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How to Prepare Quinoa

Whether prepared in its ivory, red, black, or countless other varieties, quinoa is a dream for the home cook, providing a versatile base for any dish in as little as 20 minutes when prepared correctly. Use this guide to avoid the pitfalls of cooking quinoa and learn how to prepare quinoa that is fluffy and flavorful every time.

How to Prepare Quinoa


Originally cultivated in pre-Columbian civilization and domesticated by the Americas circa 3,000-5,000 BCE, the ancient seed known as quinoa is now lauded as a superfood with potent health benefits. The humble seed is one of the few plant-based foods to be a complete protein containing all nine of the essential amino acids. In addition, quinoa has a high ratio of protein to carbohydrates to help satiate you longer, high potassium to help control blood pressure, and is optimal for the Celiac community as it is gluten-free.

How to Select Quinoa

In U.S. markets, white, red, and black quinoa is readily available. White quinoa has the subtlest flavor, so it is recommended if you are new to cooking quinoa as it blends harmoniously with any co-existing components in your dish. Red and black quinoa confer earthy tones to your dish that are ideally paired with neutral or mild-flavored components. The tips that follow apply to any variety of quinoa selected.

How to Rinse Quinoa

Boxed quinoa is often rinsed prior to packaging. However, quinoa in its natural state has a coating called saponin that may infuse your dish with an unpleasant, acrid taste. For this reason, you should thoroughly rinse quinoa for two minutes under cold water using a fine-meshed sieve. Rub the quinoa to help sluff off the coating, and then drain the excess liquid.

How to Cook Quinoa

To cook quinoa, you’ll need the following ingredients: 
● 1 cup uncooked, rinsed quinoa (will yield approximately 3 cups of cooked quinoa)
● 2 cups water or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for additional flavor
● ½ teaspoon salt
● Spices or aromatics like rosemary or black pepper (optional)
● Olive or canola oil (optional)

1. (Optional) For quinoa with a nuttier, crunchier profile, place oil in a 2-quart saucepan and toast the quinoa over medium heat for one minute.
2. Add the water or broth and the salt to the saucepan and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
3. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook the quinoa, covered, for 15 minutes. Do not overcook the quinoa, or it will yield mushy seeds that do not retain their shape or texture.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and let the quinoa stand, covered, for another 5 minutes. Ensure that the pot is not left on the heat while resting, as the moisture will dissipate and will result in dried out rather than fluffy quinoa.
5. Remove the lid. As the germ should have separated from the seed at this point, the quinoa will look as though it has been popped open. With a fork, fluff the quinoa to separate it, and then serve. If liquid remains, return the pot to low heat and continue to cook until the quinoa absorbs the excess water.

Quinoa Recipe to Try:

Quinoa’s mild flavor makes it versatile for any wholesome meal, whether used in stuffings, salads, tabbouleh, casserole, or to replace high-glycemic starches in your dish, like white rice or spaghetti. After you learn how to prepare quinoa, try creating the Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe and other quinoa recipes to help inspire you to sow the seeds of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

When you’re out of time and down on your luck with your diet plan, BistroMD’s diet delivery service is at your service with an array of mouth-watering, gourmet meals that highlight the nutritional benefits of quinoa, from Moroccan Beef and Vegetables with Quinoa to Apple and Cherry-Stuffed Chicken Breast paired with tri-colored walnut quinoa salad explore the full menu here.

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