6 Essential Tips: How to Cook Quinoa Like a Pro

How to cook quinoa like a pro - final pic

If you’re a quinoa lover like I am, you might already know that quinoa is an everyday superfood you can find at most regular grocery stores. Back in the 1990s, NASA called quinoa the “perfect inflight snack for astronauts” because of its impressive nutritional qualities! But do you know how to cook quinoa perfectly?


You may know that quinoa is gluten-free and a complete plant-based protein. This means it contains all essential amino acids. This is rare for grains, which is why most aren’t considered complete protein sources.

Quinoa is high in an amino acid called lysine. Lysine promotes calcium absorption, supports bone growth and development in children, and encourages the building of muscle protein. This is helpful for anyone who has undergone surgery or experienced a sports injury. Although quinoa can be used as a grain, it’s technically considered a “pseudograin” or “pseudocereal”. It’s actually in the same botanical family as spinach, beets, amaranth and one of my favourite wild greens, lambsquarters.

Quinoa is a great substitute for rice or pasta in pilaf, soups, stews, stuffed peppers, and even baked goods. You can also buy it as quinoa flour or as quinoa flakes. Both quinoa and quinoa flakes make an excellent oat-free breakfast porridge. I consider quinoa to be a pantry staple because it’s quick cooking and can be ready in 15-20 minutes.

Here are my pro tips for how to cook quinoa perfectly every time:

1. Soak the quinoa for 10-15 minutes in plenty of cold water.


I never used to do this before I took the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional Certification program, but it makes a difference!

I find the quinoa seeds remain separate after cooking in part due to this small extra step.  

2. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking.


Quinoa (along with other foods like soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, etc.) is covered in a natural, soap-like coating called saponins. If left on, this can give your meal a bitter taste. Thoroughly rinsing the quinoa in a strainer will help remove it.

Most commercial quinoa is pre-rinsed, but I still find most brands benefit from a good soak and/or rinse. If you pre-soak your quinoa, you’ll notice the water often becomes cloudy, which shows the saponins being removed! You may need to rinse the quinoa 2 or 3 times before the water runs clear.

3. Use the right ratio of quinoa to liquid.

Many cookbooks (and many packages of quinoa) recommend a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa. This might be the worst advice of all! Every time I use that much liquid, the quinoa ends up waterlogged and mushy.

I highly recommend a ratio of 1:1. Of course this means you’ll need 1 cup of liquid for every 1 cup of quinoa. The quinoa should be measured dry before you soak or rinse it.

Easy to remember, right?

The darker types of quinoa, like red or black, are the exception. I find these need a bit more liquid and a slightly longer cooking time. So, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup MORE water and cook these types of quinoa for 5-7 minutes longer. Use the right ratio for cooking quinoa and you’ll end up with fluffy, tender quinoa instead of the dreaded MUSHY quinoa.  

4. Season correctly (and enough).

Season with spices or other flavours of your choice. If nothing else, season with sea salt. I usually use 1/4 tsp per cup of (dried) quinoa. To add a boost of flavour for few to no extra calories, try cooking your quinoa in vegetable or chicken stock instead of plain water. You can also add fresh garlic, lemon slices and fresh herbs. Quinoa will absorb any flavours you add to it.  

5. Leave the lid on until the very (non-bitter) end.

Once the water and quinoa come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and then don’t remove the lid until the time is up! The lid keeps moisture in and cold air out, which helps cook the quinoa to the perfect texture.  

6. Let it sit and hang out.

This is another tip I learned and it also makes a noticeable difference. I’m notoriously bad about removing the lid as soon as the timer goes off, but you’ll have much better results if you don’t. As you should with rice, leave the lid on for at least 5 minutes once cooking is over. After that, gently fluff that fabulous quinoa with a fork before serving.  


Here’s how to cook perfect quinoa from start to finish:

  • Soak it and/or rinse it.
  • Add the right amount of liquid and quinoa (ratio of 1:1!). Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer (such as as the low setting), cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.
  • Turn off the heat, take the pot off the burner, and let it sit with the lid on. Use a fork to fluff the quinoa. Enjoy!

Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for cooking perfect quinoa?  

For more tips and advice on cooking a variety of grains, check out my free Guide to Preparing and Cooking Whole Grains.

Life is a plate… Eat up!


3 thoughts on “6 Essential Tips: How to Cook Quinoa Like a Pro

  1. Pingback: Big Protein Beet & Quinoa Salad (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) | Ashleigh Grange, RHN

  2. Sheri says:

    I’m going to try soaking before hand now. I cook my quinoa in my rice cooker and have never had a problem. So easy, I am also taking the Rouxbe plant based cooking course, about 1/4 of the way through it. Thanks for the tips.

Hi! What did you think of this? Leave your comments below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Choose Your Currency
%d bloggers like this: