How to cook quinoa perfectly so it is ready to use in your favorite quinoa recipes. Cooking quinoa on the stove is my preferred method, but I’ve also shared tips for cooking it in the microwave, Instant Pot, and using your rice cooker.
It took me a while to fall in love with quinoa. This easy stovetop quinoa recipe is what did it for me. The quinoa cooks up to be light and fluffy without being mushy. Our quinoa recipe takes 25 to 30 minutes, so you’ll have light and fluffy quinoa in no time!
While the stovetop is my preferred method, since sharing this recipe and a few reader requests, we have added three more methods for cooking quinoa: in the microwave, Instant Pot, and a rice cooker.
What is quinoa?
Pronounced “keen-wah,” quinoa is a nutritious grain-like seed with a nutty flavor originating in the Andes in South America. Quinoa is high in protein, with over 8 grams of protein per cup. They may be little seeds, but they pack a nutrient punch and are an excellent source of nutrients such as manganese, magnesium, folate, and iron (read more about the health benefits of quinoa here).
Quinoa to water ratio
When cooking quinoa, the ideal quinoa-to-water ratio is 2:1. For every cup, you should use 2 cups of water. One cup of uncooked quinoa will produce approximately 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Swap the water for broth or stock to add flavor to your quinoa. I love this homemade veggie broth or chicken broth.
How to cook quinoa on the stove
Step 1: Rinse your quinoa. I always rinse quinoa before cooking it. This is because quinoa has a natural saponin coating that can make cooked quinoa taste bitter and soapy. When you rinse it well before cooking, it helps to reduce the saponin and produce a delicious nutty flavor. Some packages may be labeled with ‘pre-rinsed,’ but since we are sensitive to saponin, we still prefer to rinse it before cooking.
Step 2: Combine the rinsed quinoa and liquid in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid is at a low simmer. I don’t cover the saucepan with a lid, which helps the quinoa cook up to be light and fluffy.
Step 3: Cook the quinoa at a low simmer until all the liquid has absorbed. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. When the liquid is absorbed, slide the pan off the heat and cover with a lid for five minutes. After 5 minutes, use a fork to fluff the cooked quinoa, then use it in your favorite recipes.
How to microwave quinoa
Combine 1 cup of rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of water (or stock/broth) in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a microwave-safe plate, then microwave until about half of the liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave, stir the quinoa, and then cover again and set aside for another 5 to 10 minutes or until all the liquid has absorbed. Fluff with a fork, and then enjoy!
Using a microwave to cook quinoa takes a similar amount of time as the stovetop. Still, I love that cooking quinoa in the microwave is possible!
Instant Pot quinoa
Spray or wipe the bottom and sides of the pressure cooker with a bit of oil (this prevents sticking). Then add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and 1 cup of liquid like water or broth. Stir well so no quinoa sticks to the bottom, then secure the lid. Program the pressure cooker to cook on HIGH for one minute, then naturally release for twelve minutes.
Note: Cooking quinoa in an Instant Pot requires less water than other methods. A pressure cooker has less evaporation, so you only need 1 cup of water for 1 cup of quinoa. If you follow this method and the quinoa is too hard, consider increasing the liquid by 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.
Quinoa in a rice cooker
Spray or wipe the bottom and sides of the rice cooker with a bit of oil (this prevents sticking). Then add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of liquid like water or broth. Stir well so no quinoa sticks to the bottom, then secure the lid. If you have the option, press the button for cooking white rice; otherwise, just press start.
Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Or freeze for up to 2 months.
How to use quinoa
- Make a salad. I love this superfood quinoa salad, and Adam leans towards this quinoa and black bean salad.
- Swap out basic oatmeal and replace it with quinoa for breakfast. Top with your favorite toppings like blueberries, honey, and yogurt. Or, for a savory breakfast, top fluffy quinoa with a fried or poached egg and veggies.
- Scatter cooked quinoa over salads or swap out rice in rice bowls or stir-fries for a more nutrient-rich base of cooked quinoa.
- We’ve also swapped brown rice for quinoa in these veggie burgers with great success.
- Stir into soups, stews, and chili. I use quinoa to make our vegetarian chili.
- Make these tahini lemon quinoa bowls!
How to Cook Quinoa (Light & Fluffy)
You Will Need
1 cup quinoa
Pinch fine sea salt, optional
1Add quinoa to a fine mesh strainer, then rinse under cool water for 30 seconds to a minute. Alternatively, add the quinoa to a bowl and cover with cool water. Move the quinoa around the bowl, drain the water, and repeat.
2Shake the quinoa of any excess liquid. Combine the rinsed quinoa and water (or stock) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is absorbed by the quinoa, 10 to 15 minutes. If you are making a larger batch of quinoa, this may take closer to 20 minutes.
3Move the saucepan off of the heat and cover for 5 minutes. This extra time allows the quinoa to steam and “fluff up.” Uncover, and then fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- More flavor: Stir olive oil, coconut oil, or butter into the cooked quinoa. Fold in chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or cilantro. Squeeze fresh lemon juice or lime juice on top.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.