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By now, most people know how to pronounce “quinoa,” but cooking it remains tricky for some. Quinoa has reigned as the darling grain (seed, actually) of the natural food world for a while now and it’s still worth the hype. That’s because—when done right—it’s delicious, a complete protein, and faster to cook than takeout can be delivered. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of soggy, bitter quinoa, though, you need to know these five essential guidelines.
5 Tips for Cooking Quinoa
1. Wash it well.
Quinoa naturally has a bitter coating called “saponin”; if you don’t rinse it off, your quinoa will not taste good. Use a fine-mesh strainer so the quinoa doesn’t slip away.
2. Use less water.
The package often dictates a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part grain, which can lead to sogginess. Knock down the water to 1 ¾ cups for every cup of quinoa.
3. Don’t forget salt.
Even just a touch of salt brings out the best in anything, especially grains.
4. Resist the urge to stir.
To steam properly, all grains need the steam holes formed during cooking to be left intact. The most crucial mistake to avoid removing the lid while it’s still cooking.
5. Let it rest.
Something magical happens when you leave the lid on for just 5 minutes after turning off the heat. You’ll be rewarded with light, fluffy, perfectly textured quinoa.
See also 5 Tips for Making Great Beans from Scratch
Fool-Proof, Fluffy Quinoa Recipe
Here’s a basic recipe that you can eat plain as a side, or dress up with vegetables and a vinaigrette to make a lunch-worthy quinoa salad.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 3/4 cups water (or broth)
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Combine quinoa, water, and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and cook until all water is absorbed and steam holes have formed on the surface, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove pot from heat, and without taking off the lid let it stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.