How to Cook Quinoa and What To Do With It

how to cook quinoa

Quinoa is one of the BEST plant-based proteins for vegetarians and vegans. In this episode of our podcast, we discuss what quinoa is, how to cook quinoa, and share a few recipes we’re eager to try.

You can listen to the podcast here or scroll down for a quick summary of what we discuss along with any resources we mention.

What is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)?

To some people, quinoa may seem like a new hipster craze, but it’s actually been around for a very long time.  

Quinoa is a flowering plant in the amaranth family. Eating quinoa really involves eating just the seeds of the plant. 

It’s considered an “ancient grain” which means it’s a plant that’s been cultivated for millennia. 

(Again, though, it’s technically not a grain … it’s a seed). 

The seeds are eaten similarly to grains like rice. 


What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

I like to describe quinoa as tasting a bit like brown rice but without the super nutty, grainy, taste of brown rice that turns me off.

Instead, quinoa has a milder taste and texture that is somewhat like oatmeal. 


What Are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?

Quinoa is CRAZY healthy in general, but specifically for vegetarians and vegans. It’s one of the foods you get to say when you answer the question, “Where do you get your protein?” 

Quinoa is not only high in protein but it’s considered a COMPLETE protein! 


boo yah


That means it has all 9 essential amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, the human body can produce all but these 9, so it’s necessary to get them from foods. Lots of plants have some of these essential aminos, which is great, but finding one that has all 9 is a bonus! 

In addition to being a great source of protein, quinoa is also a great source of:

  • Iron
  • Fiber
  • Magnesium
  • B-Vitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus 
  • Folate


Interesting fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, quinoa was chosen as one of the “bonus foods” onboard the International Space Station. It’s being looked at by NASA scientists as something that could potentially be grown in outer space.  


Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

Yes, quinoa is gluten-free however, be sure to look for a label on any quinoa you’re buying that says it’s certified GF.  

Problems with cross-contamination can occur in the manufacturing process whereby quinoa can be grown and harvested in the same facilities where grains such as barley and wheat are also grown.  


Is Quinoa Considered Keto?

For those on a Ketogenic (aka Keto) diet, this is probably not the food for you. 

A keto diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet that is sort of like the modern-day “Atkins” diet.  

Since quinoa has about 39 grams of carbs per cup, that would eat up a lot of the daily carb allowance on a keto diet. 


So Which Is Healthier For Me, Brown Rice or Quinoa?

In a head-to-head battle, brown rice and quinoa are very well matched! 

Note: Brown rice is specifically used in this comparison since white rice doesn’t have anywhere near as many health benefits as brown rice. 

Brown rice and quinoa are closely matched when it comes to:

  • Calories 
  • B1


Brown Rice wins in the categories of:

  • B3
  • Selenium


However, we start to see quinoa pull away for the win in the categories of:

  • Fiber 
  • Protein
  • B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Zinc


How to Cook Quinoa

The 3 main types of quinoa are red, black, and white. White quinoa is the most neutral tasting so it’s probably the best one to start with if you’ve never cooked quinoa before. Much like rice, the red and black varieties of quinoa have their own distinct flavors so you may want to try a little bit before buying a lot. 


Rinse First! 

I’m usually in the habit of rinsing foods first but quinoa specifically has a natural coating called saponin.  Saponin is not considered toxic to humans but can make the quinoa taste “soapy”.


Let’s Get Cooking! 

Much like rice, cooking quinoa can be a bit tricky.  If you don’t do it right, you can end up with a mushy pot of food.  The easiest thing to do, of course, is to follow the directions on the package.

If you buy in bulk, however, there is no package… in that case, I like this method per The Kitchn.

In addition to cooking it on the stovetop, you can also make quinoa in a rice cooker and Instant pot. 

For a rice cooker use the setting for white rice. Be sure to let the quinoa rest for a bit before fluffing it up with a fork. 

For a pressure cooker, use about 1 ½ cups of water or veggie broth and a dash of salt. Seal the lid and use the rice setting. 


OK, I Know How to Cook Quinoa, Now What Do I Do With It? 

Quinoa is often used just like any other grain so it substitutes well in any grain recipe or even by itself as aside.

BUT, we don’t want to disappoint without some tasty recipes to try.  

Here are 5 we’ve queued up to try ourselves! 


  1. One Pan Mexican Quinoa from Sina at Vegan Heaven. This one takes 25 to make and can all be made in one pan! 


  1. Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl from Love and Lemons.  Quinoa isn’t just for lunch or dinner. Because if it’s almost oatmeal like consistency, it can be made to be porridge-style or you can leave it a bit more dry if you prefer. Only 3 ingredients needed (almond milk, quinoa, cinnamon sticks) and add any fruits you wish for a protein-packed breakfast!


  1. Zucchini Patties with Quinoa from The Spruce Eats – Very much like Larissa’s own Broccoli patties, these zucchini patties are like latkes minus the potatoes. Now that we have our new air fryer, we may even try popping these in there to see how they turn out! 


  1. Thai Veggie Quinoa Bowls from Avocado Pesto – Yes, more bowls!  This one has a total prep and cook time of about 35 minutes. The dressing gives it a sharp and tangy Asian flare.


  1. Vegan Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Beans, Corn, and Peaches from Yummy Mummy Kitchen. I love fruit in salads but hadn’t thought of adding peaches to a quinoa salad. While not always in season, peaches sound like a refreshing fruit to mix in with this already super healthy and beautiful salad!


How Do I Store Quinoa? 

Keep uncooked quinoa in an air-tight container in your pantry. It will stay fresh for a few months.

Cooked quinoa should be placed in your fridge and will stay fresh for a few days.

We hope this has provided you with some great information about how to cook quina as well as provided you with some great recipes. 


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Thanks for listening!

Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa

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