How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is nearly always called an ancient grain because humans have been growing it for thousands of years, but it’s not actually a grain — it’s a seed! A venerable whole-grain seed, with amazing superpowers: It’s gluten free, packed with fiber, folate, and magnesium, among many other nutrients, and one of few that offers complete protein.

Of course, quinoa plays the role of a versatile grain on our plates, where it’s perfectly comfortable taking center stage as the main starch event — think quinoa porridge, quinoa paella, fried quinoa cakes, or a cheesy quinoa risotto — or lending its nutty flavor to dishes like sweet-potato soup, veggie-filled breakfast tacos, or kale salad.

Like many grains, it’s quick and easy to make, but there are a few tricks to making it the best and fluffiest version of itself.

Yields: 3 cups


1 cup uncooked quinoa (any variety — white or golden, red, or black)
1 ¾ cups water or low-sodium broth
½ tsp kosher salt


Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, cover it with water, and swish it around with your hand. Drain and repeat as needed. Quinoa's natural coating can taste bitter — so rinse it until the water runs clear, generally 3 times will do it.

In a medium pot, combine the quinoa, liquid, and salt, and bring it to a roiling boil. Lower the heat and cook, simmering covered and undisturbed, for 15 minutes.

Peek under the lid: If there’s still liquid in the pot, and it doesn’t seem cooked, return it to low heat and cook for another 5 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. If it’s cooked but wetter than you like, you can drain off the water with a strainer.

Remove the pot from heat and let stand for 10 more minutes, covered. Don't peek!

When you remove the lid, you should see tiny spirals (the germ) curling around the quinoa seeds. Fluff the quinoa gently with a fork and serve.