How to Cook Quinoa

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By Nicholle C. | Updated: Oct 14, 2021

How to Cook Quinoa

While quinoa has been a staple food in the Andean region of South America for over 7,000 of years, for the rest of the world, it has only recently become available in most supermarkets and grocery stores.1 For that reason, many people may not know how to cook quinoa.

Luckily, preparing this pseudograin is very easy, and learning the best techniques will open the doors to endless possibilities for delicious quinoa recipes. So, how do you cook quinoa exactly?

Cooking Quinoa

The easiest and most common way of cooking quinoa is by boiling it in water on the stove top. It can be accomplished by following these easy steps:

  1. Thoroughly rinse the desired amount of quinoa in a fine colander.

  2. Combine one part quinoa in a large saucepan with two parts water.

  3. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and allow the quinoa to simmer until all of the water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. The cooking time for quinoa is between 10 to 20 minutes, depending of the variety and the altitude.

It is very important that you rinse quinoa before cooking as it contains a coating of saponins - bitter compounds that are produced to discourage birds and insects from eating the seeds. Saponins can cause gastric irritation when ingested. They are usually removed during commercial processing, but it is still a good idea to thoroughly rinse quinoa before consumption in order to get rid of any remaining traces.


How long it takes to cook quinoa will depend on the variety you have. Quinoa's color can vary from white or gray to black, yellow, red, purple, and violet. However, the most common varieties that you will encounter are red, black, and white quinoa.

White quinoa is by far the most common one, and it takes about 10 - 15 minutes to cook, while it takes approximately three to four minutes longer to cook red quinoa, and five minutes longer to cook black quinoa.

It is key to keep it mind that white, red, and black have slightly different textures when cooked:

  • White quinoa is fluffy with a mild, nutty flavor and delicate texture. Its seeds stick together more than other varieties of quinoa, which makes it an excellent substitute for rice in many dishes. 

  • Red quinoa is crunchier than white quinoa and has a stronger nutty flavor, making it ideal for salads and dishes that call for a grainy texture.

  • Black quinoa is even crunchier than red quinoa, with a flavor that is earthy and sweet. Black quinoa is best in dishes that require separate grains.

Cooking quinoa is easy and allows one to include it in many delicious traditional and innovative recipes. Now that you know how to cook quinoa, you can begin to incorporate this nutritious seed in your daily meals.


  • American College of Healthcare Sciences, Holistic Nutrition: Quinoa: Gluten-Free High Protein Vegan Superfood
  • Food Reviews International, Nutritional Value and Use of the Andean Crops Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) and Kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule), 2003
  • Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, Quinoa
  • Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), from Nutritional Value to Potential Health Benefits: An Integrative Review, 2016
  • Quinoa: The Everyday Superfood
  • FAOSTAT, International Year of Quinoa 2013, Uses of Quinoa


  1. Frontiers in Plant Science. (2016). The Global Expansion of Quinoa: Brenda and Limits. Retrieved October 4, 2021 from