Learn all about quinoa and how to cook quinoa to fluffy perfection on the stovetop, in your Instant Pot, or in a rice cooker. Plus, get some easy quinoa recipes to kick off your cooking adventures!
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Fun Fact: Quinoa isn't a grain, though we tend to treat it like one, since you cook it like one and it has a texture that's in line with whole grains. The edible part of the quinoa plant is technically the seed, and it's related to leafy greens, like spinach and Swiss chard.
If you're new to quinoa, don't be afraid! It's light and fluffy with a slight nutty taste. It's also super easy to make. Think of it as something between brown rice and couscous in texture.
I grew up eating quinoa in the 90s, when it was decidedly less cool. 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!
Cooking quinoa at home is as easy as cooking rice, and there a few different methods that work well. I'll show you how to cook quinoa and give you some nice, easy quinoa recipes to help you learn how to use it.
How to cook quinoa on the stovetop
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.
How to cook quinoa in the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is my favorite method for making quinoa! It's so quick and consistent.
- Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a colander, transfer to your cooker, add 1 ½ cups water or broth, and lock the lid.
- Cook for 5 minutes on high pressure (“manual” on the Instant Pot), then release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes before doing a quick release.
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.
- 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 rice.
Easy quinoa recipes
Once you have the basics for how to cook quinoa down pat, you're ready to make some tasty quinoa salads and other healthy, satisfying quinoa dishes. Happy cooking!
A cup of cooked quinoa contains:
- 8 grams of protein
- 5 grams of fiber
- 15% of your iron (34% for males!)
- 19% of your folate
...plus a ton of other vitamins and minerals! Quinoa is also a complete protein that provides trace minerals that fight inflammation.
Where to buy quinoa
Now that quinoa is super popular, you can find it at almost any grocery store alongside other grains, like rice.
If you're looking for a bargain, buying quinoa in bulk is your best option. 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. You can also stock up on as much or as little as you need.
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 are my favorite way to store bulk quinoa, because they hold a lot, are airtight, 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.
Substitutes for quinoa
In grain salads and bowls, you can use white or brown rice in place of quinoa. Heartier grains, like Kamut, will also work as a quinoa substitute in recipes like this, though you need to alter your cooking method to accommodate.
For recipes like a quinoa loaf, you'll want to use a similar-sized grain, like amaranth or bulgur. Again, you'll need to alter cooking times and water amounts for these different grains.