All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.

Nutty and often chewy after it’s cooked, The Almighty Quinoa has probably appeared on your radar in the last decade, and you even know how to pronounce it (KEEN-wah). The Incan superfood is a complete protein with nine essential amino acids after all, which is especially attractive to vegetarians who usually can’t get some types of protein found in meat. But how should you cook quinoa?

In the cold months, make a warm vegetable side with dried fruit and nuts. Try a savory soup or at breakfast, a filling porridge. When it’s warm out, whip up a cold grain salad with crisp lettuce and fresh fruit. Use quinoa as a substitute for other grains in any recipe (although it’s not really “other” as quinoa is a seed, hence all that protein!). Use quinoa in place of rice under a stir-fry with peppers, onions, and a meat-like spicy Italian sausage, or an Asian-inspired chicken or tofu dish.

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, $17.98 on Amazon

Cook healthy, protein-packed ancient grains every day!
Buy Now

Whatever you do to it, first you need the basics on how to prepare it (hint: treat it like a grain).

How to cook quinoa:

1. Rinse the raw quinoa. Scoop out the portion you want to cook (1 cup of raw quinoa makes 3 cups of cooked quinoa) and rinse it in a strainer, preferably a fine wire mesh strainer, running your fingers through the seeds until the water runs clear, about a minute or two. You want to get rid of the bitter natural coating called saponin.

2. Toast the quinoa (optional, but it creates a more nutty, intense flavor). Heat a glug of olive oil in a pot and toast the qunioa, stirring occasionally, for just about a minute.

3. Add liquid and bring to a boil. You want a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid, so if you’re using 1 cup of raw quinoa, add 2 cups of water or broth, plus a pinch of salt, and let it come to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes. You know it’s done, or in the neighborhood, when you see the germ pop out of the seed, creating a spiral that wraps around it.

5. Remove from the heat. Take the quinoa off the burner and let it sit, covered, for about five minutes.

6. Fluff with a fork. Be sure to taste-test at this point too. If the quinoa has more liquid at the bottom of the pot or it’s too crunchy for your taste, then cook it a bit longer.

Wunder Basket Organic Mixed Quinoa, 5 pounds for $22.99 on Amazon

A blend of red and white quinoa if you like to mix it up.
Buy Now

Armed with these instructions, try a few of our ideas on spicing up and coloring your quinoa with all sorts of add-ins.

Quinoa Recipes

Just like you can use quinoa in place of grains, feel free to swap in things like fonio, rice, or even couscous in these recipes if you’re fresh out of quinoa.

1. Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing

That recipe name is a mouthful, isn’t it? And so is the dish, with all those root vegetables — sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turnips — plus Brussels sprouts. Go ahead: eat the rainbow, in your bowl. Get our Warm Quinoa Salad recipe.

2. Healthy Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Figs

Tired of oatmeal every morning? Mix it up and add more complex protein to your breakfast time. With a touch of maple syrup, milk, dried figs, freshly grated nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, and walnuts, it’s quite the morning treat — in only 20 minutes (or make a large batch and reheat through the week). Get our Healthy Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Figs recipe.

3. Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa

With coconut milk and brown sugar, you get some sweet creaminess. With the Sriracha hot sauce, you’ve got your heat. With the peanuts, toasted sesame oil, quinoa, and tofu, you’ve got your nutty protein. Lime gives an acidic tang. Lastly, the cilantro, carrots, broccoli, and scallions contribute fresh, colorful produce to the situation. And this is a flavorful situation. Get our Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa recipe.

4. Baked Quinoa Adobado

Quinoa is treated as a main, meaty dish in this casserole with spicy smoke coming from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and jalapeños. The queso fresco makes it cheesy. We like that. Get our Baked Quinoa Adobado recipe.

5. Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta, and Scallions

This gluten-free meal could be lunch or a light dinner. It’s given a bit more heft with some Yukon Gold potatoes and a hardboiled egg. Get our Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta, and Scallions recipe.

6. Quinoa with Kale and Pecans

If you want an easy, healthy side dish and are tired of the usual rice or potatoes, go with this idea. Cook the quinoa separately while you sauté the onions, garlic, and kale before combining the two. Pecans add another dimension of flavor and texture. Get our Quinoa with Kale and Pecans recipe.

7. Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

When mixed with cashews, garlic, cayenne, and other spices and herbs, quinoa becomes the main attraction, stuffed within beautiful green zucchini boats. If it’s too cold to grill outside, use a Foreman grill or broil it. Get our Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Grilled Zucchini recipe.

8. Basic Quinoa Salad

By itself, quinoa is bland (there, we said it). You gotta spice it up with a bunch of complementary flavors, such as salty cheese, tangy lemon juice, and some fresh vegetables. Here’s a start. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.

9. Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

White beans of your choice, tangy, salty feta cheese, scallions, and some optional hot sauce fill out the rest of the insides of these mild, slightly sweet stuffed peppers. They make great vehicles that add even more flavor, color, and nutrition. Get our Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe.

10. Cheesy Quinoa Cakes

These are healthy, packing all of quinoa’s nutrition and protein goodness, but at the same time satisfy a serious cheese craving. Go ahead; indulge without overdoing. Get the Cheesy Quinoa Cakes recipe.

Related Video: The Ultimate Ancient Grain Bowl Celebrates African Cuisine

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at
See more articles