04/04/2012 05:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is one of nature’s superfoods. Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, is a tiny, nutty-tasting, gluten-free grain that delivers healthy doses of protein and fiber. It is also one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning that it provides the body with all nine essential amino acids. A half-cup serving of quinoa has 111 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein and 3 g fiber. Even better, this nutritional heavyweight is practically foolproof to cook and has become my go-to grain when I don’t have much time to cook, as quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes.

Must-Try: Warm Quinoa Salad & More Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Here are my tips for how to cook quinoa perfectly:

1. Rinse Your Quinoa: Quinoa grows with a bitter, protective coating called saponin that is, luckily, easily rinsed off. Most of the quinoa sold today in supermarkets is prerinsed, although a quick rinse under the faucet never hurts. To rinse: Place quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and run it under cold water for a few seconds. Shake off any excess water and you are ready to proceed with cooking.

2. Toast Quinoa for More Flavor: Toasting quinoa in a skillet with a little bit of oil over low heat for a few minutes before adding it to boiling water gives quinoa an even more intense nutty flavor. To toast, heat some oil (you’ll need 1 tablespoon of neutral oil such as canola for every 1½ cups quinoa) over medium-low heat and add your quinoa. Stir it constantly (so that it doesn’t burn) until it begins to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Related: The 2 Best Oils for Cooking

3. Cook Quinoa in Something Besides Water: To cook quinoa, you simply stir it into your liquid of choice, cover and simmer over low heat until done. The ratio is 2 cups of water or other cooking liquid to 1 cup of quinoa. Water is the easiest, cheapest and healthiest choice; it’s lowest in sodium and, generally, free. Other supermarket staples, such as low-sodium chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth, are as easy to use as water and they can add a lot of flavor. You could even cut some of the stock with a splash of dry white wine, using ½ cup of wine plus 1½ cups of broth for every 1 cup of quinoa.

4. Watch The Time: Quinoa cooks quickly -- in about 15 minutes or less. Some package directions tell you to turn off the heat once the liquid boils and you’ve stirred in the quinoa. We prefer to bring the cooking liquid to a boil, stir in the quinoa, then turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer gently, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. You will know when the quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open --- revealing the germ of the kernel.

5. Fluff Quinoa Before Serving: Quinoa loves a little pampering. After it has cooked, use a fork to fluff and separate the grains.

More Essential Cooking How-Tos:
How to Cook Rice Perfectly
How to Cook 20 Vegetables
5 Couscous-Cooking Mistakes to Avoid

How do you eat quinoa?

By Emily McKenna

Emily McKenna
Emily McKenna tests and develops recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. Emily recently moved to Vermont from New York City, where she worked at Food & Wine, and Real Simple. She is a recent convert to the glories of kale and has a weakness for doughnuts, strawberry licorice and anything her Italian-American grandmother makes, especially pizza.

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