My husband has been teaching me to unlearn things. For example, he always thought that butter was required when eating corn on the cob. Then one day he tried the corn au natural, in the buff, naked as a jaybird. And to his utter surprise and delight, he LOVED it. The flavor of the corn was allowed to shine in all its sweet, carbalicious glory. So what the heck does this have to do with how to cook perfect quinoa, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s time to unlearn.
For the longest time I cooked quinoa like this: Boil two cups of water. Add 1 cup of quinoa. Cook for 15 minutes. The end. And every time I got mushy quinoa and just thought that was how it was. And then I saw a recipe that called for much less water. Like, a lot less. Almost half as much. And I was intrigued. Friends, I’m here to tell you that we have been cooking quinoa with TOO MUCH WATER. But it’s ok, we’re going to do it right from this point forward and we’re not going to look back at our overcooked quinoa memories with regret. Ok? Ok.
So, we know that 2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa is too much – but what, pray tell, is the perfect amount? It is 1.25 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa.
I KNOW. You don’t believe me. It’s ok. I didn’t believe it either until I tried it. And tried it again. And then another time. And a few times after that. Friends, this works. And if I’ve done my job, you’ll never cook quinoa the same way again. And then you’ll look at recipes that call for a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio and smile with smug satisfaction that you know a better way. Wait, don’t do that. Nobody likes a food snob. (hangs head in shame)
Ok, so now that we know how much water to use, it’s time to cook perfect quinoa! Here’s a basic method to cook 2 cups of dried quinoa, which will end up making about 4 cups once cooked.
In a 2-quart pan or larger (4-quart would be ideal), bring 2.5 cups of water to boil. Add the 2 cups of quinoa and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know the quinoa is done when there is no water remaining in the pan and the little tell-tale curlicue tail comes out of the quinoa seed. I just love that part.
When the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and leave the lid off to let the residual steam escape. This will help ensure that the quinoa keeps its light texture. That’s it! Simple, huh?
There is one caveat to this new water ratio thing – it doesn’t apply if you’re cooking quinoa as part of a casserole where the quinoa cooks as the casserole bakes. In that case, don’t reduce the liquid called for in the recipe, or else you will probably end up with a dry casserole and crunchy quinoa. No good. By the way, if you’re looking for a recipe like this, check out Broccoli Quinoa Casserole. It’s a good one.
One final tip – cooked quinoa freezes really well, so cook up a big batch and freeze extra for those nights when you could use an extra 15 minutes in your life. I like to put 2-4 cups of quinoa in a freezer zip-top bag, push out the excess air, and lay the bag flat in the freezer. It defrosts really quickly in the microwave, and then it’s ready for whatever culinary adventures await you.
So I ask you, what will you unlearn today? Tell me in the comments!
- 2½ cups water
- 2 cups quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve
- In a 2-quart pan or larger, bring the water to a boil.
- Add the quinoa, stir, and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
- Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
- Fluff the quinoa with a fork and leave the lid off the pan to allow any residual steam to escape.