5 Ways to Make Quinoa

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Learn how to cook quinoa in a rice cooker, microwave, slow cooker, Instant Pot, or on the stove. Here are instructions for all 5 methods to make it in order to get perfectly fluffy results every time! Plus get recipes using cooked quinoa and ideas for what to serve with it.

Spoon in a bowl of cooked quinoa

Quinoa – the superfood grain!

If you don’t already know and love quinoa, it’s time to get to know this delicious, versatile, and nutrient-dense food!

What is quinoa?

What we know as quinoa and what we eat is actually the seed from a flowering plant native to South America. It has a similar texture to rice and other grains. But it’s really a pseudocereal closer in nutritional value to leafy vegetables.

There are 7 different types of quinoa, but the most common are:

  • White quinoa – White quinoa has the mildest flavor and works well for most recipes.
  • Red quinoa – This variety has a crunchy texture and strong nutty flavor; it’s not great for sweet and/or baked recipes.
  • Black quinoa – This quinoa is more difficult to find, but it is very similar to red quinoa.
  • Tri-color or rainbow quinoa is simply a blend of the above varieties.

Is quinoa healthier than rice?

Rice is a staple in many diets because it’s filling and affordable, but quinoa provides more nutrients for the same serving size.

Compared to white rice, some of the benefits of quinoa are:

  • Twice the protein
  • Fewer calories 
  • Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
  • Complex carbohydrate (keeps you full longer)

The health benefits of brown rice are comparable to quinoa, which makes both of them a great alternative to white rice.

Is quinoa gluten free?

Yes, quinoa is a naturally gluten free food you can usually enjoy as an alternative to gluten-containing grains even if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance or allergy.

There are a couple of things to beware of though. Quinoa does contain a protein that may trigger an immune response in some people with celiac disease. While it is generally well-tolerated, you may want to consult your doctor and increase your intake gradually.

Additionally, be sure to read labels about where it is processed to be sure there is no cross-contamination risk if you are sensitive.

A white ceramic bowl of cooked quinoa with a serving spoon in it.

Cooking quinoa

The most important step before cooking is to rinse the quinoa. It has a natural coating that can taste bitter or soapy, and rinsing it well will remove that coating. To do this, add the uncooked seeds to a fine-mesh colander. Rinse under cool water for about 30 seconds, then drain well.

Dry quinoa to cooked:

How much will it make?

1 cup of dry quinoa will make 3 cups cooked.

How much water should I use for quinoa?

For most cooking methods, you will need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry quinoa.

Methods

You’ll find intsructions below for each of these five methods:

  • Stovetop – the traditional way of making it in a pot so that you can easily watch it as it cooks.
  • Slow Cooker – a great way to use your crockpot for a hands-off method that cooks itself all day.
  • Instant Pot – an electric pressure cooker is also hand-off and there is less evaporation so you use less water.
  • Microwave – not really any faster, but doesn’t require attention or special equipment.
  • Rice Cooker – all it takes is the push of a button to make quinoa in a rice cooker.

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove

This method allows you to visually know when the quinoa is done cooking.

  1. Combine 1 cup rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a saucepan. 
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer with the lid on.
  3. Cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 10-20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How to Cook Quinoa in a Rice Cooker

This is probably the easiest way to cook quinoa – just add everything and push a button!

  1. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to the rice cooker.
  2. Put on the lid and turn on the rice cooker. If you have multiple buttons on your rice cooker, choose the one for white rice.
  3. Once done, let it sit for a few minutes before fluffing.

How to Make Instant Pot Quinoa

There’s less evaporation in a pressure cooker (Instant Pot), so you’ll need to use less water. It also helps to spray the liner with non-stick spray or cooking oil first to prevent sticking and foaming.

  1. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 1.5 cups water to the pressure cooker.
  2. Put on the lid and turn vent to the sealed position.
  3. Cook on High for 1 minute. It will take 5-10 minutes to come to pressure.
  4. Do a Natural Pressure Release for 10 minutes, then manually release the rest if needed.
  5. Open the lid once the pin has dropped and fluff before serving.

How to Make Crockpot Quinoa

This is the best method for a “set it and forget it” option. Plus, you can easily make a large batch if needed.

  1. Combine 1 part rinsed quinoa with 2 parts water in a slow cooker.
  2. Place the lid on the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on Low for 4-6 hours or High for 2-3 hours.

Slow cooker notes:

  • Mushy quinoa: If this happens, reduce the liquid to 1.5 parts instead.
  • Watch it the first time: Each slow cooker cooks a little differently, so keep an eye on yours and note how long it takes based on how much you make.
  • Cooking time for quinoa varies: The more you make, the longer it will take to cook. Again, watch to see when the liquid is completely absorbed.

How to Microwave Quinoa

This method doesn’t save any extra time, but it can be done without fancy kitchen tools or a lot of attention.

  1. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a large microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe plate/lid.
  3. Cook on HIGH for 6 minutes.
  4. Stir, re-cover, then cook for 2 more minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Let it sit, covered, in the microwave for about 10 minutes before serving.
Butternut squash quinoa in a decorative serving bowl with a spoon in it

Storing Leftovers

If transferred quickly to an airtight container, cooked quinoa can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 to 7 days. Be sure not to leave cooked quinoa at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or it could start to grow bacteria. And always discard it immediately if it looks or smells off.

Can you freeze quinoa?

Yes! Once cooked, allow it to cool completely. Then, transfer to a freezable storage bag. In its frozen state, quinoa will keep well for up to 1 year. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it in your refrigerator, then reheat or add it to other recipes.

Close up overhead view of a sweet potato buddha bowl with roasted veggies, chickpeas, broccoli, kale, and quinoa.

Make it a Meal

Quinoa Bowls

Swap out the usual rice for more protein in your bowl meals, like:

Meatless Meals

Make a satisfying dish without meat, such as:

Simple Sides

Enjoy it with your favorite main dish when you might serve another grain, including:

cooked quinoa in a bowl on a wooden table

Recipes Using Cooked Quinoa

Whether you cooked quinoa as a side dish and have leftovers, or you made it specifically to add to other recipes, here are some to try:

Breakfast Bars

Adding quinoa to these oatmeal bars gives them an extra dose of fiber and protein in a portable breakfast or snack.

Cinnamon Apple Quinoa Breakfast Bars stacked on a green plate.

Cinnamon Apple Quinoa Breakfast Bars

The classic combo of apples and cinnamon make this a healthy breakfast that everyone will love the flavors of when they take a bite.
Get The Recipe
Banana Nut Breakfast Bar on a white plate with a fork

Banana Quinoa Breakfast Bars

These have the sweet and nutty flavors of classic banana nut bread in a wholesome bar to start your day.
Get The Recipe
Pumpkin Quinoa Baked Breakfast Bars on a white plate

Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Bars

This version is packed with the fall flavors you love of pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and pecans.
Get The Recipe

Quinoa Bites

Easy, cheesy little bites that you can make with many different flavors as a fun finger food snack or side dish.

A dish of cheesy quinoa bites on top of blue and white cloth napkins on a wood table.

Cheesy Veggie Quinoa Bites

Easy to make with only four ingredients, and the recipe can be customized to whatever leftover or frozen veggies you have on hand.
Get The Recipe
Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Bites piled around a bowl of tomato sauce.

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Bites

Turn your favorite hot spinach artichoke dip recipe into a healthy, whole grain finger food perfect for dipping in tomato sauce.
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Mexican Quinoa Bites

Healthy, cheesy bite-sized mini mac and cheese muffins made with quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and other southwestern flavors.
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Quinoa Parfaits

Layer quinoa with yogurt, fruit, and other ingredients for breakfast or even a healthy dessert.

A couple of yogurt parfaits with mixed berries.

Mixed Berry Quinoa Parfaits

Layers of naturally sweetened banana cheesecake yogurt, fresh berries, and nutty quinoa are a delicious and satisfying combination.
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Blueberry and Grilled Peach Quinoa Parfaits

Filled with summer flavors, sweet and creamy yogurt, and the perfect texture of quinoa.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Quinoa Breakfast Parfait

This quinoa breakfast parfait is made with a layer of rich chocolate chia pudding, a sweet peanut butter sauce, and quinoa, and it tastes like candy.
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Quinoa Chicken Salad

Adding quinoa to a chicken salad recipe is a wholesome and budget-friendly way to stretch a meal and add more fiber and whole grains.

Waldorf Quinoa Chicken Salad

The classic combination that pairs sweet grapes and walnuts with the savory flavors is reinvented in a new way.
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Barbecue Ranch Quinoa Chicken Salad

Barbecue Ranch Quinoa Chicken Salad

Nobody can resist the pairing of barbecue sauce, Ranch, and cheddar cheese, especially when it's in a healthy lunch.
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Mango Avocado Quinoa Chicken Salad

Mango Avocado Quinoa Chicken Salad

Rich flavors from the avocado paired with sweet and tangy mango and just a hint of spice make this colorful dish super tasty.
Get The Recipe
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How to Cook Quinoa 5 Ways

Learn how to make quinoa in a rice cooker, microwave, slow cooker, Instant Pot, or on the stove. Here are instructions for all 5 methods!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa

Instructions

How to cook quinoa on the stove

  • Combine 1 cup rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer with the lid on.
  • Cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 10-20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How to cook quinoa in a rice cooker

  • Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to the rice cooker.
  • Put on the lid and turn on the rice cooker. If you have multiple buttons on your rice cooker, choose the one for white rice.
  • Once done, let it sit for a few minutes before fluffing.

How to cook quinoa in an Instant Pot/pressure cooker

  • Spray the pressure cooker liner with non-stick spray or cooking oil first to prevent sticking and foaming. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 1.5 cups water to the pressure cooker.
  • Put on the lid and turn vent to the sealed position.
  • Cook on High for 1 minute. It will take 5-10 minutes to come to pressure.
  • Do a Natural Pressure Release for 10 minutes, then manually release the rest if needed.
  • Open the lid once the pin has dropped and fluff before serving.

How to cook quinoa in a slow cooker

  • Combine 1 part rinsed quinoa with 2 parts water in a slow cooker.
  • Place the lid on the slow cooker.
  • Cook on Low for 4-6 hours or High for 2-3 hours.

How to cook quinoa in a microwave

  • Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a large microwave-safe bowl.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe plate/lid.
  • Cook on HIGH for 6 minutes.
  • Stir, re-cover, then cook for 2 more minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Let it sit, covered, in the microwave for about 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Quinoa 5 Ways
Amount Per Serving (0.75 cup)
Calories 156 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 239mg7%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 3g12%
Protein 6g12%
Calcium 20mg2%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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2 Comments
  1. Geraldine

    5 stars
    Hi Brianne. Had never tasted quinoa before and was keen to try it. I followed your stove instructions and it turned out perfectly! Have come to really like it too! Thank you. X

5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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