How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is high protein food with a light texture and delicate, sweet flavor. Learn to prepare and serve quinoa with Bruce Tretter’s easy, photo-illustrated directions.


1. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) should always be rinsed and drained before cooking as it grows its own bitter tasting soapy, resin-like outer coating (saponin) to repel insects and birds.

2. Brief history & nutrition facts: Quinoa, the seed of the spinach-related goosefoot plant, has been cultivated in South America since before 3000BC and grows primarily in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. Red quinoa, shown here, grows at 12,000 feet in the Andean plateaus of Bolivia and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor, great texture and is incredibly nutritious. Quinoa is a rich and complete protein source as it contains all 9 essential protein amino acids. It is gluten-free, high in fiber, and easily absorbed by the body. It is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorous, making it particularly noteworthy for people affected by migraine headaches, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. And, although it does have some unsaturated (good) fat, it contains no trans fats, cholesterol or sodium (unless you add salt to cooking like I do—just a dash).

3. If quinoa is new to you, see “What to do with quinoa” at the end of this recipe for some serving ideas. As always, though, imagination is your only limit!

Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes

(for 4 or more people)

1 Cup Quinoa (I’m using red quinoa here, but this recipe applies to any quinoa variety)
Dash of Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter or Margarine (optional)
Measuring Cup
Fine Meshed Strainer
Medium (3-4 quart) Pot with Top
Table Knife

1. Measure 1 cup (8 ounces) of quinoa and pour the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer.

Rinse with cold tap water while running your fingers through the quinoa seeds. If your quinoa has a sudsy froth to it as you rinse it, keep rinsing until that froth, which has a bitter taste, is washed away. Then pour the rinsed quinoa into a medium sized pot.

2. Measure and add 2 cups (16 ounces) of cold water to the quinoa in the pot.

3. Put the pot on the stove, turn on the burner heat to HIGH, and add a dash of salt and about 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine.

4. Cook until the water comes to a rapid boil. Then turn the burner heat down to LOW or SIMMER,…

…cover the pot with the top and set a timer for 15 minutes.

5. When the timer sounds, check the cooked quinoa for doneness by tipping the pot and checking to make sure that all the water has been absorbed as shown here. If, however,…

…all the water is not absorbed, like it’s not in the picture on the left below, keep cooking the quinoa over low heat with the pot half covered so that steam can escape as shown in the picture on the right for another 5-10 minutes. Then check again for doneness until
what you see looks like the picture of the cooked quinoa above.

6. When the quinoa is done, stir and fluff it with a spoon or fork and serve.

What to do with quinoa

Quinoa works great as a flavorful and highly nutritious substitute for pasta, rice or any other grain. It even works well in place of or along with morning cereal. Here are three suggestions. As mentioned at the beginning of this recipe, your imagination is your only limit.

Have another helping of Food on The Good Life.

Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter

About Bruce Tretter

Bruce Tretter helps people feel comfortable making practical, flavorful and quick & easy meals for themselves---even if they’ve never boiled water---through Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook step-by-step picture book and short video directions. He’s a father of 3, Former Naval Intelligence Officer, current school board member, and avid cyclist.


  1. Even for Quinoa-lovers like me, I still learned something! Thank you, Bruce! I have always been lax in pre-cook rinsing… now I armed with factoids that will keep me from being lazy with it. I enjoy substituting the water, for chicken or vegetable stock instead. It gives the Quinoa a more savory flavor that makes it a great “bed” for a dinner entree of fish. Lookong forward to seeing more of this series!

    • Yah, right on, Trevor! With you entirely about substituting water with chicken or vegetable stock, though I’ve tended to go with lightly salted water so that I can have the quinoa with cereal for breakfast or in a pancake. Hey, I’ll get some recipes together to show how that goes. All fun and very much appreciate your comment! Bruce

  2. dont anything to add, apart from i always love reading yr recipes

    • Me, too, Jameseq. Bruce always tells me he’s about to go cycling, as he sends me these recipes. That he’s a single dad and extremely active is part of the character of his food (the man can make a salad that eats like a meal, for one thing, and I know his food is kid-tested), but that’s only part of it. He’s very creative as well as patient and thorough (I used to be a technical writer, so I admire good documentation.) His food isn’t just one impressive confection after another, without regard for nutrition; it’s food you could actually nourish yourself and growing children on. Hardly anyone does what Bruce does. I’m glad he’s part of the “flavor” of The Good Life.


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