Quinoa is one of my favorite side dishes to serve with dinners. It’s very fast to make, goes well with almost any vegetable and protein, and is really healthy! Plus, leftover quinoa stores really well and can be repurposed in a variety of recipes. 

One problem though: If you mess-up cooking quinoa, it’s not a pretty scene. It can get very glue-like and stick together in a big mass that’s not appetizing at all. I’ve messed it up more times than I’d like to admit. 

These days though, I can nail quinoa pretty much every time I make it. Here are my steps to make the perfect quinoa every time! 

What is quinoa?

Some people assume that quinoa is a grain because the way it appears when it is cooked, but it isn’t a grain at all. It’s actually closer to a seed from the amaranth family of plants. It is commonly grown in South America at higher altitudes. If you care to dive in, you can read the full history on Wikipedia

There are many varieties of quinoa available in the world, but in the United States, you can usually find just the standard white/pale yellow variety and sometimes the red quinoa variety as well. A few brands make a tri-color quinoa mix which is very pretty! 

No matter what variety you find, all the common varieties of quinoa can be used in this quinoa tutorial. 

Where to buy quinoa?

Quinoa is a very available item in most supermarkets these days. I can find it at all stores from Kroger to Safeway. 

If you find yourself cooking a lot of quinoa, Costco usually has a huge, almost 5-pound bag of quinoa that is a very good deal and will last you a long time even with weekly quinoa eating! 

Is Quinoa healthy?

I’m not a nutritionist, but I tend to consider quinoa a very healthy addition to the dinner plate. It’s a complete food and after cooking it has a high percentage of fiber and protein, which makes it a really wonderful addition to your weekly meals. 

Is Quinoa gluten-free?

Because quinoa is a seed it has no gluten in it naturally. It is always gluten-free unless it is mixed with flour somehow. 

Do you need to rinse or soak quinoa before cooking?

You definitely don’t need to soak quinoa before cooking it. It is a very tiny seed and cooks very quickly with no soaking. 

But, I do recommend rinsing quinoa before cooking it. Not only does this rinse off any dirt, but also gives you time to spot any small pebbles which might be in the mix (rare but occasionally happens). 

Rinsed quinoa in metal strainer.

How to cook fluffy and perfect quinoa

Here’s my opinion on cooking good quinoa: Throw out the instructions on the back of the box of quinoa. 

Those instructions will include very specific water ratios for cooking as well as simmering times. While these might work, they might also leave you with very over-cooked quinoa. 

I literally never follow them.

Instead, this is how I cook perfectly fluffy quinoa every time.

Add your quinoa to a mesh strainer and rinse it well with cold water. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over medium heat. You could add a pinch of salt to this if you want, but you can also season the quinoa later. 

How much water? I would say at least 3-4 cups for every cup of quinoa but I do not measure. 

When the water is at a boil, add the quinoa and stir it to separate the seeds. Then turn the heat down to low and simmer it for 10 minutes. 

Simmering quinoa in a medium pot.

Crunch Time Tips

Feel free to add other things to the water to flavor the quinoa. You can use broth like chicken broth or add butter or olive oil plus any herbs you like to the simmering quinoa to boost the flavors.

Most instructions will tell you to simmer it for 15 minutes, but you want to start checking it well in advance of that. 

When you test the quinoa, drain off a few seeds and see if the seeds have expanded. It’ll look like a small tail has emerged from the seed. Try a few seeds and if they have a very slight crunch to them still, almost like al dente pasta, then you are ready to go! 

Testing quinoa for doneness.

When your quinoa is at that almost-cooked, but still slightly crunchy stage, drain the quinoa and return it to the hot pot. Let it steam, covered, off the heat, for at least five minutes.

Then you can fluff the quinoa with a fork and you’ll be surprised at how fluffy and wonderful it is! It’s truly perfect quinoa!

Fluffy, perfect quinoa in a pot.

Basic Quinoa

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Author: Nick Evans
Servings: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
My basic, easy-to-maser quinoa method.



  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, optional
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  • Rinse quinoa well under cold water in a mesh strainer.
  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add in quinoa. Stir to separate seeds and turn heat down to low.
  • Simmer quinoa for 10 minutes.
  • Test quinoa by straining out a few seeds and trying them. They should have little tails on them and have a very slight crunch to them. If they are very crunchy, cook the quinoa for another minute and re-test.
  • Strain the quinoa out of the water with the mesh strainer and return to the hot pot. Cover and steam off the heat for 5-10 minutes. (You can add butter at this point if you are using it).
  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork and season with salt to taste. Serve warm or cool and store for later.


Serving: 0.5cups | Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 170mg | Potassium: 240mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 0.003g | Vitamin A: 93IU | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: South American

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How to freeze quinoa or storage

If you make my recipe above for perfect quinoa, it starts with two cups of dried quinoa and will easily make eight servings of quinoa which is probably way more than you need. Good news! Quinoa stores perfectly if you cook it well. 

You can keep the quinoa in your fridge for a week just in an air-tight container. It’s great on salads or for lunches mixed with vegetables and proteins. 

If you want to store it for longer though, it also freezes really well. I like to use a vacuum sealer for my quinoa to get out as much air as possible. 

Quinoa in a vacuum sealer bag.

Alternatively, you can freeze the quinoa in a standard freezer bag. Get out as much air as possible by using the water replacement method. Seal the bag almost completely and then submerge the bag in water, careful not to get any water in the bag. The water will push out air in the bag and then seal it while the bag is underwater. 

Quinoa in a normal freezer bag.

Frozen quinoa will keep well for months! 

TIP: Make sure quinoa is cool before freezing it to avoid condensation build-up in the bags. 

How to make crispy quinoa

One of my favorite ways to use quinoa is to make crispy quinoa. Once your quinoa is cooked and cooled (or you can use leftover quinoa), spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Toss the quinoa with some olive oil and season it with salt and pepper and bake it at 400˚F for about 30 minutes, stirring it once or twice to make sure it’s cooking evenly. 

The results are so good sprinkles on soups and salads or just as a snack! 

Quinoa baked crispy on a baking sheet.

Recipes that use Quinoa

Thai Spring Rolls with Quinoa and Peanut Sauce

These bright and crunchy Thai spring rolls are filled with Tri-Color quinoa. I like to serve them with a simple spicy peanut sauce.

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Quinoa mixed with a bunch of veggies, some feta, and a nice homemade pesto makes for a great weekday lunch dish!

Quinoa Spinach Salad! This is my big reset salad after a weekend of unhealthy eating. Fluffy quinoa, chopped spinach, roasted beets, and other crunchy veggies and a spicy yogurt dressing!

Reset Quinoa Spinach Salad

Quinoa Spinach Salad loaded with roasted beets, grated veggies, and fluffy quinoa and drizzled with a spicy jalapeno yogurt dressing!

Kiddo Quinoa Veggie Burgers

These simple homemade quinoa burgers are filled with black beans, red peppers, sweet corn, and just enough spice.