How to Cook Quinoa 3 Ways to Save You So Much Time and Money

In this complete guide to cooking quinoa, our Test Kitchen pros coach you through how to cook quinoa on the stove, in a microwave, and in an Instant Pot.

Yes, we know cooking quinoa can feel intimidating if you've never done so at home. To rinse or not to rinse? What's the ideal quinoa water ratio? Do quinoa cooking instructions work in an Instant Pot or microwave? We have all of these answers. Although quinoa (KEEN-wah) is often referred to as a grain, it's actually the seed of a native South American plant. There are more than 1,500 varieties of quinoa seeds in many hues, but the most common varieties are ivory-color quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, and rainbow quinoa. You can find it at nearly all major supermarkets and online.

Discover the best quinoa cooking options whether you're in a hurry or have some time.

spoon with quinoa
Blaine Moats

How to Cook Quinoa 3 Ways

No matter which strategy for cooking quinoa you choose, start by rinsing the quinoa. Place uncooked, dry quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse well under cool running water. Drain well and proceed via one of the three quinoa cooking options below.

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove

Quinoa cooking on a stove top is a cinch once you know the ideal quinoa water ratio. Combine 1 part quinoa with 2 parts water, adjusting the amount of salt to taste and the pan size as needed to suit your batch.

To cook quinoa on a stove, in a saucepan bring water (salted, if desired) to a boil. Slowly add the rinsed quinoa to the water and return to boiling. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer the quinoa for about 15 minutes or until tender. If water remains after the quinoa is done cooking, drain it in a fine-mesh strainer. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and serve.

How to Microwave Quinoa

If you're in a hurry, microwave quinoa; it takes less than 10 minutes.

The same quinoa water ratio holds true: 1 cup quinoa for every 2 cups of water. Place your preferred amount of quinoa and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add salt if desired. Stir to combine; quinoa should be fully submerged. Place a microwave-safe plate or piece of plastic wrap on top of the bowl. Microwave for 6 minutes, carefully remove your makeshift lid, and stir. Place the lid back on and microwave 2 minutes more.

There may be a bit of liquid remaining after the quinoa cooking process—that's totally normal. Allow the cooked quinoa to sit, covered, for 3 minutes after microwaving. Most, if not all, of the extra water should be absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and serve.

How to Cook Quinoa in an Instant Pot

Wondering if you can—or how to cook quinoa—in an Instant Pot? Yes you can! Follow these quinoa cooking steps.

Coat the pot with nonstick cooking spray. Use 1¼ cups water for every 1 cup of uncooked quinoa. Add salt if desired. Lock the lid pressure-cook for 1 minute. Use the quick-release function. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and serve.

How to Store Cooked Quinoa

Allow cooked quinoa to cool, then transfer it to an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 6 to 7 days. To enjoy, spoon it into a microwave-safe bowl and use a fork to separate any clumps. Top the bowl with a damp paper towel and reheat in the microwave until warm, about 30 to 45 seconds.

Can you freeze cooked quinoa? You bet. After letting it cool and popping it into an airtight vessel (consider single-serving or family-serving portions), label it with the date and freeze up to 6 to 12 months. When you're ready to serve the quinoa, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or for 2 hours at room temperature. Then the same holds true: Spoon the thawed quinoa into a microwave-safe bowl and use a fork to separate any clumps. Top the bowl with a damp paper towel and reheat in the microwave until warm, about 30 to 45 seconds.

bowl of Broccoli and Tempeh Quinoa Salad with lime wedges and wooden spoon on side
Adam Albright

The Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the few non-animal food sources that's a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine amino acids that our body cannot produce on its own. Complete proteins aid in tissue repair, building muscle, supporting metabolism, and more.

Beyond the protein, quinoa is also a source of iron, vitamin B, magnesium, and fiber. (The average American only chows down on about 15 grams of fiber per day, far short of the recommended 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.) Plus, quinoa is gluten-free, vegan, and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a stellar choice for diners following some special diets.

How to Serve Quinoa

Quinoa has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and a texture that's sometimes compared to couscous. That means it's remarkably versatile and can absolutely be a picky eater-pleaser.

Score some inspiration from our best quinoa recipes, and read on for a few specific Test Kitchen favorites.

  • Breakfast: Remix your hot cereal routine. Instead of your usual oatmeal recipe, dig into a bowl of warm quinoa. You can also combine equal parts cooked quinoa and cooked oatmeal for a mash-up meal that will keep you full for hours. Add touches like maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, fresh or dried fruits, and nuts to finish. (Our Pressure Cooker Peaches and Cream Breakfast Quinoa, Cardamom-Pear Quinoa, and Strawberries and Cream Quinoa can guide you through this quinoa cooking idea.)
  • Side dish: Serve quinoa as you would couscous, rice, or any other whole grain. If desired, toss cooked quinoa with a little butter or olive oil; add fresh herbs and/or sliced green onions, then season with salt and pepper to taste. A great place to start is this 20-minute Quinoa Pilaf.
  • Salad: To a big bowl with a scoop of cooked quinoa, add torn leafy greens and chopped raw vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, cucumbers, radishes, avocados, and shredded carrots. Toss with your favorite dressing. For a heartier quinoa salad recipe, add grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak. Basil Quinoa Salad has become one of our go-to meal prep lunches.
  • Soup: If your broth-base soup recipe doesn't already contain noodles or another grain, add some cooked quinoa at the end of cooking time. Add about 1 cup cooked quinoa per six servings. Or add raw quinoa, rinsed well, to the soup during cooking. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for cooking and about ½ cup raw quinoa per six servings. Come summer, we have Quinoa-Nectarine Gazpacho with Crispy Spiced Tortilla Strips on repeat.
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