Best Basic Quinoa- Ignore Package Directions

Quinoa is a highly nutritious, gluten-free food originating in the Andes Mountains. Though not a true grain it can easily replace couscous, rice, and bulgur. I usually serve it as a side dish with roasted chicken or poached salmon. When I serve it plain, I sometimes boil white quinoa with turmeric for color contrast and add some toasted nuts on top. This time I used a combination of chopped pistachios and mint that I toasted in a skillet with some coconut oil and sea salt.

When I follow the package directions for most quinoa it results in overcooked and mushy grains. The directions usually recommend boiling a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water then simmering until all water is absorbed. I prefer grains that still have some bite and firm texture. I start with soaking the quinoa overnight to remove any bitter taste from its natural coating of saponin and improve digestion. Soaking grains in an acidic environment can help break done phytates that can interfere with mineral absorption. After a thorough rinse, I prepare the quinoa the way you would boil pasta. This way I can test for doneness to my preference, even after an overnight soak. This works for both red and white quinoa and when combining both.


I reheat leftover quinoa in a fine mesh sieve over simmering water. This maintains the texture of the quinoa and allows for an easier cleanup.


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  1. says

    I’m glad you talked about soaking the quinoa. I never used to do this and now I can’t eat quinoa but when I can eat it again, I will be an avid grain-soaker! Do you know anything about sprouting it? I have read this makes the carbohydrate content lower, but I’m not sure how easy it is to sprout quinoa.

    • lisa says

      I have not done much sprouting but have also read about its benefits. Sprouting grains is part of a growing list of food preparation methods and recipes I want to get to and master. If you get to it before I do please share your tips.

  2. says

    I am the same way…I like it to be toothsome!! Great information…thanks for sharing it with Two for Tuesdays this week =) …I’m gonna try the sprouting soon, too…

  3. Dina says

    can you share the recipe of your quinoa dish int the photo? I usually just reduce the amount of water to about a cup and a half of water toone cup quinoa and have foundthat usually successful, though your approach may be better.

  4. says

    I haven’t thought of cooking quinoa like pasta – that’s a great idea. I usually just reduce the water, but I like the flexibility you gain by cooking it like pasta and being able to cook it to desired doneness. Thanks for sharing this at Two for Tuesdays this week!

  5. says

    Thanks so much for this! I’m in a new – mostly vegetarian phase of life (do to the removal of my stomach) and I keep hearing – you gotta try quinoa! Honestly – I was kind of at a loss. I’m decidedly gonna give it a go! Bless you!

  6. says

    Wow- I’ve always hated quinoa due to my inability to get rid of all the saponins no matter how many times I rinse it! Despite my new interest in soaking, I don’t think it had occurred to me that that would be a good way to get rid of them!

    Also- sprouting is super easy with the right equipment! I know you can just use a jar with a sprouting screen for on the cheap, but I love my Easy Sprout Sprouter. It’s got an inner cup which holds the seeds and has vents in the bottom, and a removable outer cup to hold water in for soaking, and a vented lid for sitting on top, as well as a non vented lid for storing. You soak the grains over night, drain, rinse, drain and let them sit in the vented cup inside the non-vented up for 8-12 hours, rinse and drain again and so on until sprouted the way you want them. Lentils take only 24 hours from start to finish.

  7. lisa says

    Dina- the recipe in the photo is the same that I wrote in the post using the turmeric to get it yellow. For the topping I roasted in a skillet about 1/2 cup chopped pistachios and 1/4 cup chopped mint with about 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil until fragrant and just spread it over the top of the quinoa to serve.

    Dina- let me know what you think of the quinoa.

    WordVixen- thanks for the sprouting info.

    Kris- please share your experience if you end up growing your own.

  8. says

    Soaking the quinoa definitely makes a difference! I used to sprout it and then cook it but it also tasted a bit strange! Will try it your way. Thanks for posting this on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! :) alex

  9. says

    Soaking and then cooking like rice – this I have to try. We were not impressed with quinoa made by the directions – looking forward to trying again! Great post for Two for Tuesday!

  10. says

    This post rocked my world; I’ve always disliked quinoa. But, thanks to you, I gave it another shot, and now I’m a convert! Thank you so much for sharing at Two for Tuesdays. I’ve selected this post as one of my favorites of the week and featured it on “Best of the Blog Hop.”

  11. says

    Can’t wait to try it! Last time I tried quinoa I did soak it, actually it ended up sprouting as I probably soaked it a bit too long. Didn’t know it would sprout so fast though! Anyway, when I cooked it it turned out to be a very undesirable mush. I still have some on hand so I’ll give a third try and see…

  12. says

    Love me some soaked quinoa! How long does it take to cook? Mine takes about an hour. I also use chicken stock in mine to make it more nutrient dense and absorbable!!

  13. lisa says

    Lydia- when I soak it overnight it only takes me about 10-15 minutes to prepare, depending on what texture you like.
    I love making it with chicken stock as well, but use water when I serve the quinoa in a dairy based meal (a kosher rule not to mix meat and dairy dishes in one meal).

  14. says

    Hi Lisa, I also wanted to stop by and tell you that Butter mentioned your cooking method to me so I needed to check it out. I made quinoa for the first time recently and it upset my tummy a little if you know what I mean. Soaked, it does not do this at all! I am going to link to this recipe in my Tex Mex Quinoa Loco recipe going up on the hearth and soul hop 1/24. Thanks so much for giving this great quinoa prep recipe! All the best! Alex

  15. Marcus Cuttino says

    I actually purchased some Bolivian Black Quinoa. Do you cook this kind the same way? Can you cook it in a rice cooker or is it better in the pot?

    • lisa says

      I’ve never used a rice cooker for quinoa (I don’t own a rice cooker) and have never tried the Black quinoa but I’m sure the same technique would work as regular quinoa, maybe the times would change. If you try it let us know how it comes out!

  16. Yamuna says

    Thank you for the nice soaking tips, I’ve been making quinoa for a long time but don’t always soak it, I’m definitely going to give this a try! I don’t think I’ll make it like pasta though… I like to keep as much of the original nutrients intact, finding a good water to quinoa ratio would prevent the loss of vitamins and nutrients which would be left behind in the “pasta water”. Thanks!

  17. Joelle says

    I’ll have to try the ACV trick…did I miss what the purpose was for that??? If you soak your quinoa and let it “minimally sprout”, you can then low heat cook it and turns out a great texture I think. Put the sprouted grains in the pain and just cover it with water, bring to a boil and then immediately cover it and turn it off and let sit till water is absorb. This saves nutrients.


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