Cooking Basics: How to Prepare Quinoa

From hipsters to Hollywood celebrities, we’ve all heard about the current hot superfood; quinoa. I love recommending this little powerhouse to my clients. It is a complete protein, has high levels of potassium, which help control blood pressure, contains beauty boosting Vitamin E, is rich in essential B Vitamins, and is gluten free. It also cooks very quickly, if you’ve got time to think about what to eat, check all your cabinets for food, then Google delivery restaurant options nearby… you’ve got time for quinoa. One of my current clients had a bad experience with her first time eating quinoa, and I’ve found that’s often the case when it is not properly prepared. Since I’ll be posting more recipes that involve quinoa in the future, I think it’s helpful to start with the basics. 

You may notice that sometimes when you place quinoa in water there are little soap bubbles, this is a result of the saponins on the outside of the seed, which make it have a bitter flavor. Since quinoa is a seed, soaking it for a few hours can help reduce the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in quinoa’s outer layer. We want those plentiful vitamins and nutrients to be absorbable! If you don’t have time to soak, make sure to at least wash your quinoa very thoroughly. Washing quinoa also reduces the saponins, making it taste less bitter. Always wash your quinoa, unless it’s labeled as pre-rinsed!

A secret to preparing flavorful Quinoa is toasting it in a little oil before you add water to your cooking pot. You can use any healthy cold-pressed oil you like; I tend to use olive oil, but if I want a creamier flavor and haven’t hit my saturated fat max for the day, I use a bit of coconut oil. Remember to cook all grains in filtered water, since they absorb the water in which they are cooked.

Quinoa by the Numbers

Washing Quinoa:

  1. Place in a bowl
  2. Fill bowl with clean filtered water
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon
  4. Strain with a fine mesh strainer
  5. Repeat at least a couple times

Soaking Quinoa:

  1. After washing, place quinoa in bowl, cover with water, add lemon juice
  2. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours, can also soak overnight, or while at work
  3. Strain and rinse 

Cooking Quinoa:

  1. Add 1 tbsp. oil (olive or coconut work) into a sauce pan, bring to medium heat
  2. Add in cleaned quinoa and toast for about a minute
  3. Add in filtered water according to cooking ratio: 1 Cup Dry Quinoa to 2 Cups Water
  4. Bring to a boil add pinch of salt, then simmer about 12-15 minutes
  5. Quinoa is done once you can see a bit of the germ ring, fluff with fork, cover for 5 minutes with no heat 

You can serve quinoa hot or cold, on its own as a side dish, or toss it with veggies for a complete meal. It is a great substitute for couscous, and makes a fine pilaf. Once you’ve got the basics of prep covered, you can start experimenting with different spices and flavors. Let me know what you try! Enjoy!


“Whole Grains 101: Quinoa – March Grain of the Month.” Whole Grains Council. (n/d) Retrieved from

 Beaty, D. “The Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds”. Food Matters. (n/d) Retrieved from  

Grafton, Elenora. “Cooking Whole Grains.” MUIH (n/d) Retrieved from internal course website.