How to Cook Quinoa and 10 Recipe Ideas

By Sally Cameron on January 17, 2013

Cooking Basics & How To, Gluten-Free, the daniel plan, Vegan, Vegetarian

Quinoa is the ancient “mother grain that powered the Inca Indian nation. Grown high in the Andes mountains for thousands of years, quinoa is light, fluffy, and high in protein and fiber. Think of it like rice. It’s actually a seed, not a cereal grain, sometimes referred to as a psuedo-grain. If you are unfamiliar with quinoa it’s time to learn about this amazing ancient grain. Here is how to cook quinoa and 10 recipe ideas.

quinoa |

Ancient Quinoa – Seed or Grain?

I’ve talked with people who are not familiar with quinoa (keen-wah) so I thought I’d write a quick post to encourage anyone who has not tried it to do so. This is one gluten-free super grain that you need to have in your diet. It cooks in just 15-18 minutes. It’s packed with nutrition and tastes terrific. Plus 2013 has been declared the Year of Quinoa by the United Nations.

Quinoa Nutrition

Quinoa is a great choice because it provides complete protein. Rare for a food from the plant world and a bonus for vegans and vegetarians who do not eat animal protein. Quinoa contains all essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein for our bodies. “Essential” means they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained in our diet. In terms of minerals, quinoa contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.

Turkey Quinoa Stuffed Peppers|

Quinoa Notes

Quinoa comes in three colors at the market: red, white and black. I like to buy the tri-color organic blends or the red because it is visually more interesting. Black quinoa has more omega -3 fats than the red or white, and both the black and red provide higher vitamin E than the white.

Quinoa cooks up light in texture and has a pleasant nutty flavor. What looks like bird seed pops open as it cooks and unfurls to become soft fluffy grains. To cook quinoa, begin by rinsing it well in a fine sieve under cold running water as it has a natural bitter coating called saponin you need to rinse off.

How To Cook Quinoa

The ratio is 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of liquid. You can use water, vegetable broth or chicken broth. Use a small, 2-quart saucepan. When quinoa comes to a boil, cover it with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat to low. I’ve discovered that 18 minutes of cooking works perfectly for me (even though packages list varying times).

When your timer goes off, leave the pot covered and move to a cool burner. Allow the quinoa to steam finish for about 7-8 minutes. Lastly, fluff with a fork and dress to eat right away. If you are cooking it for future use, spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet until cool, then package, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 4 days. It freezes well too.

quinoa tabbouleh|

How to Use Quinoa & 10 Recipe Ideas

Quinoa is very versatile. That’s why even for the two of us I cook a whole cup, because we eat it in a variety of ways during the week.  Here are a few ideas on how to enjoy your quinoa.

  • Simply season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with a good olive oil and enjoy. Throw in some chopped chives or other fresh herbs for more color and flavor
  • If you have leftover cooked vegetables, chop them into small pieces and add them to the quinoa, toss and enjoy a combination side dish. Season to your liking
  • Eat it for breakfast. Treat cooked quinoa like you would oatmeal. Add a little warmed milk, cow, almond, whatever you enjoy, and add dried fruit, fresh berries, or sliced bananas. Add a little honey or maple syrup for natural sweetness.
  • Try this breakfast egg and quinoa casserole
  • Use cooked quinoa for a healthy chilled grain salad, like this quinoa tabouleh
  • Add it to chili
  • Use it along with either cooked ground lean turkey or beans to make stuffed sweet peppers
  • Substitute it for rice or couscous with your next meal
  • Make a pilaf-style side dish with chopped nuts, chopped fresh herbs and dried fruit (try cranberries or apricots)
  • Add to a green salad for more protein
  • Try this Mediterranean Lentil Quinoa Salad

field of quinoa


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All About Quinoa and How to Cook It

Quinoa is simple to prepare. Think of it like rice. It holds well in your refrigerator to warm up and eat in a variety of ways during the week. This saves you time and provides a healthy side dish. Quinoa must be well rinsed to wash away a bitter outer coating called saponin.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine South American
Keyword Gluten-free, quinoa
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 156kcal


  • 1 cup quinoa red, black, white or tri-color blend
  • 2 cups water or broth, vegetable or chicken
  • pinch salt


  • Place quinoa in a fine sieve and run cold water through it to rinse well. If you have a spray attachment, use that.
  • Place quinoa in a 2 quart pan, add water and pinch of salt. Bring the pot to a boil. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and turn heat down to very low. Allow quinoa to cook for 15-18 minutes, then remove from the heat to a cool burner and allow to sit for about 7-10 minutes, covered, to steam finish. Fluff with a fork and dress as desired to serve.


To cook quinoa ahead for future use, spread the cooked quinoa on a half sheet baking tray and cool, then package and freeze or refrigerate.


Serving: 4 | Calories: 156kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 2mg
  1. Mary@SiftingFocus - January 17th, 2013

    Sally, thanks for all the great info and helpful hints on what to do with quinoa. I find it quite tasty. In fact, when my daughter was home from college she made some and also enjoyed it. Imagine my delight in seeing her eat something so healthy.

  2. Jan - January 18th, 2013

    Oh, thank you so much. I’m one of those people you just spoke of. I’ve heard of quinoa however, didn’t know much if anything about it. We eat only organic and whole foods so this will fit nicely into our food plan and healthy eating. I will give it a try. Thanks again!

  3. Adrienne - January 18th, 2013

    Great post, as always. And very helpful! Have you been following all the controversy about quinoa as of late? It’s weird to hear anything negative about it, since all I’ve heard are positive things. But it’s interesting to note

  4. Sally - January 18th, 2013

    Yes, I’ve read some of the articles. Here is an open letter to NPR from a guy who is working on a documentary on quinoa in Bolivia. Please read this article for another perspective. Its very well done.

    And here is a link to American grown quinoa from Colorado. I plan to try this.

  5. Terry - January 27th, 2013


    A quick question about Quinoa. Is Quinoa gluten free? I suppose I could Google this, but since I am here I will ask! 🙂 I have many good things about this wonderful grain! Thank you so much for this informative article!

  6. Sally - January 27th, 2013

    Yes! It’s gluten free! We eat it a lot, especially since we have gone wheat-free. We love quinoa!

  7. samantha steven - August 12th, 2018

    Quinoa is AH-MAZING! I believe it’s my new addiction. Thanks for all these useful tips!

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