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

We've rounded up our favourite quinoa recipes and popped them all in one place for you. From quinoa salad to quinoa biscuits, there are plenty of ways to cook this healthy grain and we're here to show you exactly how...

Quiona with halluomi
(Image credit: Future)

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!

Squash and Feta quinoa

Squash and Feta quinoa

If you've never cooked quinoa before then this is the perfect recipe to start with. Chunks of butternut squash, tangy red onions and creamy Feta turn this simple grain into a easy, filling lunch recipe.

Get the recipe: Squash and Feta quinoa

Quinoa with halloumi

Quinoa with halloumi

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

Give quinoa a Greek twist with this easy recipe. Served alongside thick slices of grilled halloumi, fresh mint, yogurt and pitta bread, quinoa has never tasted so good. This recipe is the perfect lunch time treat if you're on a diet as it is sure to keep you full until dinner time.

Get the recipe: Quinoa with halloumi

Quinoa butternut salad

Quinoa butternut salad

Fresh crisp salad leaves, soft pieces of butternut squash and handfuls of nutty quinoa - need we say more? This super healthy salad is bursting with flavour and great for sharing with friends. Drizzle with a simple homemade dressing and ta-dah - you've turned your quinoa into lunch!

Get the recipe: Quinoa butternut salad

Cinnamon and apple quinoa porridge

Cinnamon and apple quinoa porridge

This healthy porridge is a great way to start your day. The cinnamon and apple combination adds a delicious and sweet flavour to the quinoa. Along with runny honey, flaked almonds and plenty of raisins, this breakfast recipe will keep you full until lunch time with a slow-release of energy.

Get the recipe: Cinnamon and apple quinoa porridge

Creamy quinoa mushroom risotto

Creamy quinoa mushroom risotto

Bulk up your risotto with quinoa - it's much healthier and is a great way off adding protein to a vegetarian recipe. Plenty of mushrooms and fresh basil leaves gives this dish it's delicious flavour - the whole family will be asking for more!

Get the recipe: Creamy quinoa mushroom risotto

Honey roast chicken thighs with quinoa

Quinoa recipes

Chicken and rice make a delicious combo, but chicken and quinoa? Now, that's a match made in heaven! This healthy recipe mixes two protein-based ingredients together to make a delicious super-meal. A light marinade and freshly chopped peppers and onions packs this dinner full of flavour.

Get the recipe: Honey roast chicken thighs with quinoa

Quinoa crunchies

Quinoa recipes

This recipe turns the savoury grain into a sweet treat. Once baked, quinoa gives a nutty crunchy texture to these cookies, while also making them a filling snack. Combined with runny honey and light muscovado sugar, these quinoa cookies are perfect as a day-time snack or late night nibble.

Get the recipe: Quinoa crunchies

Lentil, squash and mushroom stew with quinoa

Quinoa recipes

This hearty stew is warm and filling all-in-one. Lentils and a mix of juicy vegetables are all you need to conjure up this hearty stew. The quinoa in this recipe is served as a side rather than rice or couscous for a different flavour for the family.

Get the recipe: Lentil, squash and mushroom stew with quinoa

Where to next?

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Quinoa recipes

Quinoa recipes

This fresh, healthy salad can be eaten anytime of the day - as a filling lunch time treat or a light dinner recipe. Asparagus spears, juicy tomatoes and fresh mint leaves are perfect with the nutty flavour and texture of the quinoa. Sprinkle with Feta cheese and pomegranate for fresh bursts of flavour and serve!

Get the recipe: Quinoa, feta and broccoli salad

Slimming World chickpea, orange and quinoa salad

Slimming World chickpea, orange and quinoa salad

(Image credit: Slimming World)

The quinoa and citris vegetables take this Slimming World recipe a step above the rest, as not only is it a healthy option it's also packed full of colour and diverse flavours.

Get the recipe: Slimming World chickpea, orange and quinoa salad

Vegan quinoa salad with asparagus and toasted nuts

Vegan quinoa salad with asparagus and toasted nuts

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

This simple salad combines high-protein quinoa with fresh asparagus, rich toasted nuts, and a flavour-packed dressing to make it that bit more special.

Get the recipe: Vegan quinoa salad with asparagus and toasted nuts

Banana, chocolate and quinoa overnight oats

Banana, chocolate and quinoa overnight oats

Joe Wick's Lean in 15 banana, chocolate and quinoa overnight oats are perfect for those with a sweet tooth and in need of a healthy breakfast recipe.

Get the recipe: Banana, chocolate and quinoa overnight oats

Quinoa and vegetable stuffing

Quinoa and vegetable stuffing

(Image credit:

Quinoa and vegetable stuffing is super tasty and the perfect option if you're vegan or vegetarian, plus it's gluten-free and dairy-free so everyone can tuck in.

Get the recipe: Quinoa and vegetable stuffing

Mexican salmon, lentil and quinoa bowl

Mexican salmon, lentil and quinoa bowl

This Mexican bowl is packed full of protein from the salmon and quinoa and topped off with some fresh herbs and yogurt to give it that fresh lift of flavour and colour.

Get the recipe: Mexican salmon, lentil and quinoa bowl

Vegan Buddha bowl

Vegan Buddha bowl

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

A vegan Buddha bowl is a healthy meal that is so on trend. We've used chunky ribbons of butternut squash, roasted vegetables, and chickpeas with a quinoa base for this healthy and filling vegan Buddha bowl recipe.

Get the recipe: Vegan Buddha bowl

Warm kale, avocado, pomegranate and quinoa salad

Warm kale, avocado, pomegranate and quinoa salad

This kale salad takes kale to another level. The pomegranates give it a pop and the quinoa adds in some well needed protein.

Get the recipe: Warm kale, avocado, pomegranate and quinoa salad

Slimming World's quick veggie cassoulet

Slimming World's quick veggie cassoulet

This delicious, meat-free recipe gives a modern update to a French classic which the whole family can enjoy. An easy, 30 minute meal, perfect for rainy days as a warm, nourishing pick me up.

Get the recipe: Slimming World's quick veggie cassoulet

Jessica Ransom
Senior Food Writer

Jessica is a freelance food writer, stylist and recipe tester. She previously worked as Senior Food Writer at Future. While at Future Jessica wrote food and drink-related news stories and features, curated product pages, reviewed equipment, and developed recipes that she then styled on food shoots. She is an enthusiastic, self-taught cook who adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits.