Recipe and tips on how to cook white quinoa perfectly so that it's like a fluffy pilaf. At the bottom are 5 of my favorite quinoa recipes that show fabulous ways to use your next batch of perfectly fluffy quinoa.
Make a batch of this quinoa and use it all through the week in salads, burritos with black beans, soups, casseroles, and stir-fries.
Updated May 4, 2022
If you're trying to get more plant-based protein into your diet, or looking for a gluten-free alternative to wheat-based grains, quinoa should be one of your staples. It does all this and delivers valuable nutrients to your meals.
Making quinoa is easy, but there are a few steps to making sure you get a perfect, fluffy quinoa.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is technically a seed from a plant related to spinach, beets and Swiss chard. Its germ, which is the equivalent of a yolk in an egg, is arguably the most power-packed part of any know seed. In most grains, the germ is little more than a speck. But quinoa's germ completely surrounds the rest of the seed.
Types of quinoa
The 3 most commonly found types of quinoa are white, red and black.
White quinoa is most common variety found in markets. It has the most delicate taste and cooks up the lightest and fluffiest of all the varieties you might see. This is your pick for a fluffy pilaf.
White quinoa cooks up in about 15 minutes.
Red quinoa is slightly chewier and a more savory flavor than white quinoa. It holds its shape better during cooking, making this variety a great choice in salads. It boasts more antioxidants than white quinoa.
Red quinoa takes a few more minutes to cook than white quinoa - typically 17-18 minutes.
Black quinoa has a texture similar to red quinoa, and an earthy sweet flavor. It has the lowest fat content of the 3, but also the lowest iron value.
The cooking time is similar to red quinoa.
Is quinoa high in protein?
Quinoa is one of the best non-animal food sources of complete protein. First of all, it's high in plant protein and fiber, with 8 grams of protein in 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Even better, quinoa has all the nine essential amino acids that your body needs, which you can get only from your diet.
If you're trying to follow a more vegetarian diet, check out this post on how much protein you need every day and ways to get it.
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Instructions for Fluffy Quinoa
The biggest problem when cooking quinoa, is ending up with a pot of mush. If you want fluffy quinoa that's more pilaf than, say, oatmeal, you've come to the right place.
Step 1 (3 minutes)
Rinse the quinoa. Most pre-packaged quinoa today has been pre-washed, but I still recommend rinsing it before cooking. Spill the uncooked seeds into a large bowl, add enough water to cover them by an inch, and gently rub the seeds between your hands until the water becomes cloudy, usually less than 10 seconds. Dump the seeds into a fine mesh strainer, and rinse.
Repeat 2 more times.
Step 2 (15-18 minutes)
Cook the quinoa. Combine the water (or broth), quinoa and salt in a medium pot, cover and simmer for 15 minutes for white quinoa, and a few extra minutes for either red or black quinoa.
Feel free to add additional spices to the water for added flavor. Quinoa on its own is quite bland. Nutmeg goes surprisingly well with quinoa. I've also used smoked paprika.
The cooking time is affected by the material the pot is made out of and the amount of heat used. So you may need to experiment a little with your first batch.
Step 3 (10 minutes)
Steam finish. Check the quinoa. The liquid should be completely absorbed. If it isn't increase the heat the boil it off. Cooked quinoa has a little white “tail” that uncurls that's easily visible. This is the super-nutritious germ.
Remove the pot from the heat, cover it again, and let sit for 10 minutes. This step is key for a fluffy quinoa.
Step 4 (1 minute)
Fluff. Remove the pot lid and fluff the cooked quinoa using a fork. Serve.
FAQ for cooking quinoa
Do I need to rinse packaged quinoa?
Yes. This removes the bitter-tasting saponin covering of the seed. Saponin is a natural protection from pests for the quinoa plant as it grows, but can be a digestive irritant when consumed. Packaged quinoa has generally been pre-rinsed, but I still remove a lot with a couple vigorous rinses (see Step 1 in the above instructions.
What is the ratio of water to quinoa?
At sea level, I find a 1 : 1 ratio works best. In very dry climates and high altitude, you will need a little more water. At 7100 feet where I live in the mountains, 1 ¼ cups of water for every 1 cup quinoa is perfect every time.
How long will cooked quinoa last?
Cooked quinoa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Store it in recycled jars or plastic-free bags Stasher bags. It can be frozen for up to 8 - 10 months. I recommend freezing it in Stasher bags, as they're air-tight.
Want more vegetarian and vegan dish ideas? I can help you. I have three newsletters for different topics: 1) Vegetarian Recipes, 2) Vegetarian Meal Plans, and 3) Vegetarian Tips for helping you to move to a more vegetarian diet. Choose which newsletters are most relevant to your lifestyle and you'll also get my 5 SECRETS TO FUSS-FREE VEGETARIAN DINNERS.
Perfect Fluffy Quinoa (Stovetop Recipe)
Rinse the Quinoa
- Pour the quinoa into a medium or large bowl, and add enough water to cover it by about an inch. Gently rub the quinoa between your hands for 10-15 seconds to remove the bitter saponin coating.
- Strain the quinoa through a fine mesh strainer and spray with water for 20 seconds to rinse very well. Repeat 2 more times.
Cook the Quinoa
- Spill the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot, and add the water and salt.
- Pro-tip: Use either vegetable broth or 1 teaspoon Vegetable Better Than Bouillon to the water for more flavor. Add addition spices if desired, such as smoked paprika or nutmeg.
- Cover the pot and bring to a light boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Depending upon what your pot is made out of, you may need to move the lid slightly to the side to vent the pot to keep it at a low simmer.
- Once all the liquid is absorbed, remove from the heat, and keep covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
5 Fabulous Ways to Use Quinoa!
ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH QUINOA, POTATOES AND FETA CHEESE
HEALTHY MEXICAN CASSEROLE WITH QUINOA
BROCCOLI CASSEROLE WITH CHEESE AND QUINOA
VEGAN QUINOA-BLACK BEAN WRAP WITH HUMMUS
QUINOA SALAD WITH AVOCADO, BLACK BEANS AND GRAPES