Learn how to cook perfect quinoa every time with my tried & true method. Then, use it in bowls, salads, or one of my 17 favorite quinoa recipes below!
For a lot of you, back-to-school season is meal prep season. As you get into a new routine at work, at home, or at school, having meals ready to grab & go in the fridge can be a life-saver. One of my go-to meal prep tips is having a cooked grain on hand to bulk up salads or add to bowls. Quinoa is one of my all-time favorites: it’s SUPER healthy, it pairs well with a wide range of flavors, and it cooks in under 30 minutes!
Everyone has their own method for how to cook quinoa, but I’ve been using this one for years, and it always comes out perfect. The grains are light, fluffy & soft, but not mushy. If you want to get a head start on the coming week, cook up a big batch and store it in the fridge for easy lunches and dinners! You’ll thank yourself later.
What is quinoa?
While I often use quinoa interchangeably with millet, farro, rice, and other grains, it is not actually a grain, but a grain-like seed hailing from South America! Not only does it have a delicious nutty flavor, but it’s healthy, too. 1 cup quinoa contains over 8 grams of protein, as opposed to 5 grams in brown rice. Plus, it’s a good source of nutrients like manganese, magnesium, and copper. You can read more about the health benefits of quinoa here, but the bottom line is that adding even a small amount of it to your diet can be good for you.
You can find it in a variety of colors, like black, red, white, or a mix of all three, but each variety cooks in the same way. Lighter varieties have the mildest flavor, so if you’re trying it for the first time, I recommend starting with white before venturing on to red or black.
And one final note before you cook: Quinoa is coated in naturally occurring insecticides called saponins. They can give the grain a bitter taste and make it difficult to digest, so make sure to rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before putting it on the stove. Once you’ve rinsed it, you’re ready to cook!
How to Cook Quinoa
When I cook rice, I add oil and salt to the pot, but cooking quinoa is even simpler. All you need is quinoa and water! If you look at different methods for how to cook quinoa, you’ll find a range of water ratios. Some recipes call for as high as a 2:1 water to grain ratio, while others go as low as 1 1/2:1. In my experience, the sweet spot for light, fluffy quinoa is right in the middle. I use 1 3/4 cups water for every cup of quinoa. Any more water, and the quinoa gets mushy. Any less, and it’s too dry.
Once you’ve measured both, follow these easy steps:
- Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes more.
- Then, remove the lid and fluff with a fork!
Now, your quinoa is cooked to fluffy perfection, but it’s plain on its own. If you’re serving it as a simple side, season it first. At the very least, toss it with salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. To kick it up another notch, stir in chopped herbs, minced garlic, toasted nuts, or crumbled feta cheese, or use it in one of the quinoa recipes below!
17 Favorite Quinoa Recipes
Once you’ve made a batch of quinoa, you have endless options for using it. Make it the base of your next grain bowl, toss it into a salad, or stuff it into squash or sweet potatoes. It’s also at home in soups & wraps, and it pairs nicely with sweet flavors as well as savory. Try topping it with cinnamon and fresh fruit in the morning, or mix it into a batch of breakfast cookies! Here are a few of my favorite quinoa recipes to get you started:
- Cinnamon Spiced Breakfast Bowl
- Carrot Breakfast Cookies
- Vegan Seven Layer Dip
- Kale Quesadillas
- Tomato & Kale Salad Wrap
- Best Black Bean Burger
- Big Green Kale Salad
- Broccoli Pesto Quinoa Salad
- Kale Pesto Mushroom Bowl
- Roasted Veggie Grain Bowl
- Simple Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl
- Taco Bowl with Jalapeño Ranch
- Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Butternut Squash & Kale Stew
- White Bean Risotto with Roasted Vegetables
- Spinach Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Avocado Black Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash
Love quinoa recipes?
Try making any of these basic grain recipes next:
- How to Cook Farro
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Rice Pilaf with Pomegranate Arils
- Cauliflower Rice
- Lemon Herb Couscous
How to Cook Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 3/4 cups water
- Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered for 10 more minutes.
- Fluff with a fork.
My quinoa was a flop. I followed the directions & it never fluffed up. I’m very disappointed & wonder if the expensive organic quinoa is the reason. It was $7.99 for two cups & I’d never used this brand before Nature’s Earthly Choice.
Hi Carole, I’ve never tried that brand but have had success using this method with a variety of other brands. I recommend Lundberg Farms, Bob’s Red Mill, 365, and Trader Joe’s quinoa.
It turned out great for me! I’m planing on serving it under a meat sauce. Great recipe thanks!
Finally! The perfect recipe for wonderful quinoa! Thank-you!
Hi Melissa, I’m so glad it came out well for you!
I like quinoa, as well as couscous too.
Can you add quinoa to soups?
yes! It’s great in this vegetable soup: https://www.loveandlemons.com/vegetable-soup/ or in place of the pasta in this minestrone soup: https://www.loveandlemons.com/minestrone-soup/
Absolutely perfect. I feel like I accomplished something big today! I’ve tried making quinoa before and bombed terribly. This ratio was perfect for me and super simple. Thank you!
Hi Christina, I’m so glad your quinoa was perfect!
This was the most perfect quinoa I’ve ever made, and I used my cast iron pot! At first I was concerned because some of the quinoa was half cooked, buy allowing it to rest for a little while, it was perfect!! I’m very thankful for this recipe.
I’m so glad your quinoa was perfect!
Ever try golden quinoa? This recipe worked great for tri-colored quinoa, but now I have golden quinoa and first I followed package directions and then I tried this method. Both times it turned out the consistency of Cream of Wheat. Is it this quinoa? Any suggestions?
Hi Melissa, I would try adding a little less water, or make sure it’s not too wet after you’ve rinsed it. This ratio works perfectly for me with all types of quinoa.
If you cook quinoa with almond milk is it the same ratio as water? My first time cooking quinoa!! Wish me luck.
Hi Aida, it should be.
I just doubled the recipe and it came out a little sticky. Is there anything I can do to fix it?
Hi Molly, I’d try straining the excess water and/or spreading it on a clean baking sheet to let it dry out a little and not mush together.
How many cups would you need per person?
Hi Nicola, this batch will serve about 4. It’ll be about 3 cups once it’s cooked.
Can attest, this recipe is perfect! And so simple!
I’m so glad your quinoa was perfect!
This is the best method for cooking quinoa that I have ever used. It came out perfect and fluffy. Thank you!!!
Hi could you please indicate the ratio in gr and ml please ? I am in Italy and using cup it’s impossible 🤣
I’m just making some and my 1 cup weighed 185 g. Google tells me 1 3/4 cup of water is 415 ml.
Is Quinoa meant to be soaked or washed before cooking?
Hi, just rinse it before cooking, no need to soak.
You can soak it in water with 1-2 T. of ACV for up to 24 hours. This will assist in removing the naturally occurring phytic acid that is hard to digest for some and tends to inhibit nutrient absorption. If you have GI issues or are on a low FODMAP diet I suggest giving this method a try. I usually just do it overnight and it comes out great, just rinse it again before cooking. I also tend to cook it in broth instead of water for a little extra kick of flavor.
Perfect water/quinoa ratio, perfect timing and directions for non-mushy quinoa. At last!!! Many thanks@
Hi Pam, I’m so happy your quinoa turned out perfectly!
So happy to hear!
Turned out a little soupie??
Not the best first time experience 🙁
Also added a little mango, carrot slivers, broccoli, pecan, sea salt and pepper
At least the flavor was good but had to use a strainer spoon to transfer to plate
Hi Ken, did you add the extras to the cooking pot or did you add them at the end after the quinoa was finished?
what kind of pot should I use?
A medium sized saucepan – a stainless steel pot is fine even though I have a cast iron pot in the photo.
Thank you so much, it was easy to make.
I’m so glad!