At Bob's Red Mill, we'd like to believe we're somewhat of quinoa experts. We've cooked small batches of quinoa, large quinoa batches, and heck, we've even turned quinoa into dessert! And because we've just about done it all, we've learned numerous tips and tricks throughout our quinoa cooking sessions to ensure that it is cooked perfectly, every time.
If you're a quinoa newbie or are simply looking for ways to improve your quinoa cooking skills, you're in the right spot. This complete guide will better explain this grain-like seed and provide step-by-step instructions on how you can cook quinoa to perfection. Keep scrolling to get started!
What Is Quinoa?
While commonly referred to as a grain, when you eat quinoa, you are actually eating seeds. Closely related to amaranth, quinoa is a high-protein seed that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Though technically quinoa is not a grain, its preparation is remarkably similar to grains like wheat and rice. This being said, quinoa can be used as a grain-free substitute in various grain-filled recipes.
Now that you've discovered quinoa isn't a grain, you might be wondering what it tastes like. Quinoa features a slightly nutty taste, with a fluffy, crunchy texture. Because its flavor is mild, it can be used in everything from savory dinner recipes to sweet dessert dishes. It's versatility and unique texture makes it an excellent choice when whipping up a high-protein, low-calorie meal. After just a few bites, you'll quickly realize that quinoa is a healthy grain you'll want to incorporate into your diet, pronto.
Is Quinoa Good for You?
Quinoa is excellent for you. High in fiber, protein, minerals and B vitamins, quinoa offers a wide variety of health benefits and is a crucial part of a well-balanced diet. Aside from being packed with nutrients, quinoa is also entirely gluten free. Its gluten free nature makes it an excellent substitute in numerous grain-filled dishes. Swap quinoa in for rice, barley or even oatmeal to boost your plant-based protein intake and keep your meals free of gluten. Additionally, quinoa's high fiber content makes it ideal when creating filling recipes, as the fiber will help keep you full and energized for longer.
Types of Quinoa
Though nearly every kind of quinoa is great for you, there are several different varieties you can choose from when creating your meals. Here are a few of the most common types of quinoa:
The most common color of quinoa, white quinoa, is actually a bit more cream-colored. This light quinoa features a delicate taste and texture that adds a fluffy texture to your quinoa dishes.
Red quinoa features a deep red and brown hue when cooked and has a slightly richer taste than white quinoa. It is also a bit chewier and nuttier than other quinoa varieties and holds its form better during cooking.
A fairly common quinoa variety, black quinoa has a much more earthy flavor than red and white quinoa. It is also slightly sweeter than other types making a healthy and nutritious ingredient to add to desserts and smoothies.
Tri-Color quinoa a combination of all of the above quinoa types. It works well when used as a gluten free grain replacement.
Aside from whole quinoa, quinoa flour is commonly used in baking instead of white flour. An excellent gluten-friendly alternative, quinoa flour can make baked goods more tender and moist. However, you'll want to be sure that you don't substitute it at a one-to-one ratio when working with quinoa flour. We suggest finding a recipe that uses quinoa flour and following it closely.
What Quinoa Should You Purchase?
Finding the perfect quinoa is simple. All you have to do is find a recipe you'd like to make, choose the color you want, and whip up a delicious meal. When purchasing quinoa, we recommend buying from a brand you trust and ensuring that only one ingredient is listed on the box. Once you get home, ensure that your quinoa is adequately stored by keeping it unopened in the box or transferring it to an airtight container. After quinoa has been cooked, you'll want to keep it fresh by either storing it in the fridge or freezing it for later use. When eating leftover quinoa, we recommend eating it within 5-7 days.
How to Cook Quinoa
And now for the part, you've been waiting for! Wondering how long to cook quinoa? Keep reading to discover how to cook quinoa like a pro.
Cooking Quinoa in the Microwave
When cooking quinoa in the microwave you'll want to use double the water as the grain, a two-to-one ratio. Next, combine both the water and the quinoa into a microwave-safe dish and cook on high for 5-7 minutes. Once done, open up the microwave, stir your quinoa and cook again for two more minutes. While your quinoa is now fully cooked, it's still extremely hot. Before taking a bite, you'll want to make sure you give it about ten minutes to cool off. Lastly, fluff up your quinoa and serve!
Cook Quinoa on the Stove
While cooking quinoa on the stove is a bit slower than cooking it in the microwave, it usually results in a fluffier grain. To cook quinoa on the stovetop, use that same two-to-one ratio of water to quinoa. Combine both into a pot and add a pinch of salt. Wait until your quinoa is boiling, stir your quinoa and turn the heat down to a simmer. Once simmering, add a lid to your pot and wait about 15 minutes, or until the water has absorbed.
Use a Rice Cooker to Cook Quinoa
Using a rice cooker to cook quinoa is quite simple. First, you'll want to stick with the two-to-one ratio of water to quinoa. Next, plan to cook your quinoa the same way you would white rice! Simply follow the instructions on your rice cooker, and you'll have perfectly cooked quinoa in no time.
Cook Quinoa in an Instant Pot
Cooking quinoa in an Instant Pot is even quicker than placing it in the microwave. To use an Instant Pot to reduce your quinoa cooking time, first, rinse your quinoa grains with cold water. After the grains have been rinsed, place them in the Instant Pot with double the water amount. Next, close the lid of the Instant Pot and lock it. Be sure to turn the valve to "seal" before you begin cooking. Doing so will help the pressure build and the quinoa grain cook. Set your Instant Pot to cook on high for five minutes. After five minutes, the timer will go off, and you will need to vent the pot for a quick release. After the steam is fully released, open up the pot and enjoy your perfectly cooked quinoa.
Puff Your Quinoa
Instead of cooking your quinoa the traditional way, try something new and puff it up! While quinoa doesn't pop the same way popcorn does, it does puff up into a larger version of itself. Puffed quinoa can be used in various ways. Some of our favorites include cereal and granola.
To make puffed quinoa, rinse your quinoa off and dry it on a piece of parchment paper overnight. The next morning, make sure your quinoa is completely dry before you attempt to pop it. Once determining your quinoa is dry, prepare a skillet and heat it to medium-high. Add half the quinoa and cover the pot with the lid, shaking it around for about three minutes, or until the quinoa is fully popped. Let the quinoa cool before eating or baking with it.
Quinoa Recipes for You to Try
Now that you know how to cook quinoa properly, it's time to test out your skills. Make the following recipes for a delicious dish you'll enjoy eating time and time again.
Easy Quinoa Pilaf
The perfect side dish or light dinner, this tasty Easy Quinoa Pilaf, is packed with protein, fiber and flavor. Get creative when making this recipe and vary the vegetables to customize it to your taste preferences. A family and budget-friendly meal, it's one that everyone at the table will enjoy.
Spinach Quinoa Bites
Searching for a healthy appetizer recipe? You've found it. Whip up a batch of these Spinach Quinoa Bites to add to your party platter. Pair with ranch, marinara sauce or the dressing of your choice. If you're craving something a bit more filling, use these quinoa bites as a vegetarian option for meatballs over pasta.
It's safe to say that quinoa is an ingredient we all need a taste of. Loaded with nutrients and simple to cook, it's a grain-like seed that can be used to make just about anything. Substitute rice for quinoa in your next dinner dish, or whip up an entirely new recipe using this superfood. The possibilities are endless.