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How to Cook Quinoa

2012 December 7

The good word about quinoa is spreading … but not fast enough. So I’m here to do my part, to sing quinoa’s praises and provide a quick cooking tutorial.

Quinoa — technically a seed, not a grain — is produced from the goosefoot plant, and is related to beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and lamb’s quarters. Easy to cultivate, plants grow well in poor conditions, easily surviving drought and heat.

The only plant that’s a perfect protein, providing all necessary amino acids in good balance, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice and pasta.

There are over a hundred strains of quinoa. Commercially, three are easy to find at grocery and health food stores: white (or yellow or ivory), red, and black. Combine them for a stunning dish.

Fans of sprouts: quinoa can be sprouted for an extra boost of nutrition, and rarely requires more than one rinse (which means sprouts are ready just before their second rinse. Twenty-four hours should do it).

I love quinoa in so many dishes, but especially in green salads, and as a substitute for pasta or rice in grain salads. It cooks up quickly, and tastes great hot or cold.

If you’ve never tried quinoa before, I hope you’ll check it out the next time you’re at the store. Available in bulk at stores like Whole Foods, quinoa is also sold boxed in the natural/organic section of large grocery stores.

How to cook quinoa

The formula for cooking quinoa is easy to remember: use twice as much water as quinoa. Easy peasy! Cooked quinoa will approximately double in size – 1 cup of quinoa grain will produce 2 cups of cooked quinoa.


  • 2 parts water (e.g., 2 cups)
  • 1 part quinoa (e.g., 1 cup)


  1. Bring the water to a rapid boil in sauce pot over high heat.
  2. While the water heats, rinse the quinoa under cool running water in fine mesh sieve. This removes the bitter saponin residue that clings to the quinoa grain.
  3. Pour the quinoa into the water, and let the water return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and maintain an energetic simmer. Cover. If the water sputters out of the lid, turn the heat down slightly.
  4. Cook for 15-20 minutes. The quinoa is finished when little curlicues separate from the seed grain. Drain, if necessary (the water usually cooks off, but don’t be concerned if it doesn’t). Fluff with a fork.
  5. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days, or freeze up to 2 months.
Prep Time: 5 minutes       Cook time: 15 minutes

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