I love quinoa. Seriously, I could wax poetic about it. It’s fast to cook, easy, and so nutritious. That’s why it features regularly in my menus. If you’re new to it, or wondering what the best way is to cook it, I’m going to share with you exactly how to cook quinoa.

Quinoa’s high protein content, sweet and nutty flavor, and delicate texture makes it a popular alternative to pasta and rice. Here’s how to cook quinoa perfectly, in less than 20 minutes.


First, though, a quick word about why quinoa is so amazing.

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an Andean plant that originated from South America, specifically Peru and Bolivia. The Incas called it chisaya mama or the “mother of all grains” and believed it to be sacred.

Known for its edible seeds that come from a weed-like plant called goosefoot, quinoa is a pseudocereal; it’s basically a seed that is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain. 

black, red and white quinoa grains on a wooden background

There are many different types of quinoa available. Most grocery stores sell either white, red, black, or tri-color quinoa, and they each have their own culinary nuances.

White, which is the most common variety, takes the shortest amount of time to cook. Of the three it has the least crunchy texture and mildest flavor. Red comes on a bit stronger in both the flavor and crunch factors while also taking a little longer to cook. Black, the most flavorful and crunchiest, requires the longest cooking time.

Why Quinoa Is Good For You

Even though technically it’s not a cereal grain, quinoa still counts as a whole-grain food. It has a nutty flavor and fluffy texture that’s creamy and slightly chewy at the same time.

Quinoa has a high nutritional profile. One cooked cup contains 222 calories, a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals including vitamins B1, B2, and B6, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, and potassium.

white grains on a gray background

It also contains high amounts of quercetin and kaempferol, two flavonoids that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects. Another important benefit is its high fiber content (around 10-16 grams of fiber for every 100 grams).

Quinoa is considered a superfood because it contains sufficient amounts of the nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein.

Using it just like you would any other grain like rice or barley, quinoa makes a fantastic side dish for almost any meal. You can serve it as a bed for stews and curries. It can also be used in casseroles, breakfast porridges, and salads. If you’re new to quinoa, or if you feel like your method needs improvement, read on to learn how to cook quinoa that’s perfect every time!

How To Cook Quinoa

White grains with a yellow measuring scoop

I used to get the kind of quinoa that I needed to wash and rinse in a fine mesh strainer. Get a pre-rinsed brand like Ancient Harvest which is such a timesaver.

Cooking tip: Even if the quinoa is labeled as “pre-rinsed,” give it a quick rinse under cold water. Saponins naturally occur on the outside of the grains and give it a slightly bitter taste if not removed. Most of this coating is removed through the harvesting methods used but this extra rinsing step helps to remove any remaining residue.

Quinoa added to a pan

1. Measure one cup of raw, pre-rinsed quinoa and two cups of water or vegetable broth into a pan. Keep in mind that quinoa almost doubles in size when cooked so pick an appropriately sized pan. Add a pinch of sea salt if you’d like. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Quinoa and water boiling in a saucepan

2. Once it reaches a boil, cover the pan with the lid cracked and let it simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cooked quinoa in a pan

3. Once all the liquid is gone, check and see if the grains have popped open. Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork. It should look like couscous.

Cooking Quinoa: Tips And Tricks

1. If you don’t want to end up with mushy, overdone quinoa, always use a ratio of 1:2 when measuring raw quinoa and your cooking liquid.

2. If you don’t have the pre-rinsed variety, rinse the grains under running water in a fine-mesh strainer for at least 30 seconds to get rid of the saponin coating.

Raw and cooked quinoa in spoons

3. You can also cook the grains, using the same grain-to-water ratio mentioned above, in your rice cooker.

4. To add more flavor, add a bay leaf, 1-2 whole cloves of fresh garlic, or any of your favorite herbs and spices to the cooking liquid. Be sure to discard the herbs before serving the dish.

5. Make sure the quinoa has cooled to room temperature before storing it in the fridge. It keeps well for 4 to 5 days.

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Boiled quinoa on a wooden spoon

Basic Quinoa


Now you can make perfect quinoa, every time!



1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa

2 cups water or vegetable broth

Optional pinch sea salt


In a medium saucepan, place the quinoa, water and sea salt if using. Bring to a boil uncovered over medium high heat. Reduce heat to simmer on low, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Enjoyed This Recipe? Try These!

My quinoa with kale stem pesto recipe that’s perfect for lunch, dinner, or as a side dish.

My quinoa with chickpea salad recipe that makes a satisfying lunch.

This cinnamon-spiced quinoa breakfast bowl recipe from Love & Lemons.

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**Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through them.



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