How to cook quinoa: Healthy quinoa recipes to make at home

Like quinoa? You're going to love these recipes...
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  • We've rounded up our favourite quinoa recipes and popped them all in one place for you. From quinoa salads to quinoa breakfast, there are plenty of ways to cook this healthy seed and we're here to show you exactly how.

    If you often avoid quinoa recipes because you’re not sure how to cook it, we’re here to show you just how easy it is. And if you’ve never had quinoa before then you really are missing out!

    This healthy seed has been steadily growing in popularity over the last decade thanks to its ability to easily assimilate into a healthy, nutritious diet. It’s often included in restaurant menus and can be cooked as an alternative to rice and couscous as it behaves in much the same way. 

    One thing that often perplexes people is how to pronounce the exotic-sounding seed. According to the British Quinoa Company, who grew their first commercial crop in 2013 on their family farm in Shropshire, there is no right or wrong way to say it and people often flit between the two most common pronunciations. 

    ‘Keen-wah’ or ‘keen-o-wah’ are the most in line with the seed’s South American routes but in the UK it’s more common to hear ‘kwin-o-a’. 

    Quinoa takes hardly any time at all to cook and we love it because it will keep you fuller for longer which is ideal if you’re trying to be healthy or are counting the calories.

    How much quinoa to cook per person

    As a general rule of thumb, you should cook around 50g quinoa per person. However, depending on how hungry you are and your dietary requirements, you could increase it. Quinoa has lots of fibre and when bulked out with roasted veg, can make a very substantial and filling meal on its own.

    There are 60cals in a 50g portion of quinoa, 10g carbs, 1g fat and 2g protein according to the website myfitnesspal.

    What is the best way to cook quinoa?

    quinoa porridge

    If you want a straight substitute for rice or couscous, the best way to cook quinoa is through boiling or steaming it.

    As with rice, it’s recommended that you wash the grains thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch and prevent it from sticking together in a big clump.

    Quinoa also has compounds called saponins on its surface which cause a bitter taste. Rinsing the seed helps remove these too.

    Use a ratio of double the water to quinoa and either salt the water or crumble in a stock cube if you prefer.

    Quinoa is a great accompaniment to curries and stews as it absorbs lots of flavour. However, it can also be used for baking like in our Quinoa crunchies cookies or even at breakfast for a quinoa porridge!

    Cooking quinoa in a rice cooker

    If you have a rice cooker stashed away you can use it to cook quinoa in the same way as your go-to grain.

    Simply weigh and wash the quinoa as you would the rice, then pop it in the cooker and switch it on according to your specific model. Some cookers may even come with a quinoa setting.

    Cooking quinoa on a stove

    Rinse the quinoa and place in a pot with double the volume of water. Season the water with salt or sprinkle in a stock cube. Bring the water to a boil, cover then simmer for 15-20mins. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork then replace the lid and allow to steam for 5-10mins until tender and fluffy.

    Cooking quinoa in an instant pot

    It’s important not to overfill the instant pot when cooking quinoa and other ingredients that expand as they cook. For this reason, the instruction manual recommends that the total food and liquid, i.e quinoa and water, do not exceed the ½ line of the pot. If you need to cook a larger quantity than this allows, we recommend cooking on the stove.

    Instant pots have a multigrain pre-set which could work for quinoa but you’ll need to try it for yourself and see which setting works best for you.

    Cooking quinoa in the microwave

    Cooking quinoa in the microwave is an excellent way to reheat quinoa you’ve already steamed. You can also buy pouches of microwave quinoa from Merchant Gourmet and some supermarkets such as Tesco even have their own varieties. These pouches make for an excellent quick and easy lunch.

    Others recommend placing the rinsed quinoa in a microwave-safe bowl with a lid and double the quantity of water. Microwave with the lid on for 5-6 mins. Then stir, replace the lid and cook for another 2-4mins until the water has all been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to steam in the bowl for a minute or two.

    If you’re only cooking a small quantity of quinoa, the microwave is probably a good option but for any more than two portions, we’d suggest a stove or specific cooker.

    Did you know you can also make rice in the microwave? 

    How long does it take to cook 1 cup of quinoa?

    This will depend on the method of cooking you are using. One cup of Quinoa is just over two portions and when cooking on the stove generally it takes the same time no matter the portion you are cooking.

    The quickest way to enjoy quinoa is to buy the microwaveable pouches as these take just a couple of minutes to cook.

    Is quinoa healthier than rice?

    Quinoa is popular in vegan and vegetarian diets and is naturally gluten-free. It forms part of the starchy food group which accounts for around a third of our recommended food intake.

    Unlike rice, many people associate quinoa as a superfood. It’s full of nutrients, fibre and contains all essential amino acids making it a complete source of protein. Quinoa is also a fantastic source of calcium, magnesium and magnates B vitamins and vitamin E.

    So compared to white rice, quinoa is healthier and lower in cals but it is roughly on par with wholegrain.

    How to store cooked quinoa

    Quinoa can be eaten hot or cold which makes it a great choice for bulking out salads. However, as with rice, it needs to be stored carefully to ensure harmful bacteria cannot grow.

    It’s best to eat the quinoa straight away but if you have some leftover or want to prep it ahead here’s what to do. Allow the hot quinoa to cool slightly and refrigerate within an hour of cooking. You can reheat it thoroughly but only do this once.

    Easy quinoa recipes

    Feeling inspired and want to get cooking? We’ve rounded up our favourite quinoa recipes below!