Food & Nutrition

How to cook quinoa

Learn how easy it is to cook quinoa with our step by step instructions.
Published 3 July 2017 | Updated 1 November 2023

Quinoa cooking tips and recipes

Quinoa is considered a superfood because it’s the only known plant-based complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs for growth and development. Packed with protein and fibre, quinoa (proucounced “keen-wah”) has a sweet, nutty flavour. Because it’s a seed, not a grain, it’s great for gluten-free cooking but to prevent any quinoa faux pax, just follow these top tips.

1. Rinse and drain quinoa before cooking to remove the naturally occurring bitter coating (called saponin). Use a fine-meshed sieve to prevent the small seeds from escaping through the holes. Alternatively, line your sieve with a clean kitchen cloth.

How to cook quinoa step 1

2. Place quinoa and cold water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Use a ratio of 2 parts water to every 1 part quinoa.

How to cook quinoa step 2

3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10–12 minutes or until liquid has absorbed and quinoa is tender. Set aside to cool and fluff with a fork before using.

How to cook quinoa step 3

Which colour quinoa?

  • White. White quinoa is the most common and is softer and fluffier when cooked than other types. It also has a slightly milder flavour. It’s a good choice for making porridge, adding to soup and making pie bases or patties (as it sticks together well).
  • Red. Holds its shape and crunch after cooking a bit better than white quinoa. This makes it more suitable for cold salads or other recipes where a distinct grain is required.
  • Black. Has an earthier flavour than white quinoa. It keeps its shape and crunch when cooked and is used for its striking colour.
  • Tri-colour. A pretty blend of all three types of quinoa. Great for salads or a side dish as it provides a combination of colours and textures.

Quinoa cooking tips

  • 1 cup (200g) uncooked quinoa yields approximately 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
  • You will know when quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open and has a little ‘tail’.
  • Use quinoa like you would any other grain, such as barley or rice. It’s a great side dish for curries or stews and can also be used in porridge, salads and even pie crusts.
  • If you want to give your quinoa a bit more flavour, cook it in stock or add bay leaves and other herbs and spices to the water.
  • Quinoa can also be cooked in a rice cooker! It takes the same time and liquid: quinoa ratios.

Can you freezing quinoa?

Quinoa can be cooked in large batches and then frozen for up to 3 months. Simply allow to cool, then divide into meal-sized portions and place in snap-lock bags. Press flat and expel all the air before sealing. Thaw overnight in the fridge or defrost in the microwave.

Use quinoa as a simple side

For a really simple side dish, drizzle ½ cup cooked quinoa with ½ teaspoon each of lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.