How To Cook Quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa

  1. What is Quinoa?

The quinoa we cook with is a seed. The plant itself is related to spinach and beets. We use quinoa in a similar manner to grains and cereals, so there’s a common misconception that it’s a grain.

Traditionally, it was one of the main foods used by the Incans, along with maize.  Peru and Bolivia still remain the largest commercial producers of quinoa, with the United States, Ecuador, Argentina and Canada contributing about 8% of global production.

There are numerous varieties of quinoa, but the most common you’ll see in your supermarket is white. You may see red or black quinoa, or a mix of all three. Red quinoa is common in salads because it retains its shape well. I like using white for porridges so they can get a softer consistency, more akin to oats, and red or black for salads.

Quinoa flakes and flour are also common in supermarkets, and are good alternatives for those with gluten allergies or intolerances.

Taste-wise it has a delicate, almost nutty flavour. The texture can be crunchy or soft, depending on how long you cook it for.

Recipe: Kale, Quinoa, Carrot & Beet Salad

  1. Why Should I Eat It?

As I mentioned in my Quinoa Porridge blog post, it’s a complete protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids which the human body can’t create on its own so we need to get them from food sources. Getting the right protein, not just enough protein, is important for everyone (not just vegans and vegetarians).  Compared to other plant-based foods, it’s higher in protein than other grains, but a bit lower than most legumes.

It’s a health food, not a health food fad. It’s low in cholesterol, sodium, and fat. It’s a good source of magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese. Compared with other cereals and grains, it’s a good source of iron, zinc, B vitamins, dietary fibre, and minerals.

It’s gluten free. So if you have an allergy or intolerance you can safely replace your usual grains or cereals with quinoa. And if gluten isn’t a problem, it’s great combined with other cereals.

It’s incredibly versatile. You can use it in sweet or savoury dishes, for breakfasts, lunches or dinners. You can use it in dishes that are traditionally Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, or even Italian, and combine it with legumes and other proteins.


Recipe: Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

  1. Where Can I Buy Quinoa?

When I first started buying quinoa about 10 years ago, I had to go to the health food store. And even then it was hit and miss whether it would be stocked.

These days you can get it from supermarkets like Walmart, Loblaws, Woolworths or Coles. If you’re in Canada, you can get organic quinoa from Truly Organic Foods or Noah’s Natural Foods.

We’re visiting Chiang Mai in Thailand at the moment and I’ve only seen it at Rimping. As an imported food, it’s rather expensive coming in around $10 or $11 for a packet – the same price as it is to get Macro Organics Quinoa from Woolworths in Australia.

You may be aware about ethics and sustainability issues surrounding quinoa that were debated in the media around 2013 — see It’s Okay to Eat Quinoa and Is It Ethical For Rich Countries To Eat Quinoa as examples. If sustainability and human rights are important to you, you may want to consider doing your research, and buying fair trade or locally sourced quinoa (if you are in Canada or America).

Recipe: Quinoa Broccoli Bake

  1. How To Cook Quinoa

The seed coating around quinoa is rather bitter, so it needs to be rinsed before use. Almost every packet of quinoa you get these days says on the instructions that it has been pre-rinsed, but I give it one final rinse.

Using a fine-meshed strainer, run cold water over your quinoa and rub it gently to loosen and remove any last bits of bitter coating. Drain the water out.

You can cook quinoa with water or stock, depending on what flavour you want. Just don’t cook it with milk, I’ve made that mistake and the milk burns quickly.

And if you’re using your quinoa for a savoury dish, you may like to toast your quinoa (before the rinse) in a pan for a minute or so, until you get that delicious sesame smell in your kitchen. Some people use a smidgen of oil, some people just dry toast it (which I’m a fan of).

The traditional ratio for quinoa cooking is one cup of uncooked quinoa to two cups of liquid. I use a little less: about one cup of uncooked quinoa to 1 and ¾ cups of liquid. I’ve found I have next to no water to drain at the end, and no soupy mess if using stock.

Add your quinoa and liquid to a medium sized pot, and bring to a boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Once it starts to boil, cook it on low to medium heat (depending on your stove top) for about 15 minutes. You can generally tell when it’s ready because it develops a little white ‘tail’ on each seed, but I do eat a forkful at this stage to see if it has a nice balance of softness and crunch. If it’s not soft enough, I keep it on for another five minutes.

Recipe: Mexican Quinoa Black Bean Salad

  1. Recipes

I’ve met some amazing food bloggers through Food Bloggers of Canada, and wanted to share some of their creative and tempting quinoa dishes with our friends. I know you’ll love these recipes. ?

Kim and Hector from Our Fresh Kitchen make Quinoa Egg Muffins.

These tasty breakfasts are handy when you’re on the run, and pack a powerful protein punch. And they only have 150 calories each!

You can connect with Kim and Hector on Twitter and Facebook.


Carole at The Yum Yum Factor makes a breakfast that rivals Eggs Benedict.

Her Edamame Quinoa Cakes with Egg and Spicy Avocado Sauce are not only delicious, but they’re GMO free. She uses edamame from a local Ontario farmer who grows his soy beans 100% naturally.

Check Carole out on Twitter and Facebook.



Holly Botner has a fantastic and unusual dish – Barberry Quinoa.

Prior to reading her blog, The Jittery Cook, I’d never heard of barberry! It’s a small, tart, crimson dried berry. It’s rich in Vitamin C and has great health benefits.

You can connect with Holly on Twitter and Facebook.


This Quinoa Crust Tart from Melanie at Bon Appeteat is the perfect alternative crust for those who don’t cook with flour.

And it’s full of delicious veggies for when you want to entertain vegetarian friends, or even just have a healthy dinner.

Melanie is also on Twitter and Facebook.


This Herbed Quinoa Flatbread from Sondi Bruner is on my To Do list.

It’s vegan, gluten free, and the herbs make this sound so delicious and fragrant.

You can connect with Sondi on Twitter and Facebook.




I’ve said before that Shauna from Satori Design For Living  creates dishes that have made me rue being vegan on occasion!

This Coconut Quinoa Pudding is as tempting as her other dishes.

You can connect with her online at Twitter and Facebook.



And finally, a bit of meat with your quinoa!

Jeanine from The Baking Beauties uses quinoa as a crispy coating on her Spicy Quinoa Crusted Chicken Fingers.

If you’d like to see more of Jeanine’s recipes, she’s online at Twitter and Facebook.



Louisa at Living Lou has a fresh and simple Summer Quinoa Salad.

This will appeal to vegans, veggies, and anyone who enjoys a light, yet substantial salad in summer time.

Louisa can be contacted via Twitter.




Like Jeanne at The Lovin Forkful, I love a good salad.

Her Chickpea and Quinoa Salad is another great meal for summer, for when you want a protein punch with your salad.

You can stay in touch with Jeanne on Twitter and Facebook.


Wanda from BakersBeans makes delicious Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Red Chili.

She makes her peppers with meat, but suggests leaving this out for a tasty vegetarian friendly dish.

You can connect with Wanda on Twitter and Facebook.


If you have quinoa haters in your family and want to convince them it’s okay, Megan from Food & Whine has the perfect dish: Lasagna Style Quinoa With Kale.

Her toughest critics (her two boys) have given this the thumbs up, so it’s even child approved!

Megan is online at Twitter and Facebook.


The Radiant Rachels made a really unique quinoa dish that I love: Basic Kimchi Fried Quinoa.

I love modern takes on traditional cuisines, like this Korean dish where rice is replaced with quinoa.

You can connect with the Rachels at Twitter and Facebook.
Laureen from Fox In The Kitchen has created a Crustless Quinoa Veggie Pie.

It’s a delicious gluten free and versatile quinoa dish that you can make with pretty much any vegetables you have in your kitchen.

Laureen can be found on Twitter and Facebook.


These Quinoa and Wild Garlic Cakes with Salbitxada Sauce by Kris at 80 Twenty look divine.

Even healthy things like quinoa can be used to create tasty and tempting fried goodies!

You can stay in touch with Kris via Twitter  and Facebook.


If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to rice in fried rice, Joyce at The Skinny Pear has created a Quinoa Fried Rice.

I love how her household has dubbed quinoa “special rice”. ?

Joyce is online on G+.


This simple Quinoa Chickpea Salad by Lillian at Beyond Umami is perfect for vegans and vegetarians.

The combination of quinoa and chickpeas packs a powerful punch nutrition wise.

You can stay in touch with Lillian on Twitter and Facebook.


Two Quinoa Recipes, and a quinoa growing experiment in BC. I won’t ruin the surprise of whether quinoa can flourish in British Columbia, so read on!

Margaret from Kitchen Frau’s delicious quinoa recipes are a Quinoa Onion Frittata and a Honey Vanilla Quinoa Pudding.

You can connect with Margaret at Twitter and Facebook.

What’s your favourite way to eat quinoa? Do you cook with quinoa flakes or flour? And feel free to share your own quinoa recipes or links in the comments! 

This page contains affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything to use them, and they help support our website. ?

You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.

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17 thoughts on “How To Cook Quinoa

    • Doesn’t it look amazing? I’m glad I chatted with these bloggers, they’ve provided so much variety and creativity to this blog post. It’s always good to check out what other people are doing with one of your favourite ingredients. ?

    • I just had quinoa for breakfast this morning! I cook up batches and re-heat them through the week. It makes life so easy. I can’t get over the cost of quinoa in Thailand though, it’s as expensive as it is in Australia, compared to the few dollars we pay for it in Canada!

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