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How to Cook: Perfect Quinoa

Perfect Quinoa starts with hig-quality staples

Ahhhh, quinoa. My love. My nourishment…

If I were ever banished to a desert island and could only bring with me a few foods, there is no doubt an enormous sack of quinoa would come along!

I consider myself quite the quinoa pusher; sharing my love for this amazingly diverse and nutritious food to everyone I know. A la Portlandia, I will pretty much always “put a bird (scoop of quinoa) on it!”

For the uninitiated, this little ‘grain” can be puzzling, or even boring.

What is it? How do I cook it? And why does it seem like it’s in everything these days?

Quinoa, sometimes called a pseudo-grain, is technically a seed from a flowering plant in the amaranth family.

Rich in protein, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, dietary fiber and minerals, it is often heralded as a super-food.

Since it is a gluten-free, low-glycemic index food, and is one of the few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, it is one of the most popular and nutritious choices for any recipe that calls for grains.

Pronounced KEEN- wah, it has been a staple of South American diets for centuries, especially in the Inca Empire, where it was referred to as “the mother of all grains” and believed to be sacred.

It is so easy to substitute quinoa for any other grain, especially rice, and is delicious even in breakfast cereals like cooked oats, or cream-of-wheat.

Check out this simple, QUICK recipe for quinoa below.

Also, I prefer to cook with Cast Iron Pans, like my beloved Le Creuset, and prefer organic/fair traded quinoa (as most of it is produced from farmers in S. America).

multi-color quinoa
Yield: 2 Cups

How to Cook: Perfect Quinoa

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

One of the biggest bummers is when your quinoa comes out mushy or burned. After many sad batches of quinoa, I think I finally found the Golden Ratio!

While you can definitely use a rice cooker or Instant Pot, quinoa cooks so quickly you really only need a saucepan, or small dutch, oven and 20 minutes!

I prefer cooking in cast iron pans, like ones from Le Creuset, but if that's not in the budget or wrist strength (they are a workout), any ol pan will do.

The key is not too much water in the pan, or too high of heat!

And most importantly, to take the pot off the heat once the water has mostly absorbed, and let it steam, covered for 5 more minutes.


  • 1 C Quinoa (uncooked)
  • 2 C water
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer
  2. Pour rinsed quinoa into cooking pot
  3. Cover with 2 C water
  4. Add salt and stir
  5. Heat quinoa over medium high heat
  6. Once it boils, turn down heat to medium low, cover and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes
  7. Check to see if there's still water in pot by gently tipping the pan. If you see more than about a teaspoons-worth, cover and cook for another 2 minutes
  8. Once water is fully absorbed, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes
  9. Lightly fluff quinoa with a fork and serve, or remove to large, flat bowl and allow to cool
  10. Quinoa keeps, cooked, in the fridge for a couple of days


Time to cook quinoa may vary depending on the material of your pan, and type of heat.

I find it much easier to not burn the quinoa with a gas range. If cooking on electric or induction, go lower on the heat when covering pan. you may also need to cut the cook time.

TIP: Make sure the quinoa isn't rapidly boiling once you cover it. It should be lightly simmering (no big, or violent bubbles), and the quinoa, when it's close to ready, will start to "bloom".

Also, black and red quinoa tend to take a few more minutes of cook time than the tan quinoa, so if you are unsure of your skills, stick with a single colored variety until you learn how it cooks.

Finally, if you prefer a more savory taste, mix in a chopped clove of garlic, and another tsp of salt.

Also you can substitute broth for the water. Just be aware of the sodium already present in many broths, and adjust to taste.

Another easy showstopper is to add a 1/2 C of fresh herbs to the quinoa when you turn down the heat. Be sure to lightly stir them in before covering. Basil and parsley, or sage, thyme and rosemary, make for an aromatic and wonderful twist.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 56Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 299mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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