How to Cook Quinoa

By: Katherine C. Parker

Learn how to make quinoa on the stovetop, in the rice cooker, and in the Instant Pot. Plus, get expert cooking tips and healthy recipes for quinoa salads, bowls, and more.

Ready in just 15 minutes, quinoa is a quick-cooking whole grain with a nutty taste. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) offers everything a busy cook could possibly need. Whether it’s a quinoa salad, quinoa veggie burger, or quinoa fried rice, quinoa holds its own as a side dish or as the base of the main course. 

And cooking quinoa? It’s so easy. In fact, if you can cook rice, you know how to make quinoa. This step-by-step guide with photos shows you how to cook perfect quinoa three different ways: on the stovetop, in the rice cooker, and in the Instant Pot.

Quinoa

Quinoa to Water Ratio

You hardly need a recipe to cook perfect quinoa. All you need to know is this simple quinoa to water ratio:

2 cups liquid
1 cup quinoa

This ratio yields 3 cups cooked quinoa or 6 (½ cup) servings. You can scale this ratio up or down, depending on how many servings you want.

For the liquid, you can use water or broth. For the quinoa, use white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, or a blend of all three. Lastly, quinoa loves to expand in water—keep this in mind if you plan to add it to a soup, as you may quickly find that your broth has been soaked up.

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove

ingredients for cooking quinoa

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

The stovetop is the most common way to cook quinoa. Below, find a breakdown of the process from start to finish. Note: This recipe yields about 3 cups or 6 1/2 servings.

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

2 cups water or broth
1 cup quinoa
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt (optional)

bring quinoa to boil

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

Step 2: Bring to a boil

Combine water or broth, quinoa, and salt (if using) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. 

quinoa cooking on stove in saucepan

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

Step 3: Simmer the quinoa

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. You'll know when the quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open, revealing the germ of the kernel.

uncover and fluff quinoa with fork

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

Step 4: Fluff the quinoa

Remove the heat and let the quinoa sit (covered) for about 10 minutes. This step allows the quinoa to steam and keeps it fluffy and moist. Finally, uncover the quinoa and use a fork to fluff and separate the grains.

Get the Recipe: Basic Quinoa

Tips for Cooking Perfect Quinoa

rinse quinoa before cooking

Photo: deymos / Getty Images

1. Give it a Quick Rinse

Quinoa grows with a bitter-tasting, protective coating called saponin. Though most quinoa you buy in grocery stores is prerinsed, another run under the faucet doesn't hurt. Pour quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve and put it under cold water for a few seconds. Shake off any excess water before starting your recipe.

2. Toast to Maximize Flavor

Bring out quinoa's nutty side with a quick skillet toast. For every 1 1/2 cups quinoa, heat 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil, like canola, in a skillet on medium-low heat. Stay vigilant: Stir the quinoa constantly to avoid burning, watching for that perfect golden moment, around 6 to 8 minutes.

Try our recipe for Quinoa with Latin Flavors to master the toasting method.

3. Mix Up the Liquids

Water is quinoa's go-to companion, but other liquids—think low-sodium chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth—add flavor. Just keep the ratio 2 cups liquid to 1 cup quinoa. Add a splash of dry white wine for further oomph: 1/2 cup wine plus 1 1/2 cups broth for every 1 cup of quinoa.

4. Watch the Time

Quinoa cooks quickly—in about 15 minutes. Some package directions tell you to turn off the heat once the liquid boils and you've stirred in the quinoa. We prefer to bring the cooking liquid to a boil, stir in the quinoa, then turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer gently, until all the liquid is absorbed. You'll know when the quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open, revealing the germ of the kernel.

See More: Delicious Quinoa Salad Recipes

How to Cook Quinoa in the Instant Pot

instant pot

Cooking quinoa in the Instant Pot (or any other multicooker) is the fastest way to make it. Like the ricer cooker method, Instant Pot quinoa is hands-off and completely foolproof. However, you'll actually need to use less water to cook the quinoa than you would with other methods. The ratio we use for Instant Pot quinoa is 1 part quinoa to 1 1/2 parts liquid

Simply combine quinoa and liquid in your Instant Pot, then cook on high pressure for one minute. Let sit for about 10 minutes to allow the pressure to release naturally. Fluff with a fork and enjoy! Yes, it's that simple. 

Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker

Your rice cooker is the perfect vessel for cooking tender, fluffy quinoa. This clever hack is completely hands-off, freeing you up to knock out other tasks in the kitchen. Simply combine your liquid and quinoa (use the 2:1 ratio) in the well of the rice cooker, choose the proper setting, then let it works its magic. Budget about 30 to 55 minutes of cook time, depending on the model.

Get the Recipe: Rice Cooker Quinoa

Quinoa Health Benefits

black bean quinoa buddha bowl

Pictured Recipe: Black Bean-Quinoa Buddha Bowl

A 1/2-cup serving of quinoa has 111 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein and 3 g fiber.

Though protein is quinoa's calling card, it's not the total protein content but the type of protein that gives the grain its healthy rep. Quinoa has all nine amino acids essential for human nutrition. This combo is common in meats, but rarely found in plant-based foods. Quinoa also boasts a good dose of fiber and iron.

Read More: 5 Facts About Quinoa Nutrition

How to Buy Quinoa

Quinoa is available in most grocery stores, and you'll most likely spot it in the grains aisle. It's also available in most natural-foods stores. Quinoa grows in a rainbow of colors, but the most commonly sold are red quinoa, black quinoa and white quinoa.

Taste and nutrition between different types of quinoa are similar, but there are a few differences to note. White quinoa tends to cook up fluffier, while red quinoa and black quinoa have a crunchier texture and the grains don't tend to stick together as much.

Cooking with Quinoa Flour and Quinoa Flakes

Almond Butter-Quinoa Blondies

Pictured recipe: Almond Butter-Quinoa Blondies

Ready to push the quinoa boundaries? Two extensions of the quinoa grain are quinoa flour, a great option for gluten-free baking, and quinoa flakes, which look and cook similarly to rolled oats. Find both products in bigger supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Interested in DIY quinoa flour? To make it at home, grind white quinoa in a clean coffee grinder until it becomes a fine powder. Though not as fine as what you get in the store, your homemade flour will work in recipes for cookies and bars where the fine texture won't matter.

Related: 10 Delicious Ways to Jazz Up Whole Grains

Quinoa Recipes & Ideas

quinoa power salad

Pictured Recipe: Quinoa Power Salad

Now that you know exactly how to cook quinoa, what should you do with it? While you can enjoy quinoa as is, there are endless ways to dress it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Start your day with a hearty breakfast quinoa bowl piled high with fresh fruit. Make a big quinoa salad at the beginning of the week for easy, healthy lunches all week long. Or whip up quinoa burgers for a vegetarian dinner and pair with a simple green salad. Quinoa can also be incorporated into desserts like whole grain whole grain blondies and creamy quinoa pudding.

Check out our Healthy Quinoa Recipes for more delicious and easy ways to cook with this versatile whole grain.