How to Cook Quinoa

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I love rice!!! I am Asian and Filipino so, my country men and myself, normally eat rice 3x a day and that is not a joke! We have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention as a snack (think – Bahaw – cold rice) and when you add a little sugar/sweetener (like honey) with it – yes, it becomes dessert. While, I will forever be loyal to both brown and white rice – I have been looking for an alternative to them for variety’s sake. Also, if  you’re not careful with rice – you can honestly gain a lot of pounds – and not so much because of its high carb content but because (based on my experience) anything you eat with rice – especially curry! – you tend to eat more. It’s like sugar – you always crave for more. Because rice is such a wonderful side dish that pretty much can be eaten with any main dish – yes, including noodles (we Filipinos are known to eat spaghetti with rice!) then chances are you’ll eat more.

So, enter Quinoa – now my rice alternative. I will not go into the details of how much of a super-food Quinoa is or even debate whether a quinoa is a grain or a seed – you can google all this and find more information elsewhere. All I know is that I found a healthy option for a side dish (apart from rice and potatoes) which I actually like and enjoy! It’s not as soft as rice but to me it has more of a couscous feel about it and quite nutty too, but when you cook it properly (no more funny taste) it truly absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce or dressing you add to it and that is such a big plus for me. This way it is similar to rice so it’s my perfect rice alternate.

Anyway, here’s how I usually cook my Quinoa. Just like how you cook rice actually – except that I add something to it to make it taste better or at least not have a funny after taste. I learned this through a friend who told me this is how to have a better tasting Quinoa. After she made it, I was sold to Quinoa. Now, I can experiment and add Quinoa to salads or just make it into a simple dish without any further enhancements – just like plain old rice. So next time, I fancy a stew and don’t want to have rice with it – I have my Quinoa to the rescue!

A rice cooker would be so handy for this – it cooks on its own pace and turns off automatically when it’s done so you don’t have to monitor it every minute as it cooks. But if you don’t have one it’s fine, the stove top is always a good place to cook this too!


1 cup Quinoa (Take your pick – white or golden, red, or black or a combo)
2 cups water
Rind/Peel of one orange, chopped or if you want extra citrus flavor – grate the rind of 1 orange and just stir the orange zest in.
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Note: The ratio is 1:2 – 1 cup Quinoa to 2 cups water – just remember this when you want to increase the Quinoa to more than 1 cup. One cup of dried quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked. If you want a crunchier quinoa though – you can decrease the water by half a cup. Like my rice I like my Quinoa soft rather than crunchy but it’s a matter of preference. 🙂


First, rinse the quinoa. This is quite an important process so don’t omit this. I am not saying that the store-bought Quinoa is dirty but it is good to rinse the quinoa well to improve its taste. Rinsing the quinoa helps in removing its natural coating called saponin which gives the quinoa that funny bitter taste!

Place the 1 cup quinoa in a fine sieve or strainer. Using cold running water, rinse it for about 1-2 minutes. Rub the quinoa between your fingers to assist in removing the saponin. Drain really well. Others recommend toasting the quinoa after this on a dry pan to remove all excess water but I find this to be unnecessary based on my experience. As I said, I don’t mind if the Quinoa is a little softer rather than crunchy.

Place the drained quinoa into the rice cooker or a sauce pan (big enough to accomodate about 3 cups  of liquid). Pour the 2 cups of water. Insert the chopped orange rind – they will float, but that’s not a problem or stir in the orange zest. You can season it with a little salt if you wish. No big deal, I actually don’t season it, so it’s fine.

If using a rice cooker – how easy! – Cover then push the cook button and then leave it to cook. It will automatically turn to warm mode when it’s done. 

If using the stove top – first, bring to a rolling boil using medium heat. Once it begins to boil (watch out ’cause you don’t want liquid spilling all over) turn the heat to the lowest setting.  Cover then continue to simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the quinoa is tender approximately 15-18 minutes. A timer would be handy so you don’t forget. Turn off the heat. Remove pan from heat and let it sit covered for about 10 minutes.

Thereafter, remove the orange rind if this is what you used and then fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and serve.

Cooked quinoa is so versatile and can be used as ingredient for salads, even as a porridge or in making pilafs and as a regular side dish, much like white rice because it absorbs the flavor of whatever you put into it! Perfect!

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Last updated on October 1st, 2019 at 03:18 pm



  1. December 12, 2012 / 11:46 pm

    Nice… Guess what? I'm spending time here in the Philippines. My chance to taste the good homestyle food 🙂

    • December 13, 2012 / 1:53 am

      Oh, Lea! I am so jealous! 🙂 Seriously, have a wonderful time and enjoy all the food on my behalf!

  2. December 13, 2012 / 9:32 pm

    Thanks Abby this is useful post, live you we live on rice (white) and recently i have moved to brown rice. Although i have heard a lot about quinoa never tried it, this gives me confidence to cook. 🙂 thanks girl

    • December 15, 2012 / 5:25 pm

      Priya, with your enormous talent in the kitchen this would be a breeze to prepare! Hope you like Quinoa as much as we do. Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. December 17, 2012 / 2:13 am

    Where can i buy quinoa here in Metro Manila?

  4. January 7, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    I, too, love quinoa. One thing I was taught to do is to rub the grains in my hands, while rinsing. This helps to remove the saponin. And it seems to work. I love adding fresh veggies to quinoa. One of my favorite recipes is red peppers stuffed with quinoa and veggies. The recipe is on an old post on my blog…


    • January 14, 2013 / 2:34 am

      What a great idea to rub the quinoa while rinsing. I would try that so I don't need to wash it for a long time though I try to move/shake the quinoa a lot when I am rinsing too. I will check out that post, Jane! Sounds wonderful to make peppers stuffed with quinoa! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. March 13, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    Ok I am trying Quinoa one more time empowered by your how to post! Thanks

    • March 13, 2013 / 1:26 pm

      I love Quinoa and this time I used orange rind because I couldn't find my peeler and worked so well too. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. January 18, 2014 / 7:21 pm

    Where do you buy quinoa in Manila? I know that in the US you can buy it from Trader Joe's but it's not so common in the Philippines. Thanks!

    • January 19, 2014 / 5:03 am

      Am in the US so I don't really know. So sorry.

    • Anonymous
      February 26, 2014 / 2:23 pm

      Try s&r! I Bought a bag last week.

    • Grace
      October 31, 2017 / 10:45 am

      Bought mine from S&R at 999. I saw 2 brands, Kirkland is one of them.

  7. Bee
    April 16, 2018 / 7:52 pm

    Can you substitute lemon for the orange?

    • abigail
      April 16, 2018 / 8:59 pm

      That’s perfectly fine. Enjoy. 🙂

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