Making Fluffy Quinoa

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quinoa, fluffy quinoa You’d think that as a somewhat seasoned home cook, that I would have mastered most of the basic cooking techniques.  Like frying foods without seriously injuring myself for example (you should see the burn I have on my arm lately!).  I just can’t seem to get it down, it just doesn’t work out right!  Luckily, I don’t fry foods all that often (only during squash blossom season!) and thus my hands are arms are generally safe.  However, I do make tons of quinoa – like every week.  And it was driving me INSANE that I couldn’t figure out how to get nice fluffy quinoa.  I always end up with dense, sticky and somewhat mushy little grains.

howtoquinoa1 The last time I made “mush-mush” quinoa I was making a dish to bring to a potlock.  I was so annoyed when it came out in dense little clumps.  Not exactly the impressive dish I was going for.  I knew I needed to figure out whatever secret tricks I could to stop the continued onslaught of mushy quinoa.

howtoquinoa2 After a good amount of research (and a few more sticky bowls of quinoa) and I figured out a good combination of tricks to make super fluffy and light quinoa.  Mushy quinoa!  Not anymore!  Here are my “secret” tips:

  1. Rinse the quinoa.  Before you cook the quinoa, give it a good rinse in a fine mesh strainer or sieve.  It removes a compound called saponin that tastes really bitter AND can promote stickiness or mushiness.  
  2. Toast the quinoa until dry.  I’m not 100% sure why this helps, but it really does.  In your sauce pan heated over medium high add your rinsed quinoa.  Toast gently and allow the grains to dry and begin to separate (see above picture).
  3. Use less water.  Most quinoa packages and recipes will call for 2:1 water to quinoa.  So if you want to use 1 cup dry quinoa, it suggests to use 2 cups water.  I find that if you use slightly less water (for example 1 3/4 c instead of 2 c) the quinoa stays light and doesn’t become as water logged and dense.  See picture above.
  4. Allow quinoa to sit untouched.  After you’ve cooked your quinoa (usually about 10-12 mins), remove it from the heat – lid still on – and allow to sit for 5-7 mins.  This allows the quinoa to absorb every last bit of liquid in the pot and continue cooking slightly (which is necessary due to using less water in the recipe).
  5. Use a fork.  I was stuck on stirring my quinoa with a spoon.  This only encouraged it to stick together in little clumps.  But using a fork to fluff the quinoa after it’s set the 5-7 mins makes a world of difference!


Simple tips, but amazing results!  I promise if you try those easy steps, you’ll get the most perfect fluffy and light quinoa you’ve ever had.  You’ll never go back to the old way!  And just for fun, I’ve included one of my all time favorite quinoa dishes – my summer herb quinoa.  LIght, refreshing and FLUFFY!

Summer Herb Quinoa:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 3/4 c vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup each:  mint, basil and parsley


  1. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add rinsed quinoa and toast, stirring often, for about 5-7 mins or until quinoa grains are mostly dried and separated.
  2. Increase heat to high and add vegetable stock, salt, pepper and lemon zest.  Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium and cover.  Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the little white pieces of the quinoa are visible are just beginning to separate from the grains.
  3. Remove quinoa from heat, keep covered, and all to sit for another 5 mins or so.  Then remove lid and then add in the herbs while fluffing gently with a fork.  Serve warm.


  1. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies

    July 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Quinoa is so hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes it’s perfect, sometimes it’s a soggy disaster. I need to start using this method!

    • mewinebrenner

      July 18, 2013 at 8:08 am

      There is nothing worse than soggy quinoa! I hope these tricks work for you too!

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