How To Cook Fluffy Quinoa (and 20 Quinoa Recipes)

How to cook quinoa perfectly, every time. You can use it in everything from salads and bowls, stews and sourdough, or any of my 20 favorite quinoa recipes highlighted below.

How To Cook Fluffy Quinoa (and 20 Quinoa Recipes)

If you know how to cook quinoa perfectly, you’re on your way to a wide range of amazing meals. It’s a fantastic adventure to cook your way through the world’s wonderful heirloom grains (and grain-like seeds), and quinoa is one of them. The trick to nailing the perfect fluffy pot of is using the right ratio of water to quinoa and knowing a few little tricks. While I initially purchased quinoa for its nutritional perks (of which there are many) I kept purchasing it for its grassy taste and fluffed up, creamy-while-crunchy texture.
Best Quinoa Recipes

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa [Keen-wah] is a fantastic grain to utilize in year-round cooking. It has long been celebrated as a nutritional powerhouse from South America. Because it is protein-rich, delicious, and charmingly versatile has become an increasingly popular ingredient. Technically not a true grain, it is related botanically to Swiss chard and beets, but it is grain-like in spirit when it comes to cooking. 

Which Color is Best?

There are many different types of quinoa and it grows in a wide range of colors. The most commonly available in the U.S. are red, brown, black, and ivory. You can also buy tri-color blends. Most quinoa tastes very similar to me. White often cooks up fluffiest. The colors have very similar nutritional profiles, although I suspect red and black have increased phytonutrients. Black can also take a few extra minutes to cook. The biggest difference to me is visual impact. I tend to go with the ivory quinoa if making a meal for someone who might not be a very adventurous eater, or picky kids. The light colored quinoa tends to blend or bake right into things seamlessly. That said, I love the visual punch the colored varietal deliver to pizza crusts, muffins, grain bowls, and the like. So that's usually my choice.

Why Do I Need to Rinse Quinoa?

This is a thing. It's all about something called saponins. Always rinse before using to remove bitter saponin coating (which the plant produces to deter birds and insects). If you buy pre-rinsed packages, there is no need to rinse.

Quinoa Cooking Basics

  • What kind should I buy? Consider sourcing fair-trade and organic quinoa. This supports local farm communities, and helps preserve the health and integrity of the land and farming communities.
  • Can I use a rice cooker to cook quinoa? Yes, absolutely. Use the following water (or broth) to quinoa ratio and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Can I use a donabe to cook quinoa? Yes! I use my clay pot donabe to cook it often. Use gentle heat, the ratio below, and the same technique you would use to cook rice.
  • How much water to quinoa should I use? This has been an ever-evolving issue for me over the years. Water ratios are important! I've landed on 1 cup quinoa to 1 2/3 cups liquid. A steady, gentle simmer for about 20 minutes, covered, will result in a beautiful pot of quinoa. Just fluff with a fork and enjoy.

Get Creative! Cook Your Quinoa with Flavor

Nearly every basic quinoa recipe will instruct you to use water as your base. I think this is great advice your first few times through. You can get a real sense of the flavor by keeping it simple. Just know, there is a world of flavor to explore beyond that! I love to cook quinoa with strong broths. A dollop of curry paste is always welcome for a jolt of flavor. Or you can experiment with spices like turmeric, powdered chiles, or seaweeds, or mushroom powders. Chopped garlic? Yes! Miso? So good. The realm of possibilities is endless.

How Can I Add Quinoa to My Baking?

Stir leftover cooked quinoa into all your favorite baked goods for more interesting flavor, texture, and nutritional punch. The key here is experimenting. Stir a cup of cooked, room-temperature quinoa into your favorite muffin mix. Or cut it into your best pie crust, or biscuit dough. This amount is usually a good place to start until you get a feel for things. Make notes! Then, add more or less the next time through. This is one of my favorite baking pro-tips. Once you start adding things like whole grains to your baking, all-white flour baking gets less and less interesting.

How to Store Cooked Quinoa

Store and leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a few days, beyond that, transfer it to the freezer. It freezes beautifully. When you're ready to use it, bring to room temperature and then transfer to a bowl. Use a fork to break up clumps and make uniform. My motto here is: Fridge, freeze, fluff.

The Nutritional Benefits of Quinoa

Nutrient-rich quinoa is often considered a whole grain, but it actually a seed! And it has a lot going for it. Quinoa is a wonderful source of plant-based fiber and protein. And added bonus is that quinoa is that it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies aren’t able to produce on their own. It is naturally gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people who follow a gluten-free diet and more rich in protein and antioxidants than some of the alternatives. It is also a source of magnesium, folate, thiamine, and calcium. The health benefits of quinoa are something worth exploring. Well worth incorporating into your meals. 

Is Quinoa Better than Rice?

I’m occasionally asked if quinoa is better than rice. It’s a great question. One of the nice things about quinoa is it has a low glycemic index when compared to many rices. It clearly stands out in this regard. It beats out brown rice in many other regards as well - more protein, and more amino acids. They’re neck and neck on the fiber front. That said, I love rice (there’s an amazing range available), and one of the things I like to do is add a percentage of quinoa to my rice when cooking. Or stir in cooked quinoa to rice for some added nutritional boost. It’s generally agreed that quinoa has significantly more micro-nutrients than brown rice.

Easy Ways to Incorporate Quinoa Into Your Diet

I list my favorite recipes below, but I thought it might be helpful to list off easy “non-recipe” ways I like to incorporate quinoa into my meals and snacks. I often cook a pot of at the start of the week, and then add it to a wide range of things.

  • Add some, cooked and cooled, to your favorite cookie dough. Start with 1/3 of a cup and see how you like it. You can always increase or decrease the amount of in future batches.
  • I love adding a few tablespoons of cooked quinoa to any tart or pizza dough I’m making.
  • Sprinkle cooked quinoa into your favorite potato salad, green salad, egg salad, or even macaroni salad. 
  • Stir some quinoa into whatever other grain you’re cooking for a bit of nutritional diversity.

Twenty Favorite Quinoa Recipes

If you’re looking for great quinoa recipes, you’re in the right place!

  1. Double Broccoli Quinoa

    Broccoli lovers delight, with a broccoli pesto, sliced avocado and a drizzle of feisty chile pepper oil.
    Double Broccoli Quinoa

  2. Mung Quinoa Power Bowl Recipe

    Simply mung beans and quinoa with deeply sautéed and spiced celery.
    Mung Quinoa Power Bowl Recipe

  3. Spicy Instant Pot Taco Soup Recipe

    A hearty melding of beans, and corn, and taco spices, and quinoa.
    Spicy Instant Pot Taco Soup Recipe

  4. Super Green Vegan Quinoa Burritos

    Vegan burritos packed with all the good stuff - quinoa, mung beans, and lots of kale.

     

    Super Green Vegan Quinoa Burritos

  5. Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl

    Double up on broccoli through a coconut green curry pesto and florets, then toss with a quinoa base. Vegan Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl

  6. Kale Quinoa Bites

    The perfect on-the-go snack or mini meal.
    Kale Quinoa Bites

  7. Life Changing Green Rice Porridge

    A one pot, effortless, green, nutrient-packed twist on one of my favorite things to eat. Life Changing Green Rice Porridge

  8. Super Natural Vegan Sushi

    Vegan sushi made with sweet potato fries, seasoned tofu, avocado, kale chips, and a quinoa-sushi rice blend. Super Natural Vegan Sushi

  9. Rustic Tomato Tart

    The crust of this tart deploys a favorite baking trinity of mine - rye, cooked quinoa, and all-purpose (or bread) flour. Rustic Tomato Tart

  10. Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

    A berry-studded breakfast quinoa with pecans and blackberries, sweetened with agave nectar or honey. Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Recipe

  11. Coconut Quinoa Bowl

    The next time you have leftover quinoa (other other favorite grain) give it a try - coconut, garlic, almonds, kale, topped with salted yogurt and avocado. Coconut Quinoa Bowl Recipe

  12. Quinoa Skillet Bread

    A rustic, minimally structured, custard-topped, crusty-edged, herb-scented corn-quinoa skillet bread. Quinoa Skillet Bread Recipe

  13. Heather’s Quinoa

    A one-skillet quinoa recipe - quinoa, corn, chopped kale and pan-toasted tofu tossed with a big dollop of pesto and finished off with a few roasted cherry tomatoes. Heather’s Quinoa Recipe

  14. Quinoa Hemp Snack Balls

    A quick way to get quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, and coconut into one naturally sweetened, no-bake snack.

  15. Perfect Healthy Granola

    Deeply chocolate-flavored with dark black cocoa and cocoa nibs, this granola is packed with heart-healthy oats, quinoa crispies and seeds.

  16. Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

    An impromptu quinoa salad recipe made by tossing a quick tahini dressing with chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro.

  17. Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

    This quinoa and grilled zucchini recipe is tossed with a pretty, pale green cilantro-flecked avocado dressing.

  18. Quinoa Cloud Cookies

    Cookies made from toasted quinoa and wheat flours, flecked with chocolate shavings, rolled and stamped into cloud shapes.

  19. Quinoa with Currants, Dill, and Zucchini

    A quinoa salad made from a quirky combination of quinoa, dill, shredded zucchini, and currants.

  20. Tokyo Five Grain

    A colorful grain blend inspired by a trip to Japan.

Have fun cooking with quinoa! Use it in soups, on salads, as a base for all sorts of bowls and as a nutrient-packed alternative to white rice or pasta. Stir it into your batters and fold it into your bread and pizza doughs. If you find you enjoy recipes featuring whole quinoa, there are also other forms available. Keep an eye out for quinoa flakes, popped/puffed quinoa as well as quinoa flour. All are delicious, interesting, and easy to incorporate into your cooking. Have fun!

 

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How to Cook Fluffy Quinoa

4.84 from 6 votes

Quick and easy, quinoa is great on its own, as well as the basis of many fantastic recipes!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups quinoa well-rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
Instructions
  1. To cook quinoa combine the quinoa with water and salt in a medium saucepan. 

  2. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, covered, or until the quinoa is tender and you can see the little quinoa curlicues. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!

Notes

Serves 6.

Serves
6
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
21 mins
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

Love everything here.

irene

A little known way to cook up beautiful, fluffy quinoa is to first cook in water and then steam. This method is especially luxurious when the quinoa is a featured ingredient in a salad or side. And though it is two steps, it doesn't feel overly precious. Specifically: Cook the quinoa in salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain in a sieve and rinse. Place the sieve on a saucepan of boiling water (making sure the water doesn't touch the quinoa) and steam for 10 or more minutes, until light and fluffy. The trick here is to place a kitchen towel over the sieve, and then the saucepan lid, to create a proper steaming environment. As with anything steamed, check to make sure there is sufficient water along the way. Heidi, thank you for compiling these wonderful recipes, I am going to try the lemon-scented salad tonight!

Andrea

I'm looking for the recipe for the picture at the head of this post. I used to make it a lot a long time ago, and can no longer find it on your site. Any help would greatly be appreciated. Thanks!

Tiffani L Brown

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