Quinoa may be hard to pronounce, but it's simple to make. This versatile whole grain is packed with protein for long-lasting energy. Plus, its hearty, nutty taste will add a flavorful twist to your favorite dishes.

By Jessie Oleson Moore of Craftsy.com
May 26, 2015
Credit: Andy Lyons

Once you've figured out that it's pronounced KEEN-wah, your next questions are probably "How do I cook it?" and "Why should I?"

Let's tackle the "why" first. Quinoa is a whole grain (well, actually a seed) with serious substance. It contains all eight essential amino acids, which means it's a complete protein. In more digestible language? That means it will fill you up and give you lasting energy. Plus, it's incredibly versatile flavor-wise, making it a kitchen staple that will boost both the deliciousness and healthfulness of your family's meals.

Though the pronunciation isn't intuitive, preparing this healthy and gluten-free grain is simple, whether it's on the stovetop or in the microwave. Both methods yield a fluffy, delicately nutty-flavored side dish.

First Things First

It might sound fussy, but unless the package indicates that the quinoa was pre-rinsed, give it a quick wash. Why? Quinoa contains something called saponin. Saponins are naturally occurring chemical compounds present in a number of specimens of plant and sea life. Among other things, they act as a natural repellent, and though that's good for keeping away bugs and animals when the grain grows, the saponin can impart a bitter taste to cooked quinoa.

How to Cook Quinoa

Makes 4 cups

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch salt

Step 1:

If your quinoa isn't pre-rinsed, place the quinoa in a mesh strainer. Run under cold water and stir once or twice. This will clean the quinoa of any possible impurities and the bitter taste of saponin.

Step 2:

Place the quinoa, 2 cups water, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low (the boiling will reduce to a simmer).

Step 3:

Cover and let simmer until the water has been absorbed by the grains, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid (you may want to use an oven mitt, as steam will rise when you lift it) and let the quinoa rest in the pan for 5 minutes (this should absorb any remaining liquid).

Fluff with a fork and be amazed by how full it suddenly becomes.

For a twist, instead of water, cook the quinoa in vegetable, beef, or chicken broth for a full, rich flavor.

In the Microwave

Follow Step 1 for cleaning the quinoa. Place the quinoa, water, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, and then microwave at 2-minute intervals until most of the water has been absorbed. (Depending on your microwave, this may be 1 or 2 intervals.) Once most of the water has been absorbed, let the quinoa sit for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

To store cooked quinoa, let it cool to room temperature. Place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Creative Ways With Quinoa

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.