How to Cook Quinoa Perfectly for Fluffy, Chewy and Nutty Grains Every Time

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How to cook quinoa that’s fluffy, flavorful, and versatile on the stove top. Turn this ancient whole grain into a tasty base to grain bowls, add it to salads or turn it into a vegetarian stew once you know how to prepare perfect quinoa in minutes.

To cook quinoa on the stove, combine quinoa with water in a 1 to 2 ratio with salt to taste. Bring to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 

Throughout the years, we have seen quinoa go from a relatively unknown, heath niche food to world-wide champion status. Nowadays, you can find quinoa in supermarkets all over the world –there was a time where you couldn’t find it anywhere!

There’s a reason why quinoa is so famous now. What’s not to love about it? It’s healthy, it’s nutritious, and it’s tasty. Once you know the proper way to cook quinoa on the stove, you’ll always have a healthy, nutty, and satisfying grain dish in your back pocket to help round out a meal.

Different Kinds of Quinoa

While it might seem like quinoa is a relatively new starch option, compared to rice or pasta, for example, in fact, quinoa is an ancient grain that’s been enjoyed for centuries. Quina is actually one of the few foods that is considered a complete protein. This means that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids humans need. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and one cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of plant-based protein. For this reason, quinoa can be a great addition to vegetarian and vegan diets.dry uncooked quinoa

There are several different kinds of quinoa available at the grocery store. Some of the most common varieties of quinoa available in the States include:

  • White quinoa. Maybe the most common quinoa variety you’ll find, white quinoa is the most mild-flavored variety. It has a light, fluffy texture.
  • Red quinoa. Red quinoa has slightly smaller grains and a deep red color that turns rusty brown when cooked. The flavor is stronger than white quinoa and has a distinctly nutty taste. Red quinoa takes 3 to 4 minutes longer to cook than white quinoa.
  • Black quinoa. Dark and dramatic on the plate, black quinoa has a yet stronger nutty and earthy flavor. Black quinoa takes 5 to 6 more minutes to cook compared to white quiona.
  • Tri-color quinoa. Also called rainbow quinoa, this is actually a packaged mix of different kinds of quinoa listed above. It usually contains red, black, and white quinoa. This is a great choice to add some color and texture to your dinner plate.
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Other less common varieties of quinoa include pink, grey, orange, and purple quinoa. Try as many as you can find to see which flavor you prefer!

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove

If you’re ready to get cooking, the first step is to gather your ingredients.


All you need to make perfect quinoa on the stovetop is:

1 cup uncooked white quinoa
2 cups of water
¼ teaspoon of salt

This ingredient list makes 4 modest (1/2-cup) servings of quinoa. Feel free to make more to feed a crowd or prepare for the week ahead.

Quinoa to Water Ratio

If you want to make more than one cup of quinoa, follow a simple rule of thumb. As with many grains, you’ll need 2 cups of liquid (such as water, broth or a combination of the two) for every 1 cup of grains.  For example, if you want to make 5 cups of quinoa, you’ll need 10 cups of water. Note that the grains will about double in size as they cook, so make sure to use a large enough pot to account for the extra space they’ll need.

Even though we have included ¼ teaspoon of salt for one cup of quinoa in our recipe, you should always salt to taste. If you want to follow the recipe exactly, you need to calculate 1 teaspoon of salt per 4 cups of quinoa, or 0.25 (or ¼) teaspoons of salt per cup of quinoa.

Step 1: Rinse the quinoa

To prepare your quinoa for cooking, it’s important to always rinse the grains first. The reason for this is that rinsing removes any excess starch that builds up on the grains during packaging and travel. It also helps to rinse away any debris that can be hiding in your grains (don’t worry, this is a natural part of the growing and harvesting process).

Step 2: Start your water

After rinsing the quinoa, place it in a medium saucepan and cover it with the correct amount of water. Be sure to measure here, not eye-ball it, as too much water can result in soggy, mushy quinoa, and too little water can cause the grains to burn on the bottom of your pot.

Bring the saucepan to a boil over medium heat.

Step 2: Simmering things down

As soon as you have the beginnings of a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook for 12 minutes.

Step 3: Let it steam

After your cook time has elapsed, turn off the heat but don’t remove the lid from the pot. Instead, move the pot to a cold burner or another cool spot and let the grains steam in the saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps the grains absorb any excess water and finish cooking.

Step 4: Salt to taste

After 5 minutes, remove the lid and use a fork to gently fluff the quinoa in the pan. Taste the grains and add salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste. Now you’re ready to serve it up and dig in!

How do you make quinoa taste good?

If a basic plate of quinoa doesn’t have enough flavor for you, you can play with the recipe a little bit and see what you can come up with. Quinoa goes well with lots of things.

One way to season the grains as they cook is to swap out some or all of the water with chicken or vegetable broth.  Or, a little bit of butter or olive oil and garlic also goes a long way when you’re having quinoa!

What to Serve with Quinoa

If you’re looking for dishes to pair with your fluffy cooked quinoa, the possibilities are pretty endless. For a healthy, well-rounded dinner, serve your quinoa with a juicy and tender chicken breast or pork chop. To add some extra veggies, roasted cauliflower, broccoli or acorn squash are all delicious with quinoa.

Storing Quinoa

Store uncooked quinoa in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Store cooked quinoa in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week. You can also freeze cooked quinoa by letting the grains cool fully and placing them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost the quinoa in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove, adding more water or broth as necessary to prevent the grains from drying out.

Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

Yes, quinoa is naturally gluten-free. It’s a great grain option for anyone with celiac disease or following a gluten-free diet. Use it in place of pasta or other gluten-containing grains like farro.

Can You Bake With Quinoa?

Yes, in fact, because of it’s gluten-free nature, quinoa is increasingly becoming a popular baking ingredient. In fact, some people even blend cooked quinoa into smoothies to add a healthy protein boost.

You can also find quinoa flour and quinoa flakes, which are dried and powdered versions of the grain. These absorb liquid easily like regular flour and are great for wheat-free baking.

bag of quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa

How to cook fluffy, flavorful qinoa on the stove.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • Medium saucepan with a lid
  • Fork


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or chicken/vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt to taste


  • Rinse the quinoa under running water.
  • Place the quina in a medium sacupean with the water and salt. Bring to a simmer, then immediatly reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 12 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, but leave the top on the pot and steam the quinoa for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, fluff the quinoa with a fork and season to taste.
Keyword Quinoa

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