Read on for the straight answer on whether or not to rinse quinoa.
I’ll cut to the chase: Nothing happens if you don’t rinse uncooked quinoa. Yes, I know. Step one of most quinoa recipes is to rinse and drain the grains. And for many years, I did just that. I dumped the uncooked grains in a fine-mesh strainer set in my sink, ran cold tap water over the grains for about a minute, shook the grains in the strainer to remove as much water as possible, then scraped the damp grains into a saucepan.
All that changed one day when I was in a hurry. I skipped the rinse cycle, combined the quinoa with some water in a saucepan, and hoped for the best. And it was totally fine. I didn’t notice a difference at all, and since then I’ve never gone back to rinsing.
So why did we all spend time washing quinoa in the first place? The grains are coated with a natural compound called saponins, which can taste soapy or bitter—which is their purpose. Saponins prevent animals, birds, and other creatures from eating quinoa in the wild. Some people are particularly sensitive to saponins, which is why unrinsed cooked quinoa has a reputation for tasting bitter.
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However, most quinoa that is sold in packages has been “pre-rinsed,” which means the saponins have been removed and rinsing isn’t necessary. Check the packaging, and save yourself from this annoying kitchen task. Boil-in-bag quinoa, which is now available at many supermarkets, is another convenient option that does not require rinsing.
If you buy quinoa from the bulk bin section of your supermarket, you might want to rinse it to be safe, especially if you have found quinoa to have a bitter flavor in the past. If this has not been an issue for you, I would skip this step altogether and cook the quinoa as directed. Don’t you love it when you have one less thing to do?