Ever wondered how to cook quinoa that’s fluffy and full? We’re breaking down exactly how to make this vegan, gluten-free superfood so that it never comes out undercooked or mushy. If you follow these four steps, you’ll get perfectly quinoa every single time.
Before we get started, there’s one question we’d be remiss not to answer: Is quinoa a grain? Well, no and yes. Quinoa is technically the seed from a group of plants called pseudocereals, but it’s generally categorized among whole grains, and you can often use it as a substitute in dishes that call for rice, farro, and other grains.
Once you master the moves to cook quinoa properly, you can make a big batch of quinoa early in the week and throw it into soups and salads for a protein boost, or start your day with a hearty bowl of quinoa porridge—the grain’s flavor and textural versatility makes it a terrific go-to base for any meal.
In addition to being a complete protein (it contains all nine essential amino acids—take that, rice and polenta), quinoa is also packed with fiber. And did we mention it’s delicious? It offers a unique, nutty flavor and a slightly crunchy texture that we can’t get enough of. Plus, it’s a ton of fun to say: keen-wah. What a great word!
Ahead, you’ll find four simple steps that deliver the perfect quinoa every single time.
1. Rinse or toast the quinoa
Left unrinsed or untoasted, quinoa has a slightly bitter taste thanks to the grain’s saponins (which are a natural chemical produced by the grain to ward off insects). There are two ways to get rid of the bitter taste: rinsing or toasting the quinoa before cooking it.
To rinse quinoa, place your quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under running water for at least 30 seconds, and then drain well.
Alternatively, you can toast the quinoa in a dry skillet on your stovetop with a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Toss the quinoa and keep stirring occasionally until the grains turn a slightly darker shade and emit a nutty smell.
Either method will get rid of the normal, natural bitterness.
2. Combine quinoa and liquid in a saucepan
Now that your quinoa is rinsed or toasted, it’s time to cook it. For 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, you’ll want to use 2 cups of water—this will yield 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the temperature to medium-low and pop the lid on securely.
3. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water
Now you’ll let the quinoa simmer for at least 10 minutes. The cooking time can vary slightly, but it should take 10–20 minutes. When you start with 1 cup of dry quinoa, your quinoa should completely absorb the water in about 15 minutes. A sign that it’s almost ready: The quinoa should get fluffy, and the little tail-like bits (they’re endosperms, by the way) will start to pull away from the seed.
4. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork
Your quinoa should smell nutty and be very easy to fluff with the tines of a fork—if there’s still water at the bottom of the saucepan, give it a little more time on the heat, uncovered. You can use that fluffy, perfectly cooked quinoa immediately in hot dishes or wait for it to cool to toss into veggie-filled salads.
Cooking quinoa isn’t that hard at all—and now that you know how to cook quinoa, here’s a look at some of our favorite recipes where delicious, fluffy quinoa is the star. Note: Cooked quinoa will last up to a week in the fridge, and up to 8 to 12 months in the freezer.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious