than starting with cold water.

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Cooking Quinoa
Step 3: Let the quinoa cook.

You don’t need to give your quinoa much attention as it boils; unlike rice and pasta, which tend to clump together and burn onto the bottom of the pan if you don’t stir them regularly (I speak from lots of experience…), quinoa grains are so small and light that they’re bounced around by the bubbles. Yep, quinoa is self-stirring (applause, please, for introducing you to self-making food). Stirring your quinoa just once or twice during cooking is plenty.

Cooking Quinoa
Step 4: Drain the quinoa.

Quinoa should take around 15 or 20 minutes to cook, but use your common sense: if you start with cold water, for example, it will take longer to boil. You’ll know the quinoa is ready when it’s almost translucent, and very soft – just taste a few quinoa grains to check, but be careful as they’ll be hot! The spiral-shaped germ will also have released itself from the seed. You’ll know what this means when you see it, but you should be able to see lots of tiny spirals through your quinoa. At this point, drain it through the fine sieve you used earlier to economise on washing up.

Step 5: Fluff that quinoa!

Your quinoa will probably be pretty fluffy already, but I like to fluff my quinoa up with a fork just to make extra sure that there are no clumps. Then, it’s ready to use however you like! If you’re not using your cooked quinoa straight away, store it in a sealed container in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

So – yes. This has been a lesson in what could be one of the simplest tasks your kitchen has ever seen. Cooking quinoa is really easy, so you’ve got no excuses for not giving it a try. The real key to ‘how to cook quinoa’ isn’t literally how you cook it on the stove (rinse, boil, drain, fluff). The secret to impressing family, friends and dinner guests is what you do with the quinoa once you’ve cooked it. This is the other part of cooking: recipe creation. Or, at least, dish assembly that goes beyond “meat, veg, grain, done.” I’ve chosen to mention a few of my favourite things to do with quinoa below, but there are countless options, so don’t take this as an exhaustive list. In fact, you can check out my collection of 23 Amazing Vegetarian Quinoa Recipes for some additional quinoa inspiration from my favourite food bloggers.

How to Cook Quinoa – Or, How to Cook WITH Quinoa!

Cook Quinoa for breakfast

It turns out, quinoa is great for breakfast! It tastes like a straight-up carb so it’s hearty and satisfying, but the high protein content means it’ll keep you fuller for longer than empty white carbs. Quinoa also has a low GI (glycemic index), meaning that rather than releasing all of its energy in one short burst, it’s released gradually over several hours, so there’s no danger of crashing mid-morning. Quinoa is the perfect breakfast food!

There are heaps of ways to serve quinoa for breakfast, both sweet and savoury.

If you’re looking for a simple but easily customisable breakfast, try making a quinoa version of oatmeal. Boil the quinoa as above, and serve it up with fruit, milk and honey. Or if you prefer a savoury breakfast, stir some mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach through the quinoa and top with a fried, runny egg. The variations are endless; you could have cooked quinoa for breakfast every day of the month without a single duplicate.

Alternatively, quinoa makes a great granola. You can read the full recipe here, but in short, just mix cooked quinoa with some oats, nuts, or whatever else you like in your granola, along with a little honey or agave to hold everything together, and bake it until it’s nice and crunchy, then add in some dried fruit. My favourite way to serve my cooked quinoa granola is with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit – healthy and oh-so-delicious!

Cook Quinoa for lunch

Quinoa is delicious served hot or cold, so leftovers are not a problem – quinoa doesn’t clump together or become gummy when it cools like leftover pasta sometimes does. So, if you have any plain quinoa leftover from the night before, pop it in a lunch box and it will be great eaten cold the next day at lunch time (or microwaved to return it to its former glory!).

To make your lunchtime quinoa a little more interesting, use it to make an easy salad; it’s a great way to make your leafy greens feel a bit more substantial. Because of its mild flavour, quinoa will go with just about anything, so the sky’s the limit. My all-time favourite quinoa salad uses a few leaves of rocket (that’s arugula to some of you folk), a bit of crumbled feta cheese, and some marinated artichoke hearts, along with cooked quinoa and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Cook Quinoa for dinner

Quinoa makes a great casserole. Is there anything more comforting than a hot spoonful of saucy quinoa, topped with crispy cheese (nom nom nom)? I make a great pizza quinoa casserole with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but there are any number of alternatives. Try adding black beans, sweetcorn kernels and some extra spice for a Mexican-style casserole. Or, swap out the tomato sauce for a creamy white sauce, and add whatever fresh, seasonal veg you can get your hands on for a quinoa primavera casserole. It really is just a case of peering into your fridge, grabbing a few veg, adding whatever sauce you have on hand, and mixing it all through your quinoa. Top it with some grated cheese or a few breadcrumbs, pop it in the oven, and voila! A delicious and healthy dinner with barely any thought or planning required.

Actual Cooking with Quinoa:

Quinoa flour

If you grind your raw quinoa into flour (yes, you can do this), you open up lots more doors. Add some uncooked quinoa to a high-powered blender and whizz it up until you’ve got flour.

You can use quinoa flour to make pizza crusts, bread, pastry – pretty much anything you’d use wheat flour for. And if you’re open to the idea of a quinoa-based dessert, try quinoa cookies, quinoa cake or even quinoa brownies. Sounds ambitious, but I promise they are delicious. And the list of possibilities goes on and on. You may need to experiment a bit to find the right recipe that balances out according to your tastes, as sometimes it’s necessary to combine quinoa flour with other kinds of flour to get the right taste and texture – but it’s definitely doable. Don’t expect things to taste exactly like they did with bleached white flour, but honestly, once you start resetting your baseline, over time, your taste for white flour items does diminish and you can begin to look forward to bread and baked items made with a variety of ingredients.

How to Cook Quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa

Sprouted quinoa

Sprouting germinates the quinoa seeds. If you think you haven’t had sprouted seeds or legumes before, think again; I’m sure most people have eaten bean sprouts in a Chinese dish at some point in their lives. These are just the sprouts that have grown from beans (it’s kind of in the name…).

It’s claimed that sprouted grains, seeds and legumes are easier to digest than their unsprouted counterparts, and that their nutrients are easier to absorb. Sprouting also reduces the level of phytic acid, which can cause issues for the gut.

Quinoa is already a super nutritious food, but if there’s a way to make it even better for you, well, why not give it a go?

So, how do you sprout quinoa? Well, it’s simple. It does take quite a while – a couple of days, in fact – but it’s almost all hands-off time while the seeds do their thing.

First, rinse some raw, unhulled quinoa in the usual way, then cover it with cold water, and leave it to soak overnight. In the morning, drain the quinoa seeds and rinse again. Place the soaked (and now drained) quinoa in a fine mesh strainer so that any excess water can drain away (make sure to put a bowl underneath to catch the drips). Alternatively, you can buy special jars with lids designed especially for sprouting; they’re prettier than a strainer sat on a bowl, but basically do the same job, so don’t worry if you don’t want to buy any special equipment.

Leave the quinoa in the strainer and rinse every six hours or so (or whenever you remember), until the seeds begin to sprout, which might take a day or two.

Once the quinoa has begun to sprout, spread it out on a baking tray, and store it somewhere fairly dark until it’s completely dry.

And that’s it! Nothing tricky about it.

Sprouted quinoa can be cooked in the same way as unsprouted quinoa, or you can eat it raw, as-is, thrown over a salad (all the soaking means they’re not crunchy like raw quinoa is). Make sure you store your sprouted quinoa in the fridge, and try to use it relatively quickly as it doesn’t last as long as unsprouted quinoa does.

If you’ve got your own recipe that uses quinoa as a secret (or not-so-secret!) ingredient, make sure you share it over in the Forq app. I’m always looking for new ways, methods, and recipes to cook this mighty ingredient.

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Who’s Cooking Today

Becca Pusey

Becca Pusey is a freelance recipe developer and food writer based in Hertfordshire, UK. She blogs over at Amuse Your Bouche, where she shares her favourite simple vegetarian recipes using everyday ingredients. She aims to show that vegetarian food can be just as easy to make, just as satisfying, and just as tasty as any meat dish. Oh, and she likes cheese, a lot.

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