Quinoa has become a staple in many kitchens across the country over the past decade as a fluffy fill-in for starches like pasta and rice. It’s naturally gluten-free and full of protein and fiber, and thanks to it’s relatively recent rise in global popularity, this seed is available in just about every grocery store, in multiple different varieties from white to red, black to colorful blends of all three. No matter which type of quinoa is your favourite, the cooking methods and flavor profiles stay the same.
With a subtly sweet, nutty flavor and soft texture, quinoa makes a great base for all types of flavors and dishes, from quick-to-prep lunches to simple sides to accompany saucy curries or stews.
Here’s how to bring out the best attributes from your quinoa and avoid the worst gummy, mushy, or bitter so you can enjoy this satisfying “grain” in all its glory.
On Rinsing Quinoa
If you’ve ever cooked quinoa before, you probably followed a recipe where the first step was to rinse the quinoa. If you followed the directions, you were probably happy with the outcome, but might have questioned the purpose of that rinse. If you decided to go off the beaten path and leave your quinoa un-rinsed, you undoubtedly noticed a bitter flavor in your cooked quinoa, and have probably never cooked it again since.
The bitterness present in cooked, un-rinsed quinoa is thanks to something called that’s found in the husk of the seeds. While the husk is typically removed in any quinoa you would buy from the grocery store, remnants of this bitter-flavored compound are still on the seeds. To prevent any of that unpleasant bitterness from making its way onto your plate, simply transfer your quinoa to a very fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold, running water, swirling with your hands, until the water running through the quinoa is clear.
How Much Quinoa to Make
Since the seeds are so tiny, you might take one look at 1 cup of quinoa and think that there’s no way it would be enough to serve one person, let alone two. However, quinoa just about triples in size as it cooks, so don’t be fooled. Here’s a simple rule of thumb with dry vs. cooked quinoa yields and serving sizes:
1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 1 serving
1/4 cup dry quinoa = 3/4 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup dry quinoa = 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (3 servings)
1 cup dry quinoa = 3 cups cooked quinoa (6 servings)
How to Make Fluffy, Perfect Quinoa
1 cup quinoa (any variety, rinsed and drained)
1 3/4 cups water (or vegetable or chicken broth)
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Other aromatics such as smashed garlic cloves, thyme, or rosemary, if desired
Add the quinoa and water to a small pot with a lid. If you have a rice cooker, you can also let it do the work for you: add the quinoa and water, cover, and let it go. Another option here is to add the quinoa to the pot over medium heat and, stirring often, toast the seeds for about 5 minutes to enhance the natural nutty flavors. Then, add the water and continue cooking as directed below.
Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover, turn the heat down to medium and let cook approx. 15 min., or until the kernels have popped open and all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping the pot covered, and let rest another 5 minutes.