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How to Cook Perfect Quinoa, No Matter the Amount

Recipe At-A-Glance
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Vegan, Gluten-FreeReady in 30 min
The perfect quinoa is just minutes from the pantry. We show you how to cook quinoa in a way that creates a fluffy, perfectly tender texture.
Quinoa in a 9x13 baking pan

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Quinoa is the darling whole grain of foodies everywhere, and for great reason! It’s packed full of nutty flavor and nutrition, and it’s a breeze to cook. It’s also super versatile (side dishes, soups, salads, oh my!) and easy to find—grab it at any of your local supermarkets.

While quinoa isn’t technically a grain (it’s considered a pseudograin because it’s actually a seed), we still love it here at Wholefully! Knowing how to cook perfectly fluffy quinoa every time should be a staple skill in your nourishing kitchen, and we’re here to teach you how.

Two bowls and a wooden spoon lined up top to bottom and filled with quinoa.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a seed that is often used like a grain (which is why it is often referred to as a “pseudo-grain”). It can be cooked and used in many of the same ways you’d use grains like rice or barley—use it as a side dish, as the base for grain salads, or to bulk up soups.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and is considered a complete protein. Which means it has all the essential amino acids our bodies need in one single food. Most sources of complete protein are animal proteins—meat, dairy, and eggs—but quinoa is one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein. In addition to giving your body the essential amino acids it needs to thrive, quinoa is also a good source of fiber, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and iron.

Four different varieties of quinoa in bowls such as red quinoa, black quinoa, and white quinoa.

Which color quinoa should I use?

Quinoa comes in a range of colors, and they all taste relatively similar. When you’re learning how to cook quinoa, don’t let the color of the grain throw you for a loop. No matter which you choose, you’ll end up with delicious, soft, fluffy grains!

There are slight variations in the cooking time between the different types of quinoa, but they are minor—only a minute or two separate white quinoa from tricolor, black, or red quinoa.

Do you need to pre-rinse quinoa?

Not necessarily. Rinsing your quinoa removes the saponins that naturally coat quinoa. These saponins can be bitter, so many people prefer to rinse their quinoa for a milder flavor.

I love quinoa’s nutty, earthy taste and don’t mind the slight bitterness, especially when I’m cooking a savory dish. So I don’t always pre-rinse.

However, this one is up to you, so let your taste buds decide. Some packages come labeled as “pre-rinsed,” so you can skip this step because they’ve already done the hard work for you!

If you decide to rinse your quinoa, place it in a large pot and cover it with water. Swish the quinoa around to dislodge any debris, then drain over a fine mesh strainer.

Cooked quinoa in a pot topped with butter.

Close view quinoa grains.

Should I cook my quinoa on the stove or in the oven?

Both versions have their advantages, so it’s a matter of personal preference. Whichever method you choose, you’re guaranteed to end up with fluffy, perfect quinoa every time!

Stovetop quinoa only takes 15 minutes to make. This is the way to go if you have a recipe that requires cooked quinoa and don’t already have some on hand.

Cooking quinoa in the oven takes longer—roughly 35 minutes—but the advantage to using the oven is you can cook up a whole bunch at once. This is the best option if you’re looking to meal prep and freeze your quinoa for later.

How to cook quinoa in the oven

Most people who learn how to cook quinoa were taught to use the stovetop method. However, oven quinoa is the fluffiest, softest quinoa you’ll ever make—and it’s almost entirely hands-off. It’s also super easy to learn how to cook quinoa in the oven.

Collage showing how to cook quinoa in the oven in six steps.

Wholefully Protip

I’ve found that three cups of dry quinoa is about the max for a 9×12 baking dish.

  1. Measure your quinoa and add it to your baking dish. If your recipe calls for cooked quinoa, you can estimate the amount of dry quinoa you’ll need by remembering that for each cup of dried quinoa, you get approximately three cups of the cooked stuff.
  2. Pour in your liquid. There’s no need to stir; just pour it in. For each cup of dry quinoa, you’ll need two cups of liquid. You can use veggie broth, chicken broth, or even plain water. Quinoa will soak up the flavors of whichever liquid it is cooked in, so match the flavors based on the dish you’re serving it with.
  3. Wrap the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. We’re looking to create a glorious sauna for the quinoa—the same way the pot lid works on the stove—so really cinch the foil around the edges.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes in a 375°F oven. Be careful when carrying your dish to the oven—especially if you have a big batch—it can get pretty sloshy!
  5. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit. Don’t touch it! Just let it rest and steam for five to ten minutes.
  6. Remove the foil and fluff your grains with a fork.

What did I tell you? Perfect, fluffy quinoa!

Wholefully Protip

You can also add other flavorings like herbs, spices, butter, or salt. I like to keep my quinoa pretty plain, so it’s nice and versatile. I can always add salt in later, but I can’t take it out!

Overhead of prepared quinoa in a pot on a countertop.

How to cook quinoa on the stove

Cooking quinoa on the stove is just as easy as cooking it in the oven.

  1. Measure out the quinoa. Remember that one cup of dry quinoa will give you roughly three cups of cooked quinoa.
  2. Pour in the liquid. You’ll want to stick to a ratio of 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, or two cups of fluid for every cup of grain. You can use vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water.
  3. Cover the pot with the lid and bring to a boil over medium heat. This should take four to five minutes, depending on your stove.
  4. Reduce heat to low and let your quinoa simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. How long it’ll take depends on the color of quinoa you used. White quinoa is usually done in 15 minutes, red and tricolor quinoa takes 18 minutes, and black quinoa takes 20 minutes.
  5. Allow your quinoa to rest for ten minutes with the lid on.
  6. Fluff with a fork when you’re ready to serve.

Wholefully Protip

A tight-fitting lid is the key to tasty, fluffy quinoa. Once that lid is on, don’t take it off to peek, stir, or even sniff your quinoa! You need that tight seal to allow your quinoa to absorb as much water as it can so it becomes super fluffy.

 

Perfectly cooked quinoa in a white bowl with a spoon in the background.

Can you freeze quinoa?

Absolutely! Cooked quinoa is easy to freeze. To do so, let it cool completely. Then, scoop into zip-top freezer bags and label with the contents and amount of quinoa. After you’ve portioned out your servings, flatten the pack and get as much air out as possible. Freeze flat—this makes it easier to store once frozen solid. Frozen quinoa is good for up to six months in the freezer.

How do you thaw and reheat cooked quinoa?

The rare times I’m on top of things, I take a bag out of the freezer the night before I use it and let it defrost in the fridge. You could also take it out a few hours before cooking and let it warm up on the counter, or you could toss it in the microwave in 30-second bursts until it’s thawed.

When making my Greek quinoa salad or quinoa and cauliflower power bowls, the quinoa doesn’t have to be warm; room temperature is fine. If you do want to heat it up, place the defrosted quinoa in a saucepan with a lid—so it doesn’t dry out—and cook it on low until it’s just warm. You could also spread it out on a baking sheet and warm it in your toaster oven for a few minutes. Again, you could nuke it too.

If you’re going to add it to another dish like my quinoa stuffed bell peppers, you can skip the reheating stage and just use it as directed in the recipe. It will warm up as the dish cooks!

Close view of the heads of two wooden spoons overflowing with multicolored grains.

How to Bulk Cook Quinoa and Freeze it For Later

Looking for some great quinoa recipes?

Now that you have your quinoa, what should you do with it? Here are some of our favorite uses:

 
Quinoa in a 9x13 baking pan

How to Cook Quinoa

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

The perfect quinoa is just minutes from an empty pantry. We show you how to cook quinoa in a way that creates a fluffy, perfectly tender texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water, chicken or veggie broth
  • Salt, butter, herbs, spices, optional

Instructions

Oven Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Optional: Rinse quinoa under running water, and drain through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Pour the quinoa and water or broth into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Add the salt, butter, herbs, or spices, if using. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes without opening the foil.
  5. After resting time, remove foil and fluff quinoa.

Stovetop Instructions

  1. Optional: Rinse quinoa under running water, and drain through a fine-mesh sieve.
  2. Combine the quinoa and liquid in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove the lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and replace the lid. Let rest for 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.

Notes

Double or triple the oven recipe and freeze the extras in zip-top freezer bags.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 193mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 6g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

21 Responses
  1. Amy Strain

    i think a great concept. But i had 2.5 cups quinoa and 5 cups of water and it is now 35 minutes in the oven and does not look like it will be done anytime soon. I might have done something wrong…but I will try again to make sure.

  2. Janna

    Vegetarians are always looking for good sources of protein, so having this on hand all the time is a great idea. God created us as vegetarians and gave us all the wholesome foods we need to be healthy. Quinoa is a staple in my kitchen.

    I will often just have it in a bowl with a little soy sauce and Asian orange ginger sauce. Delicious for a snack and so nutritious. Add a few steamed veggies and you have a complete meal.

    1. Julie Grice

      You can, though they may make the quinoa more liquid-y when you defrost and warm it back up, and the fruits/veggies won’t keep their texture. I would only do this with cooked vegetables, not raw, though.

  3. Arminius

    This didn’t work in the slightest. After 25 minutes and 10 minute rest, it looked exactly the same as when I put it in. Had to bake it for about 50 minutes to get anywhere close to an edible quinoa.

  4. jennifer Roe

    So…. I want to make a cold salad with quinoa. I don’t want to to be sticky. Safe to sssume to add less water to this “recipe”?

  5. I’m so glad you posted this! I have a rough time making quinoa in bulk on the stovetop because it always ends up somewhat mushy. Just something to try, I love to warm up my quinoa in a skillet with a little olive oil. It crisps up nicely when it’s sautéed!

  6. Annie

    This is such a great tip! I never thought of doing this, but I eat quinoa all the time. And having food prepared before I get home from work increases the likelihood of a non-ice-cream based dinner by about 200%. I’ll definitely be using this recipe/guide!

  7. Brandy

    Mind blown! Never even thought to bake my quinoa! This would be such a time saver for me, thanks Cassie! I’ve also never tried that brand of quinoa but you did a great job of making sure I’ll be picking up some next time I’m out shopping! Thanks for all you do!

Meet Cassie
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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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