Learn the basics of how to cook quinoa on the stove, with easy (and flavorful) ways to serve it to babies, toddlers, big kids…and us parents! There is a base recipe here, which cooks in about 15 minutes, plus 6 simple ways to flavor it.
How to Cook Quinoa
Cooking quinoa on the stove is fast, straightforward, and easy to do even if you only think of it at the last minute. Because the grains turn from an opaque white to more translucent, you can tell visually when it’s done. Handy!
And all you need is quinoa and water, then you can add in other ingredients as you like.
We alternate quinoa and other grains, like rice and pasta, in our meal rotation and I find that adding some flavors helps my kids enjoy it more than when it’s plain. To give you a lot of options, I’m sharing the base recipe here with easy ways to flavor it.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is an edible seed that’s grown in South America and is usually classified as a grain. It comes in a few colors—the most common being white and red—and is a rare in that it contains complete vegetarian protein. (You don’t fine that in grains like rice or wheat.)
A half cup of cooked quinoa has 4 grams of protein and 2 ½ grams of fiber. It’s also naturally gluten-free, which can be helpful for families dealing with celiac disease.
Contents hide 1 How to Cook Quinoa 2 What is Quinoa? 3 Your toddler won’t eat? Help is here! 4 Quinoa for Kids 5 How to Make Quinoa Taste Good 6 Ingredients You Need 7 Ingredient Substitutions 8 Step-by-Step Instructions 9 Frequently Asked Questions 10 How to Store 11 Best Tips for Success 12 Related Recipes 13 How to Cook Quinoa 13.1 Base Quinoa (then choose a flavor option from below) 13.2 Buttered Quinoa 13.3 Pesto Quinoa 13.4 Pizza Quinoa 13.5 Lemon Butter Quinoa 13.6 Cumin Quinoa 13.7 Chicken Broth Quinoa (omit the water from the base recipe)
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Quinoa for Kids
Quinoa can be bitter, even though it’s processed after harvesting to remove the saponins (a chemical compound that acts like a natural pesticide). I find that it helps to thoroughly rinse it to make sure all of it is removed before starting the cooking process to make sure it tastes good.
Quinoa cooks similarly to rice and can be flavored similarly to rice or pasta. It’s versatile and you can adjust the taste of quinoa for your kids. It can be a little messy for those kids still learning to use spoons, but you can stir in cheese or mashed avocado or sweet potato to help it hold together a little more as needed. You can also prepare it as Quinoa Baby Food.
How to Make Quinoa Taste Good
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve before starting the cooking process. Then, don’t shy away from adding flavor. You can keep it simple with a little butter or olive oil and salt, or go with more flavor from marinara or pizza sauce, pesto, Parmesan cheese, lemon, cheese, or really any other flavor you like.
Ingredients You Need
To make basic quinoa, here’s what you need:
- Quinoa: You can use any color of quinoa (you may see white/yellow or red).
TIP: From there, you can add as little or as much flavor as you prefer.
To the base quinoa recipe, you can choose a flavor option from the ones below:
- Buttered Quinoa: Unsalted butter (or olive oil) and salt
- Pesto Quinoa: Prepared pesto and Parmesan cheese
- Pizza Quinoa: Pizza or marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese
- Lemon-Butter Quinoa: Unsalted butter, fresh lemon juice, and zest
- Cumin Quinoa: Cumin, salt
- Chicken Broth Quinoa: Reduced-sodium chicken broth (and unsalted butter, optional)
Here’s the basic process of the recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.
- Measure out the quinoa and add to a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse under cold running water for a minute or two to remove any lingering saponins, which can make quinoa taste bitter.
- Add the water and quinoa to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft and mostly translucent.
- Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit. Fluff with a fork and add flavorings of choice.
TIP: The grains of quinoa will turn from slightly opaque to slightly translucent as they cook.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you cook 1 cup of quinoa?
To cook 1 cup of quinoa, you’ll want to simmer it in twice as much water in a pot over medium heat.
What is the ratio of water to quinoa?
I prefer to use 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water as I find that results in the most consistently cooked grains.
How long should you boil quinoa for?
Quinoa takes about 12-15 minutes to cook through when boiled in water on the stove.
Is quinoa better for you than rice?
Quinoa has complete protein, which is rare in a vegetarian food, and contains both protein and fiber. It’s similar to rice and is a nice alternative to have in the mix.
What do you eat quinoa with?
You can add almost any flavor to quinoa, so experiment with the flavor options and see if you have a favorite. It can be the base for a vegetarian main dish or you can pair it with other recipes such as Chicken Tenders, Fish Sticks, or even Italian Lentils.
How to Store
Let the quinoa cool, then transfer to an airtight storage container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Best Tips for Success
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve to remove as much potential bitterness as possible.
- Quinoa can be a little messy for kids still learning to use spoons, but you can stir in cheese or mashed avocado or sweet potato to help it hold together a little as needed.
- Add as much or as little additional flavor as you want. (Which is to say, if you don’t love plain quinoa, flavor it!)
- You can use cooked quinoa in Cauliflower Tots, Quinoa Fried Rice, Quinoa Salad, and Quinoa Patties.