How To Cook Quinoa

Form the base of soups, grain bowls, salads, and more.

Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa in a bowl to serve with a serving spoon

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

A part of the amaranth family, quinoa is a plant rich in protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, and dietary minerals, much more so than many other grains. Technically though, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), isn’t actually a grain. It is a seed classified as a supergrain.

Quinoa is most commonly found in Bolivia and Peru, but it’s become popular in many places around the world. Quinoa’s popularity has to do with its high nutritional content, health benefits, and versatility in dishes.

Cooking quinoa it isn’t hard—in fact, it's one of the fastest cooking grains you can make on a weeknight. But for a perfectly cooked batch of quinoa every time, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Here, learn how to cook perfect quinoa every time.

How To Cook Fluffy Quinoa

Quinoa is an easy grain to cook, and it's relatively fast—a batch will be ready in less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Plus, you can customize how it's cooked to match what you intend to make with it.

Here, learn what gear and ingredients you'll need to make fluffy, delicious quinoa every time.

Ingredients for Cooking Quinoa

To make quinoa, you will need:

  • Water or stock
  • Quinoa
  • Olive, canola, or coconut oil
  • Salt
Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Step 1: First, rinse and drain the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve. Quinoa can have a compound called saponin on the outer shell, and it may make the cooked quinoa extremely bitter if it's not rinsed before cooking.

Most boxed and bagged quinoas are pre-rinsed (the package will likely say it if so), but if you aren't sure, a quick rinse will do no harm.

Step 2: Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high. Add the quinoa and toast for about a minute or two. Stir frequently so you don't accidentally burn any of the quinoa.

Step 3: Add the liquid and salt to the pan, bring everything to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low.

Step 4: Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.

Step 5: After 15 minutes, turn the heat off, but leave the cover on, and don’t check on it for another 5 minutes. At this point, you should have fluffy quinoa ready to lend itself to any number of dishes. You can use a fork to fluff it up and separate the seeds.

What Is the Ratio of Water to Quinoa?

The ratio of water to quinoa is 2 to 1. For example, for one cup of quinoa, you will need 2 cups liquid.

The Correct Ratio of Water to Quinoa
Water Quinoa Total
2/3 cup 1/3 cup 1 cup
1 1/3 cup  2/3 cup  2 cups
2 cups  1 cup  3 cups

Can You Only Use Water?

No, the liquid you use to cook quinoa doesn’t have to be water. In fact, you can easily add depth of flavor by replacing the water with chicken or vegetable stock.

About a half a teaspoon of salt should be added to whichever liquid you choose, and you can also get creative by adding other spices or aromatics to the pot.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Quinoa?

From start to finish, it takes about 25 minutes to cook quinoa, if you factor in the toasting step and the heating of the oil for the toasting part.

If your quinoa does not appear light and fluffy by the time you go to fluff with a fork—after the 15 minutes of cooking time and 5 minutes of covered rest—cook on low for another 5 minutes, until there’s no sign of crunch left and/or all the water has been absorbed by the seeds.


  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 1 tsp. olive, canola, or coconut oil

  • 2 cups stock or water

  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  1. Rinse quinoa:

    Rinse and drain the quinoa using a fine mesh sieve.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa rinsing the quinoa

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  2. Toast quinoa:

    Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa heating the oil in a saucepan

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Add the quinoa and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring often.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa toasting the quinoa in the oil

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  3. Boil quinoa:

    Stir in water and salt.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa adding the water

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa bringing to a boil before covering

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Cover and let cook 15 minutes.

  4. Let quinoa rest:

    Turn off the heat and let sit, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Uncover and serve.

    Southern Living How to Cook Quinoa cooked quinoa ready to serve

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much quinoa should you cook to get one cup of cooked quinoa?

    For one cup of cooked quinoa, you'll want to boil 1/3 cup quinoa in 2/3 cup water or stock.

  • Do you have to rinse quinoa before cooking it?

    If you're cooking boxed quinoa, you can probably skip rinsing it before cooking, but if you have purchased quinoa from a bulk foods aisle or health food store, it’s a good idea to give it a rinse to remove the natural coating called saponin, as this can lead to bitter or soapy quinoa. Just be sure to use a fine-mesh strainer as the quinoa seeds are very tiny and will pass through most traditional colanders. 

  • Do you stir quinoa while it's cooking?

    No, while quinoa is boiling, you should leave it to cook without stirring. The only time you stir quinoa is when it's toasting in the oil before boiling. This will help evenly toast the grains.

  • How long does it take for quinoa to cook?

    Quinoa boils to tender in about 15 minutes. But with the added step of toasting the quinoa (which you can skip if you want), you'll have a whole pan of quinoa finished in about 25 minutes total.

  • Should you boil the water before adding quinoa?

    No, you can combine cold water and quinoa and let it come to a boil. When it does reach a boil, turn the heat down to low, and let the quinoa simmer while it absorbs the water or stock.

Related Articles