How to Cook Quinoa on the stove for perfectly fluffy, tender results every single time- no more chewy, crunchy, soggy quinoa again. Even better, this perfect quinoa can be enjoyed immediately (tons of suggestions below) or meal-prepped and stored (or frozen) for later!
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Fluffy, Perfect Quinoa on the Stove Every Time
Quinoa is one of my favorite additions to a well-balanced meal; it’s high in protein, naturally gluten-free, low GI, and cholesterol-free. It may also contain anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. Best of all, perfectly cooked quinoa is great for meal prep and adding to salads, stews, curries, and more throughout the week!
With all that healthy plant-based goodness, you can probably see why I love it so much! Whether I’m making a fresh Mediterranean quinoa salad, wholesome black bean quinoa casserole, hearty quinoa blueberry breakfast bake, or sweet chocolate quinoa muffins– you’ll see why this ‘powerhouse’ ingredient shows up time and time again in my cooking. It also makes for a healthier substitute for white pasta and rice.
I’ve already shared my method for perfectly cooked Instant Pot quinoa. However, for those days when you’re saving your IP for cooking the protein part of the meal (like Instant Pot turkey breast or Instant Pot chicken), then learning how to cook quinoa on the stove is vital!
When cooked incorrectly, quinoa can become a stodgy, heavy, or even crunchy and burnt mass. Meanwhile, cooked correctly, perfect quinoa should be light and fluffy – with clear individual grains. Follow my method below on how long to cook quinoa and my preferred method and tips for perfect quinoa every single time!
Why This Method for How to Cook Quinoa Works?
- Learning how to cook quinoa on the stove with the correct method yields perfectly fluffy quinoa with tender al-dente individual grains every single time!
- This process takes just over 20 minutes from start to finish!
- Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, low GI, and packed with antioxidants!
- It’s also the best plant-based source of complete protein – a perfect addition to meat-free meals!
- It’s super versatile; use in place of rice and pasta in all kinds of dishes!
- This stovetop quinoa method removes all the guesswork, cook to specific times and heats, and you’ll have wonderful results every time!
Ingredients for Perfectly Cooked Quinoa
- Quinoa: This method is for white quinoa. Read the FAQs for more info on red and black quinoa varieties.
- Water: No need to use filtered water – tap water will do (As long as it’s drinkable where you live). Alternatively, you could use stock or broth.
- Salt: To season. Feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking.
Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on recipe add-ins and variations!
How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove
- Add the ingredients to a pot: In a medium pot add the quinoa, water (or stock), and a pinch of salt.
If you want to pre-soak or rinse the quinoa, then feel free to do so before this. However, you can read the FAQs to find out why I skip those steps!
- Bring to a boil: Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a boil.
- Simmer the quinoa: Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 12 minutes. Don’t open the lid or stir the quinoa during this time!
- Leave to steam: Then, remove the pot from the heat and allow it to stand and ‘steam’ for a further five minutes with the lid still on.
This step is crucial for evaporating any remaining water from the bottom of the pan for fluffy quinoa and individual grains (no stodginess!). Don’t be tempted to lift the lid!
- Fluff it: Finally, remove the lid and use a fork to gently fluff the quinoa grains – then it’s ready to enjoy!
Tips for Perfect Quinoa
- The dry to cooked quinoa yield: One cup of dry quinoa yields around three cups cooked. Keep this in mind when determining how much you need to cook.
- There’s no need to rinse: I’ve found that most pre-packaged quinoa is already rinsed to remove the bitter saponin layer from the quinoa. However, feel free to rinse it if you’re worried that yours isn’t pre-rinsed.
- Stick to the water quinoa ratio: Add too little, and the quinoa can begin to stick/burn to the bottom of the pan. Too much, and the quinoa will become a stodgy mess.
Add-ins and Variations
- Toast the quinoa: To increase the rich nutty flavor of the quinoa, you can first dry toast the seeds before adding the water and salt to the pot. Simply heat the quinoa over medium heat for several minutes until it smells fragrant and starts making a slight popping noise – then continue with my outlined cooking method. You could also do this step with a bit of oil or butter for slightly ‘richer’ quinoa.
- Use broth: For more flavorful quinoa, skip the water and use broth (veggie, chicken, or even bone broth) instead when cooking quinoa on the stove.
- Add a bay leaf: Similar to rice and other grains, you can add extra flavor with the addition of a bay leaf to the pot while it cooks. You can include this when cooking with water or broth.
- Other aromatics/herbs: You can also easily increase the flavor of this cooked quinoa by adding some fresh garlic or herbs like rosemary, thyme, dill, etc.
There are three main types of quinoa; white, red, and black. As a general rule, the darker the quinoa, the longer it takes to cook. Red quinoa may only take several minutes extra (2-3). Meanwhile, black quinoa can take an additional five minutes.
It’s also important to note that the flavor of all three varies too. Whereas white quinoa is relatively neutral with a slightly nutty flavor, red and black quinoa have bolder, earthier, nuttier flavors. You can read more about the different types of quinoa, too.
It’s very simple to cook quinoa in an Instant Pot. Even better, it takes just ONE minute of high pressure. Including the pressure release time, you can have perfectly cooked quinoa ready in 13 minutes!
It is fairly similar in that I use a simmering method to slowly reduce the water while cooking the quinoa. However, the times and water ratio vary.
Many sources recommend a 2:1 ratio of water/stock to dried quinoa. However, having cooked this time and time again, I now use a ratio of 1 ¾:1. This amount is just enough to cook the quinoa perfectly, with the remainder evaporating during the ‘steam’ step – for wonderfully fluffy results.
However, I think it’s important to note that the type of pot you use (circumference size and lid tightness), amount of quinoa, and type of quinoa used (white, red, black) will all impact the amount of water.
I don’t do this as I’ve found that most brands I’ve used rinse the quinoa before it is packaged. It’s also a pain to remove all the quinoa from your mesh strainer after soaking/rinsing the quinoa.
Why do some people still soak their quinoa then? There are a couple of reasons. First of all, quinoa – like many grains and pulses, contains some phytic acid which can be reduced upon soaking. Secondly, quinoa contains a natural coating of compounds called saponins which some say taste slightly bitter or even soapy if not rinsed away.
On the other hand, many argue that as long as you’re on a varied diet, the phytic-acid content shouldn’t be enough to cause any issues. More so, not all agree that the saponins provide a bitter taste; some consider it simply ‘earthy.’ For that reason, I’ll leave the decision to you.
If you want to soak the quinoa, add it to a large bowl with 3-4x the amount of water and soak for at least six hours or overnight. This may reduce the cooking time of the quinoa by several minutes, so keep an eye out.
Quinoa is a truly versatile addition to your kitchen repertoire. Here are just a few ways you can use it.
- In a salad: Like tabbouleh, broccoli quinoa salad, southwest quinoa salad, quinoa black bean salad, and chicken quinoa bowls.
- Instead of rice: For stews, curry, stir fries (beef, chicken, shrimp and vegetable stir fry, or salmon), a chicken burrito bowl meal prep, etc.
- Make a meal: Pair this perfect quinoa with veggies and protein of your choice—for example, this garlic butter shrimp quinoa with asparagus. Also, serve alongside your preferred protein, like chicken or salmon. Perfect veggie sides include Instant Pot steamed vegetables, zucchini and tomato bake, roasted cauliflower, garlic green beans, roasted Brussel sprouts, etc.
- Add to soups: Swap out the pasta, or add to grain-free soups to increase the protein content like this minestrone soup, turkey meatball soup, broccoli cheese soup, vegetable soup, and bean mushroom soup.
Making Quinoa in Advance
Storing: Refrigerate the cooked quinoa in the pot you cooked it in or an airtight container for up to one week.
Freeze: Allow the quinoa to cool and transfer to large ziplock bags, spreading into a thin, flat layer. Then freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, allow it to sit on the kitchen counter for 1-2 hours.
Reheat: The quinoa can dry out somewhat when stored, so I like to add a splash or two back to it when reheating. Reheat the quinoa on the stove by simmering over low heat with a splash of water or broth, occasionally stirring until warm. It may need more than one splash of liquid during the reheating process.
More Favorite Quinoa Recipes to Try
- One-Pot chicken quinoa
- Instant Pot vegetarian quinoa chili
- Spinach artichoke quinoa casserole
- Parmesan pumpkin and spinach quinoa
You might also enjoy browsing through this compiled list of 65 healthy dinner ideas!
How to Cook Quinoa
Store: You can refrigerate quinoa in the pot you cooked it in or airtight containers for up to 1 week.
Freeze: You can freeze cooked quinoa laying flat in resealable plastic containers or airtight containers. It freezes beautifully for up to 3 months.
Reheating: Cooked quinoa really benefits from extra liquid to rehydrate it. Whether from the fridge or freezer, make sure to fluff quinoa first and then add a splash of water or broth. Reheat by simmering on low heat in a pot while covered, stirring and checking if it needs more liquid a few more times. For frozen quinoa, defrost it on a counter for 1-2 hours and then reheat.
- Do I have to rinse quinoa? I don’t because quinoa is typically rinsed before being packaged for consumer purchase. It is very hard to remove small seeds from a mesh strainer after rinsing. Some quinoa recipes recommend rinsing quinoa before cooking it. This is more of a recommendation than a requirement. Quinoa has a natural coating of compounds called saponins. Many people think that quinoa tastes bitter or soapy if the saponins aren’t rinsed away. Meanwhile, others might say that it just has an earthy flavor. You can rinse, if you wish.
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