Quinoa has come a long way in the last few years. Having gone from a health store specialty to a mainstream side dish option, its high protein content and delicate texture have made it a popular substitute for starchier pasta and rice. Many cooks I know like to make a big pot of quinoa on the weekend and eat it throughout the week with curry, grilled vegetables or braised meat. It's one of the most delicious, fast-cooking lunch staples I know (not to mention a healthy one).
Cultivated in the Andes for over 5,000 years, quinoa has been called the "mother grain" and "the gold of the Incas." (It's technically not a grain but a seed, but it is used in virtually the same ways as other whole grains.) Today, the popularity of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is growing steadily as people discover its pleasant nutty taste and superfood qualities. As a complete protein source also high in iron, magnesium and fiber, quinoa is not only one of our healthiest pantry staples, but also one that's incredibly easy and quick to cook.
It's been said that there are 1,800 varieties of quinoa, but just three main types are found in markets here: the most common white variety, as well as a red one and a black one.
Here's how to cook great quinoa -- not mushy, not bitter -- but delicate and perfectly fluffy.
Basic Quinoa Facts
How much cooked quinoa does 1 cup dry quinoa yield?
1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa?
To cook 1 cup quinoa, you need about 2 cups liquid.
How long does it take to cook quinoa?
1 cup quinoa will cook in about 20 minutes.
How do I make quinoa less bitter?
Nearly, if not all, of the natural bitterness of quinoa's outer coating can be removed by a vigorous rinsing in a mesh strainer.
How do I make better-tasting quinoa?
Quinoa is really excellent when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. Also, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices aromatics during cooking as well: A clove of smashed garlic, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a dash of black pepper.
Can I use my rice cooker to make quinoa?
Yes! Just use the 2:1 liquid to quinoa ratio and follow the instructions on your rice cooker.
How To Cook Quinoa
1 cup quinoa (any variety -- white or golden, red, or black)
Olive oil (optional)
2 cups liquid, such as broth or water
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Fine mesh strainer
2-quart saucepan with lid
1. Measure out 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups liquid.
2. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water (see note). Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain.
3. Dry and toast quinoa in saucepan: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate.
4. Stir in the liquid and the salt (if using) and bring to a rolling boil.
5. Lower heat and cook covered for 15 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered.
7. After 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and serve. (You should see tiny spirals (the germ) separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds.)
--One cup of dried quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked.
--Some people like to add olive oil, butter, salt, or pepper. Cooked quinoa can also be used as the basis for pilafs, salads, breakfast porridges, and more.
--Why rinse quinoa? Rinsing removes quinoa's natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy. Although boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, it doesn't hurt to give the seeds an additional rinse at home. Some cookbooks suggest soaking the quinoa, but, in my experience, this is unnecessary.