What’s the Best Way to Cook Quinoa?

With a few tips and our simple recipe, you’ll be cooking quinoa like a pro.

Published Apr. 4, 2022.

Quinoa is a superfood! It’s a complete protein! It has so much fiber!

For all the touting of quinoa’s myriad health benefits, you might not expect it to actually taste good, too. But with the right treatment, quinoa can have a lovely nutty flavor and a pleasantly soft yet slightly chewy texture.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa, which is typically treated as a grain (and usually called one), is actually a seed. It’s often even referred to as a supergrain because it is high in protein and its protein is complete. This means that it possesses all the essential amino acids in the balanced amounts that our bodies require.

What Are the Different Types of Quinoa?

There are a few types of quinoa out there—white, red, and black—so you’ll want to make sure that you’re buying the right product. Most recipes call for white quinoa, but red quinoa can be swapped in for a nuttier flavor and more texture, if preferred (note that it can take longer to cook). Black quinoa is crunchier and can have a gritty feel, so it’s best to use it only when a recipe specifically calls for it; it’s not a good substitute for red or white quinoa. 

If you can find it, buy prewashed quinoa to shave off some time in the kitchen. If you can’t find prewashed quinoa, you’ll need to rinse your quinoa thoroughly before cooking to remove its bitter protective coating, called saponin.

How Do You Cook Quinoa?

Once you have the right quinoa in hand, it’s time to head to the stove. Here are some tips for cooking up the best-tasting and best-textured quinoa.

  • Toast the quinoa before simmering it to further emphasize its nutty flavor. 
  • Simmer the quinoa in a measured amount of liquid to ensure a tender result. 
  • Choose broth instead of water to add extra savoriness and flavor. 
  • Use visual cues to know when the quinoa is done. When the seeds have turned completely translucent besides a small opaque dot in the center and their little curlicue tails unfurl, it’s time to remove the quinoa from the heat.

How to Make a Simple Quinoa Pilaf

Use the tips above and follow our recipe below for nutty, fluffy quinoa.

Simple Quinoa Pilaf

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1¼ cups white quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups chicken broth

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add quinoa and salt and cook until quinoa is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in broth and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until quinoa is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork. Season with salt to taste, and serve.

For bonus points, take advantage of the steamy cooking vessel, as we do in this recipe for Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale and Quinoa Pilaf and Garlicky Yogurt, and pile a mound of kale (or other leafy green) on top of the simmering quinoa, where it will gently wilt as the quinoa cooks. (Go ahead and add multitasking to quinoa’s list of superpowers, too.)

Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale and Quinoa Pilaf and Garlicky Yogurt

Garlicky yogurt takes this quick-cooking salmon dinner up a level.
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