How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove, 6 Ways


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Learn the basics of how to cook quinoa on the stove, with easy (and flavorful) ways to serve it to babies, toddlers, big kids…and us parents! There is a base recipe here, which cooks in about 15 minutes, plus 6 simple ways to flavor it.

quinoa in white bowl with spoon on towel

How to Cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa on the stove is fast, straightforward, and easy to do even if you only think of it at the last minute. Because the grains turn from an opaque white to more translucent, you can tell visually when it’s done. Handy!

And all you need is quinoa and water, then you can add in other ingredients as you like.

We alternate quinoa and other grains, like rice and pasta, in our meal rotation and I find that adding some flavors helps my kids enjoy it more than when it’s plain. To give you a lot of options, I’m sharing the base recipe here with easy ways to flavor it.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is an edible seed that’s grown in South America and is usually classified as a grain. It comes in a few colors—the most common being white and red—and is a rare in that it contains complete vegetarian protein. (You don’t fine that in grains like rice or wheat.)

A half cup of cooked quinoa has 4 grams of protein and 2 ½ grams of fiber. It’s also naturally gluten-free, which can be helpful for families dealing with celiac disease.

Quinoa for Kids

Quinoa can be bitter, even though it’s processed after harvesting to remove the saponins (a chemical compound that acts like a natural pesticide). I find that it helps to thoroughly rinse it to make sure all of it is removed before starting the cooking process.

Quinoa cooks similarly to rice and can be flavored similarly to rice or pasta. It’s versatile and you can adjust it for your kids. It can be a little messy for those kids still learning to use spoons, but you can stir in cheese or mashed avocado or sweet potato to help it hold together a little more as needed.

How to Make Quinoa Taste Good

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve before starting the cooking process. Then, don’t shy away from adding flavor. You can keep it simple with a little butter or olive oil and salt, or go with more flavor from marinara or pizza sauce, pesto, Parmesan cheese, lemon, cheese, or really any other flavor you like.

quinoa bag on counter

Ingredients You Need

To make basic quinoa, here’s what you need:

  • Quinoa: You can use any color of quinoa (you may see white/yellow or red).
  • Water

TIP: From there, you can add as little or as much flavor as you prefer.

flavor options for quinoa

Ingredient Substitutions

To the base quinoa recipe, you can choose a flavor option from the ones below:

  • Buttered Quinoa: Unsalted butter (or olive oil) and salt
  • Pesto Quinoa: Prepared pesto and Parmesan cheese
  • Pizza Quinoa: Pizza or marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon-Butter Quinoa: Unsalted butter, fresh lemon juice, and zest
  • Cumin Quinoa: Cumin, salt
  • Chicken Broth Quinoa: Reduced-sodium chicken broth (and unsalted butter, optional)
how to cook quinoa step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s the basic process of the recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

  1. Measure out the quinoa and add to a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse under cold running water for a minute or two to remove any lingering saponins, which can make quinoa taste bitter.
  2. Add the water and quinoa to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft and mostly translucent.
  4. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit. Fluff with a fork and add flavorings of choice.

TIP: The grains of quinoa will turn from slightly opaque to slightly translucent as they cook.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cook 1 cup of quinoa?

To cook 1 cup of quinoa, you’ll want to simmer it in twice as much water in a pot over medium heat.

What is the ratio of water to quinoa?

I prefer to use 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water as I find that results in the most consistently cooked grains.

How long should you boil quinoa for?

Quinoa takes about 12-15 minutes to cook through when boiled in water on the stove.

Is quinoa better for you than rice?

Quinoa has complete protein, which is rare in a vegetarian food, and contains both protein and fiber. It’s similar to rice and is a nice alternative to have in the mix.

What do you eat quinoa with?

You can add almost any flavor to quinoa, so experiment with the flavor options and see if you have a favorite. It can be the base for a vegetarian main dish or you can pair it with other recipes such as Chicken Tenders, Fish Sticks, or even Italian Lentils.

How to Store

Let the quinoa cool, then transfer to an airtight storage container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

quinoa in white bowl on towel

Best Tips for Success

  • Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve to remove as much potential bitterness as possible.
  • Quinoa can be a little messy for kids still learning to use spoons, but you can stir in cheese or mashed avocado or sweet potato to help it hold together a little as needed.
  • Add as much or as little additional flavor as you want. (Which is to say, if you don’t love plain quinoa, flavor it!)
  • You may also like Cheesy Rice, Coconut Rice, Quinoa Pudding, and Chia Pudding.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment and rate it below!

quinoa in white bowl

How to Cook Quinoa, 6 Flavorful Ways

Amy Palanjian

Learn the basics of cooking quinoa, with easy (and flavorful) ways to serve it to babies, toddlers, big kids…and us parents! There is a base recipe here, plus 6 simple ways to flavor it.

Prep Time 5 mins

Cook Time 12 mins

Total Time 20 mins

Course Dinner

Cuisine American

Servings 8

Calories 78 kcal

Ingredients  

Base Quinoa (then choose a flavor option from below)

  • 1 cup quinoa (of any color or variety)
  • 2 cups water

Buttered Quinoa

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can also use olive oil here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pesto Quinoa

  • 1/4-1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pizza Quinoa

  • 1/4-½ cup pizza (or marinara) sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lemon Butter Quinoa

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Cumin Quinoa

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Chicken Broth Quinoa (omit the water from the base recipe)

  • 1 3/4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Instructions 

  • Add the quinoa to a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water, stirring slightly, for about 1 minute. This helps to remove the saponins that can make quinoa taste bitter.

  • Add the water to a medium pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is very soft. (You will see that each grain will look more translucent verses opaque.)

  • Turn off the heat and cover. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

  • Add desired flavorings, stirring well, and serve.

Notes

  • Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve to remove as much potential bitterness as possible.
  • Quinoa can be a little messy for those kids still learning to use spoons, but you can stir in cheese or mashed avocado or sweet potato to help it hold together a little more as needed.
  • Add as much or as little additional flavor as you want. (Which is to say, if you don’t love plain quinoa, flavor it!)

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 78kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 3gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 4mgPotassium: 120mgFiber: 1gVitamin A: 3IUCalcium: 12mgIron: 1mg

Keyword how to cook quinoa



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