Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to Cook Quinoa (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is often called a grain, but it's actually the seed of a plant related to amaranth, grown in South America (the Incas held it as sacred & worshipped it). Quinoa has an extremely high protein content, contains balanced essential amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber and minerals and is also gluten-free. It also has a low glycemic index, making it a great substitution for high-GI foods like short-grain rice. 

Quinoa purchased in bulk has a natural coating of saponin to protect the seed; this coating is bitter and needs to be removed. If your quinoa has a waxy coating, simply soak the quinoa in water for 2 hours, then change the water and soak another hour. Then, rinse thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water. Most boxed quinoa has already been cleaned for convenience; the bulk quinoa that I buy locally has been cleaned, so I simply rinse the quinoa for 1-2 minutes in a strainer under cold running water.  

Quinoa is cooked exactly like rice, in a 1:2 ratio with water or broth (for a more al dente texture, use a 1:1 1/4 ratio). Once cooked, it has a fluffy texture and a mild but nutty flavor. Quinoa can be cooked on the stovetop or in an electric rice cooker, and only takes about 15-20 minutes. I like to mix quinoa into salads, pilafs, or even mixed into vegetarian-friendly burgers with lentils, mushrooms or black beans. It's also great as a breakfast, mixed with honey or maple syrup and topped with fruit or nuts. 

I prefer to cook quinoa in a rice cooker; simply combine 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water/broth/stock in a rice cooker. Cover/close the rice cooker and turn on; the quinoa will be perfectly cooked in about 15-20 minutes. 

To cook quinoa on the stovetop, simply combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water/broth/stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed (it will look as if the seed has grown a small tail). Let stand 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Honestly, I am TERRIBLE at cooking rice on the stovetop, so I just stick to the rice cooker. 

Cooked quinoa will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week. 


  1. I do really like quinoa. Mine usually ends up with beans as a salad or sidedish. Can't wait to see what you do with this.
    On an unrelated topic, for the veggie stock that you freeze in muffin trays. How do you get it out of them?? Silly question, I know. :)

  2. I'll let you in on the secret. It's going in some black bean Mediterranean burgers.

    For the stock, I either slam the bottom of the muffin pan on the counter or line the tins with plastic wrap to make everything easier to get out. If the "pucks" are stuck, let them thaw about 5-10 minutes and they should melt enough to come right out.

  3. Ok now I really can't wait for the recipe. I love black bean burgers but every time I make my own they just do not come out the way I wanted them too.

    Thank you for the tip on the pucks. I shall be slamming the muffin pan very soon!

  4. The key to a good black bean burger is to have a good binder; some people use an egg, but I like to add things like gram flour (chickpea flour) and ground flax seeds. The quinoa/black bean burgers also have sun-dried tomatoes; mushrooms are also great to add to a meatless burger.