There is so much to love about quinoa! Below are tips for how to cook quinoa, including some great quinoa recipes to get you started.
I grew up eating quinoa. My parents were big on healthy, natural foods, so we were no strangers to the occasional quinoa salad at supper time. Fast forward a couple of decades, and suddenly quinoa isn’t the weirdo food it was when I was kid. It’s as common on menus as rice in a lot of places now!
It makes sense that as folks become more interested in eating healthy, whole foods, quinoa would see a spike in popularity. It’s super delicious and super nutritious, too. If you’re new to quinoa, do not be afraid! It’s light and fluffy with a slight nutty taste and super easy to make. Think of it as something between brown rice and couscous in texture.
Fun Fact: Quinoa isn’t a grain, though we tend to treat it like one, since it cooks like one. The edible part of the quinoa plant is technically the seed, and the plant is related to leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard. Like other seeds, quinoa provides a nutritional punch of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and minerals. That combo has elevated quinoa to superfood status.
Sure, you can order quinoa when you’re eating out, but cooking it at home is a lot more budget-friendly. Cooking quinoa at home is as easy as cooking rice, and there a few different methods that work well. Below, I’ll outline how to cook quinoa, where to find it, and some great quinoa recipes from my site and some of my favorite fellow vegan food writers!
How to Cook Quinoa: Basic Guide
The three best way to cook quinoa are: on the stove, in a rice cooker, or in a pressure cooker. Each one has its merits. This basic guide walks you through how to cook quinoa each way.
How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove
Cooking quinoa on the stove is a lot like cooking white rice. This method takes the longest (about 25 minutes total) but doesn’t require any special kitchen gadgets.
- Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water or broth in a saucepan or Dutch oven.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes. Your quinoa is ready when all of the water is absorbed.
The time variation depends on the type of quinoa you use. Packaged quinoa will have directions on it, just like rice or pasta, so check the label if you’d rather not monitor the pot for that last 5 minutes.
How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker
Realizing that I could cook quinoa in my rice cooker was a game-changer. No need to monitor a thing. Rice cookers are pretty budget-friendly, and since you can use them to cook any grain except steel cut oats, they’re a great investment!
- Stir 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water together in your rice cooker, turn it on, and when it pops, you’re ready to eat.
- If your cooker has white and brown rice settings, choose white.
How to Cook Quinoa in a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot (2 ways!)
If time is of the essence, your pressure cooker is your best friend. A pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, is the most pricey gadget for cooking quinoa, but it’s also the fastest. Pressure cookers are versatile, so you will use it even more than a rice cooker. If you need help picking the right one for you, check out Kathy Hester’s FAQ to slow cookers and pressure cookers.
Quinoa takes just minutes to cook in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. My Instant Pot instructions say to cook for 8 minutes, but I’ve had much more consistent results when I let it go a bit longer. 10 minutes is still only 2/3 the time it takes on the stove!
- Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a colander, transfer to your cooker, add 2 cups water or broth, and lock the lid.
- Cook for 10 minutes on high pressure (“manual” on the Instant Pot), then release the pressure manually.
You can also use a natural release to reduce the cooking time further. My friend JL Fields gave me permission to excerpt the 1-minute quinoa recipe from her (amazing) cookbook, Vegan Pressure Cooking:
“Quinoa cooks up in one minute in the pressure cooker. You read that right! One minute at pressure and then allow for a natural release (up to ten minutes). Make this hearty grain staple—which is actually a seed (and an honorary legume)—and use it in endless dishes.
- 1 cup (175 g) quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) water or broth
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
- Rinse and drain the quinoa. Place all the ingredients in the pressure cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cover and bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Allow for a natural release; if after 10 minutes the pressure has still not come down fully, manually release. Fluff and serve.
Yield: 4 servings”
Where to Buy Quinoa
Now that quinoa is super popular, you can find it at almost any grocery store alongside the other whole grains. If you’re looking for a bargain, though, buying quinoa in bulk is your best option. Whole Foods and natural grocery stores usually stock quinoa in their bulk bins. Since you’re paying for the grain and not the packaging, you save some cash this way.
If you do buy your quinoa in bulk, I’d recommend storing it in an airtight container to keep it fresh. Regular mouth quart-sized mason jars work well, because they hold a lot, are air tight, and are easy to pour from. I also like mason jars for storing bulk grains because you can see at a glance what’s in your pantry.
Having trouble finding quinoa at the store or looking to branch out into some more interesting types? You can shop online for quinoa. Sometimes online prices are better than in-store, and you can find interesting varieties, too!
When you’re shopping for quinoa, look for organic and Fair Trade on the labels. Quinoa can be produced very responsibly, and these certifications ensure that the quinoa you’re buying is as good for the planet as it is for your body. Read more about the ethics of shopping for quinoa here.
If you want to broaden your quinoa horizons, I can’t recommend Alter Eco’s Rainbow Quinoa enough. It’s a blend of white, red, and black quinoa and is lovely in soups, salads, and as the base for grain bowls. The white is mild and chewy, the red has a nutty flavor similar to brown rice, and the black gives this mix just a little bit of crunch.
Got your quinoa ready? Let’s look at some great quinoa recipes and quinoa salad recipes!
How to Cook Quinoa: Quinoa Recipes & Quinoa Salad Recipes
Once you have the basics down for how to cook quinoa, you’re ready to make some tasty quinoa salads and other healthy, satisfying quinoa dishes. I asked some of my favorite food writers for their quinoa recipes and have a few of my own favorites in the mix below, as well. Happy cooking!
- Superfood Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
- Oil Free Superfood Quinoa Salad
- Toasted Quinoa and Carrot Salad
- Southwestern Chili Cheese Burritos with Quinoa
- Slow Cooker Lentil-Quinoa Taco Filling
- Pressure Cooker Quinoa Pilaf
- Mozzarella Stuffed Chick-Quin Burgers
- Cauliflower Cashew Confettie Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Pilaf with Asparagus and Button Mushrooms
- Quinoa Stuffed Squash
- Mediterranean Quinoa with Fresh Herbs
- Egg Free Quinoa Frittata
- Quinoa Drop Biscuits
- Quinoa Pizza Balls
- Quinoa Lentil Bolognese Sauce
- Blueberries, Kale, and Quinoa Salad
- Almond Quinoa Muffins
- Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
- Pineapple Curry Fried Quinoa