A Quinoa Recipe,
How to Cook Quinoa for Best Results

quinoa-recipe-cooked

The quinoa recipe we share further down on this page is one of our favorite ways to steam this alternative gluten-free variety. Our basic recipe deviates a bit from most standard grain to water ratios, but in our opinion produces a more fully cooked end result with a much better consistency.

While those new to quinoa might be put off by the undercooked quality that is typically advocated by most online recipes, we feel adding in a bit more water can make a big difference to the palate as well as digestive system.

When cooked quinoa has any "crunchiness", this means it has not been thoroughly steamed. For some people this can cause digestive upset and assimilation issues, as well as make its texture less appealing.

There are many different taste preferences and body types, however, so it is good to experiment with what works best for you as far as flavor and digestibility.

We actually give three alternate ways to make quinoa, so you can pick and choose from any of these options.

Of course, if you're a quinoa making newbie, we recommended our top favorite way we've been making it for over 25 years.

Our first experiences cooking with quinoa began in the early 90's and over time it has become one of the few cooked grains, along with millet and wild rice, that we actually eat on a pretty regular basis.

Its balanced essential amino acid profile and higher protein to carbohydrate ratio make it an excellent vegan staple and the perfect match for a high raw diet.

These days, it's not just found in health food stores anymore. Quinoa is widely available at many large chain supermarkets across the U.S., Europe and Canada.

Because of the higher its price tag in recent years, we usually purchase organically grown varieties in 25 pound bag sizes, which is much more cost effective than small pre-packaged quantities.

quinoa-health-benefits

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa comes from an annual flowering weed-like plant from the family Amaranthaceae, which includes other species like lamb's quarters, beetroot and amaranth.

It is indigenous to the high Andean mountain regions located near Lake Titicaca, bordering Bolivia and Peru. These two countries are still, as of 2017, the top two commercial producers.

Quinoa is often called an "ancient grain" as it was utilized as a staple food source as well as highly domesticated by pre-Incan and Incan civilizations existing thousands of years ago. (Source)

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

A good quinoa recipe, made the right way, has a light and soft texture similar to couscous with a distinct nutty quinoa flavor.

Sometimes, when quinoa is not pre-rinsed, a slightly bitter taste can be detected. This is from saponins that may be present on the seed coating.

For some people, the texture might take a little getting used as it does not have a chewy starchy consistency like rice, but is rather more like couscous.

Along with white quinoa, different colored quinoa selections are available, mostly red and black varieties. We definitely prefer the texture and flavor, however, of the white grain as opposed red, black or tri-colored blends. If you are new to quinoa, it is probably best to start out with the plain white grain as it is the best tasting in our opinion.

(For more about quinoa nutrition visit our health benefits of quinoa page.)

How to Cook Quinoa for Best Results

1)  Use the correct grain to water ratio.
2)  Briefly rinse (or soak) your grain and thoroughly strain.
3)  Simmer on lowest heat setting, undisturbed, until all the water is gone when you tilt the pot.
4)  Always remove from heat and let it sit with the lid on for 5-10 minutes after the cooking time.

Grain to Water Ratio

While the standard cooked quinoa recipe usually calls for one cup of dry quinoa to two cups water, we find that these portions don't adequately cook the grain completely. This can cause digestive upset and potential intestinal cramping as the grains have not fully opened.

In our opinion, adding about 1/2C more water to the traditional cooked quinoa recipe is much better on digestion and also provides a more palatable soft less-chewy texture with absolutely no crunchy uncooked grain present.

Quinoa is adequately cooked when the grain has an almost translucent appearance and the white curled germ is visible or detached from the seed.

Below, we list both our recipe and the standard recipe plus a pre-soaked option. It is best to experiment and see what works best for your particular taste preferences and body constitution.

Rinsing Quinoa to Remove Saponin Content

Saponins are a soap-like substances present on the outside of the seed that acts as a natural pesticide to birds and other predators. These bitter tasting compounds in large amounts act as "antinutrients" that can cause mild gastrointestinal upset as well as inhibit nutrient absorption.

Saponins, however, dissolve in water and a large percentage can be removed by rinsing techniques. This is best achieved by placing the quinoa in a bowl, adding filtered water, stirring briefly and rinsing through a fine mesh strainer as the seeds are quite small.

While most quinoa suppliers these days usually pre-wash and dry the quinoa or mechanically remove the saponin coating, a small about may still be present.

This is why it is a good idea to rinse the seeds briefly before use to remove any residual saponins. This is also a good time to keep an eye out for any dirt clods or rocks that, we have noticed, sometimes find their way into the grains, especially when you purchase them large bulk quantities.

Below, we list a number of top organic suppliers and their saponin removal procedures.

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Pre-Soaking Quinoa Grain

Like other grains and legumes, quinoa does contain phytates, which can inhibit digestion. Chiefly, phytic acids do this by binding to certain minerals, especially iron and zinc, making them less bioavailable.

Soaking the seeds for at least two hours with an acid medium, like apple cider vinegar, is a good way to remove most of them. Longer soaking times seem to change the texture quite a bit when cooked and is really unnecessary as the seeds are relatively small.

It is additionally important to remember to thoroughly strain out all the liquid in a fine mesh strain before the cooking process. Usually when soaking the grain 1/2C less water is required.

Some quinoa suppliers now provide dry whole grains that have been pre-soaked or "pre-sprouted" to enhance nutritional assimilation.

Simmer Undisturbed on Lowest Heat Setting

This may sound obvious if your use to cooking any type of grain, but it is especially important for quinoa to allow the grains to steam on a low flame. Usually about 20 minutes is adequate or until all the water is gone when you tilt the pot.

During this process, it is also important not to lift the lid or stir the quinoa, another standard practice when making any cooked grain staple. After the quinoa is done, we also remove it from the heat source and allow it sit with lid on for 5-10 minutes.

Different Ways to Cook Quinoa

1) Our Favorite Quinoa Recipe

quinoa-recipes

This is the way we personally make quinoa, when we don't soak it first. Just adding a bit more water can make a big difference and makes it easier to digest as the grains are fully cooked.

The end result produces soft, rounded little balls with whiter pieces of the curled germ falling off of them. In comparison to the standard quinoa recipe, this one also makes one more cupful of cooked quinoa.

Ingredients:

  • 1C quinoa grain
  • 2 1/2C pure water
  • 1/8t pink salt or celtic sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add the dry quinoa to a bowl and cover with filtered water. Stir briefly, strain and rinse one more time. Strain the liquid thoroughly in a fine mesh colander.
  2. In a glass or ceramic pot, add 2 1/2C water, salt and rinsed quinoa.
  3. Place a lid on top and bring to a boil, then simmer on a low flame undisturbed with lid on for 20-25 minutes, or until no liquid is present when you tilt the pot.
  4. Turn the flame off and let the quinoa sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.
  5. This quinoa recipe will make about 5 cups of cooked quinoa.

2) Soaked Quinoa Recipe

Soaking quinoa is a good idea, especially if you have digestive sensitivities to phytates. Remember that many brands now pre-wash the grains to remove saponin coating, which will also remove some degree of phytic acid.

Because quinoa grains are quite small they don't take long to soak up water and release residual phytate content. Usually about 2 hours is a good amount of time, especially when an acidic medium is added to the soak water.

Ingredients:

  • 1C quinoa grain
  • 2C pure water
  • 1/8t pink or celtic sea salt
  • 1t apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • pure soaking water

Directions:

  1. Add the dry quinoa to a bowl and pour enough filtered water over the top to cover it about a few inches.
  2. Stir in apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and allow to sit for at least 2 hours.
  3. Thoroughly strain the soaked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.
  4. In a glass or ceramic pot add 2C water, salt and strained quinoa.
  5. Place a lid on top, bring to a boil then reduce heat to the lowest flame setting.
  6. Leave undisturbed for 15-20 minutes or until no liquid is present when you tilt the pot.
  7. Turn the flame off and let the quinoa sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.
  8. This will make 5 cups of cooked quinoa.

3) Standard Basic Quinoa Recipe

This is the typical quinoa recipe you will find from most online sources and may be the best choice depending on your digestive capacity and taste preferences.

We believe most people like this one because the grains are slightly firmer and chewier, which more closely reproduces the starchier texture of other grain varieties.

Ingredients:

  • 1C quinoa grain
  • 2C pure water
  • 1/8t pink salt or celtic sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add the dry quinoa to a bowl and cover with filtered water. Stir briefly, strain and rinse one more time. Strain the liquid thoroughly in a fine mesh colander.
  2. In a glass or ceramic pot bring to a boil 2C water and add salt and quinoa.
  3. Simmer on a low flame undisturbed with lid on for 15-20 minutes or until no liquid is present when you tilt the pot.
  4. Turn the flame off and let the quinoa sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.
  5. This will make 4 cups of cooked quinoa.

Quinoa Brands and Their Saponin Removal Process

These results are based on personal email communications with each company. This is the information that was offered as of early 2017 from the following suppliers.

  • Ancient Harvest - "The Quinoa grains are pre-washed and rinsed to remove saponins. There is no need for soaking."

  • Lungberg - "We mechanically remove the saponin. Our Quinoa goes through a machine that causes friction to remove the outer layer."

  • Pride of India - "Upon harvest, our quinoa is cleaned. After rubbing the outer coating off, it is washed and dried. Thereafter it is rinsed and the seeds are washed in a large container similar to a washing machine. Lastly, the seeds are rinsed again and then passed through a spin dryer. Finally, the seeds are transferred quickly onto drying tables so that the seeds do not sprout. The washing process is very thorough which removes saponin from the seeds."

  • Bob's Red Mill - "Our Quinoa is washed once with water and force air dried (not dried in a kiln or anything that would heat the grain). Many people find this adequate. Others find they need to rinse it a second time."

  • Eden Foods - "The saponin coating on Eden Quinoa is mechanically removed with rubbing and mountain spring water washing."

  • Alter Eco - "The process is mechanical."
  • TruRoots - "We triple wash all of our grains."
  • Arrowhead Mills - Their quinoa is "harvested, rinsed with water to remove saponins, dried, cleaned to remove foreign material and marketed primarily in bulk."
quinoa-curry

How to Use

You can use quinoa the same way you would use rice as a side dish to vegetables, tempeh, tofu or meat protein. It can likewise be incorporated into many recipes, like sushi or curried vegetable sautées.

Quinoa also makes a lovely cold salad ingredient with chopped raw veggies, marinated in a dressing. (See our Mediterranean quinoa salad for ideas.)

It is also a nice grain to add to hot soups or as a breakfast porridge, with a little red palm oil or coconut oil, shredded coconut and a natural sweetener.

Some people are into sprouting quinoa and eating it raw, but we find that the taste is not so appetizing. Quinoa sprouts do, however, make a nice replacement for wheatberries when making the fermented drink rejuvelac.

Soaked and dehydrator-dried quinoa grains can be ground fresh in a high speed blending device to make fresh gluten-free flour.

Precautions:

Quinoa is considered a safe staple grain to consume on a regular basis. In rare cases, however, some individuals are sensitive to saponin residues that may be present the uncooked seeds, which can cause mild digestive upset. This effect is usually avoided by soaking and rinsing techniques as well as by thoroughly cooking the grain before consumption.

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