Domestic Details: How To Cook Perfect, Fluffy Quinoa

December 13, 2013 | |

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Tips-for-cooking-perfect-fluffy-quinoa-everytimeQuinoa is pretty awesome, and, as I’m sure you know, so hot right now. Pronounced KEEN-wah (I didn’t want to tell you because I secretly love it when people say things like kin-OH-ah or KWEEN-oh), quinoa is an ancient and magical grain that has been cultivated in the Andes for approximately infinity years. Technically, quinoa is actually a seed, but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to call it a grain.

The most obvious reason to love quinoa is that it’s really really ridiculously good for you. Each (gluten-free!) serving is packed with fiber, iron, magnesium and other fun minerals. Quinoa is also one of the few foods that is a complete protein, meaning that it provides your body with all 9 essential amino acids. Booyah.

Plus, this nutritional powerhouse of a grain happens to be incredibly delicious. Its delicate texture and slightly nutty taste make it the perfect addition to a wide variety of recipes. Whether simply spiced, added to soups, salads, and stir-fries, or used as a base for veggie burgers, falafel, and grain cakes, quinoa is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Get on board.

That said, I’ve found that cooking quinoa has the potential to be a bitch. It can sometimes taste bitter, and it’s very easy to both undercook (crunchy, chewy grains are not good) and overcook (blergh, waterlogged mush). However, with a few simple tricks, you can leave your past traumas behind and end up with light, fluffy quinoa every single time. I promise.

6 Tips for Cooking Perfect Quinoa:

1. Rinse your quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter, soapy tasting outer coating called saponin that needs to be washed away before cooking. Yes, some quinoa comes pre-rinsed, but unless your package clearly specifies that fact, you need to give your quinoa a little bath. Relax, this is super easy. Just pour the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse it under cold water for 30 seconds. Shake off any excess water, and you’re ready to start cooking.

2. Don’t cook your quinoa in too much liquid! Most packages say to cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups liquid. THEY ARE MESSING WITH YOU GUYS. 2 cups of liquid is way too much, and it will yield messed up mush instead of light and fluffy awesomeness. Use only 1½ cups of liquid per cup of quinoa, and you’ll always end up with perfection.

3. Experiment with cooking liquids and aromatics. Cooking quinoa in water is fine, but cooking it in chicken, vegetable or mushroom stock is better. You can also try adding smashed garlic cloves or fresh herbs to your cooking liquid for extra flair. (Just don’t forget to remove any aromatics when the quinoa has finished cooking, capiche?)

4. Cook your quinoa at a simmer. Just to clarify, to cook quinoa you’ll need to put the rinsed grain in a pot with the cooking liquid. Bring the whole shebang to a rolling boil. As soon as it starts to boil, cover the pot with a lid and lower the heat until the liquid is just simmering. Please pay attention to when the quinoa starts to boil, people! If you let the liquid boil for too long, your quinoa won’t cook evenly and things will get messy. (Trust me, I know from extensive experience.) Let your quinoa cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. I know that some of you will be tempted to lift the lid or stir the quinoa during this time. RESIST THE URGE. Please, just walk away and let the magic happen.

5. Let your quinoa rest. As soon as your quinoa has finished cooking, turn of the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes. This crucial step dries out the quinoa slightly so you don’t end up mushy/clumpy grains. Again, please resist the urge to lift the lid.

6. Fluff your quinoa. After your quinoa has rested, give it a little love by fluffing it gently with a fork. (No, you may not use a spoon because the flat surface will crush the grains.) Your perfectly cooked quinoa will have tiny spirals (which are the germ) curling around each tasty little grain.

Note: Yes, you may use a rice-cooker to cook quinoa if you have one (fancy!). Just stick to the 1:1½ ratio of quinoa to liquid.

Domesticity is all in the details, friends. Bow to your sensei.

*If you have a burning question that you’d like featured on a future edition of Domestic Details, don’t hesitate to contact me or leave it in the comments. Help me help you.

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  1. Meredith on March 23, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    This is one of my go-to tips, so much so that I keep a screenshot of the ratio in my phone. I had followed the directions on the packages and tried many different brands before realizing I don’t hate quinoa, the cooking directions are just wrong. If you’re contemplating your relationship with quinoa try out Serena’s method before completely writing it off!!

  2. Neymur on June 11, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    I *always* cook it in chicken or veg broth, but have also done it with coconut milk to use with Asian-style recipes, in which case I add a little soy sauce and sesame oil. You really can’t go wrong with quinoa!!

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  3. Eden on September 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I’ve heard about letting it rest with a paper towel between the lid and pot. Should I do that? If so, why?

    • Serena_Wolf on September 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Hi, Eden- So, the paper towel between the lid and the pot is to soak up excess moisture and keep the quinoa from getting mushy. However, the recipes/instructions that suggest that method are using too much water to begin with. If you use the 1:1.5 quinoa to water ratio, there’s no need for the paper towel!

  4. Lendee Beugelink on May 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Can quinoa be toasted first then cooked? Like fried rice?

    • Serena_Wolf on May 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Yes, definitely! Once you rinse the quinoa add it to a heated saucepan. You can add a drizzle of olive oil if you like and toast it for about a minute or so until lightly golden, stirring regularly. Then add the liquid and cook as usual. Toasting the quinoa is awesome, as it really brings out its nutty flavors.

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