Cooking Quinoa

Hot Liquid Cooking Techniques for Grain | Cooking Quinoa

The three basic techniques for cooking quinoa with hot liquid are boiling, absorption, and steaming, which are perhaps the most popular methods for cooking most whole grains. Often a combination of these methods is used to cook grain depending on the type of grain, the particular recipe, or the desired effect. Some grains benefit from soaking before they are cooked because cooking with hot liquid alone may not produce the optimum results.

Hot Liquid Cooking Techniques for Grain


Boiling is one of the easiest methods for cooking grain. The grain is cooked uncovered in a large quantity of water. The grain and water are then dumped into a colander and drained for several minutes to remove the excess moisture. This method is often the best when there is some doubt as to the correct quantity of water that can be absorbed by the grain.


Cooking grain with the absorption method is, perhaps, the method that most people are accustomed to when cooking many types of grain, but it is often the most difficult. This technique requires that the grain be cooked in a specific quantity of liquid, which can be readily absorbed by the grain. The absorption method may require some trial and error, but it is most often successful when slight adjustments are made to recipes based on variables that may affect the success of the absorption cooking method, such as the accuracy of the heat source, the altitude, and age and quality of the grain.


Steaming is the third method for cooking grain and although it is the most time consuming, it produces beautifully cooked grain. The grain slowly absorbs moisture and cooks very evenly.

Steaming alone usually is not adequate for cooking many types of grain, so it is often used in conjunction with other cooking methods and techniques. Some grains are boiled briefly before they are steamed while others may simply require soaking in cold water for a period of time to tenderize the grains prior to steaming.

Cooking Quinoa

When cooked in water, quinoa seeds increase in size significantly, swelling three or fourfold. The cooked seeds become tender with a springy texture. The seeds can also be toasted before being cooked in water, which results in a pleasant nutty, roasted flavor. Uncooked seeds have a crunchy texture and a flavor that may range from mild to slightly bitter.

Quinoa will not overpower other ingredients, as it complements rice, couscous, beans, stews, and other similar dishes. It can be boiled and steamed using the same techniques as cooking rice, and it requires only about half the time to cook.

Preparing Quinoa as a Side Dish or Hot Cereal

Bring two cups of water or stock (vegetable or chicken stock work well) to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
Add one cup of rinsed quinoa to the boiling liquid.
Return to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for fifteen to eighteen minutes.
Check the quinoa to make sure the water is absorbed into the grain (it may require draining). Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, covered, for two to three minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork prior to serving. Add salt and black pepper to taste when serving as a side dish. This recipe yields about three one-cup servings.
Additional ingredients and seasonings can be added to the quinoa to enhance the flavor, such as chopped nuts, minced garlic, chopped onions, fresh herbs, and various spice combinations. Milk can be used as the cooking liquid to create a creamy hot cereal for breakfast.

Using Quinoa as an Ingredient for Soup

Quinoa is an excellent addition to a variety of soups. It acts as a thickener, adds flavor, and provides so much nutritional value that even a simple soup made with quinoa can be the basis for a complete meal.

Quinoa and Chicken Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • ½ cup chopped carrots

  • ½ cup chopped celery

  • ½ cup chopped onions or scallions

  • 2 cups water

  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • ½ cup rinsed quinoa

  • 2 cups cooked and diced chicken

  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon salt


In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add ½ cup chopped carrots, ½ cup chopped celery, and ½ cup chopped onions or scallions to the heated oil and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables just start to brown.
Stir in 2 cups of water and 3 cups of chicken stock or broth and bring to a boil.
Stir in ½ cup of rinsed quinoa, 2 cups of cooked and diced chicken, ¼ cup finely chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve. This recipe yields about 8 one-cup servings.

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