When I first started cooking quinoa the results were disappointing to say the least. Even though I followed the instructions on the package I would end up with mushy unappetizing quinoa. I craved fluffy quinoa that would hold its shape when tossed into salads. So I embarked on a journey that led me back to my Puerto Rican roots.
You see, I grew up in a household where perfectly grainy rice was the sign of a good cook. Mushy rice was a no-no and had to be tossed out and prepared from scratch all over again. So I wondered if cooking quinoa using my technique for making rice would make a difference. It worked like a charm.
What is quinoa?
Despite what most people think, quinoa is not a grain but a grain-like seed. Who knew? Originally from South America this nutty-flavoured treat is undeniably healthy – a single cup contains over 8 grams of protein, 3 grams more than brown rice.
What does quinoa taste like?
Quinoa has a subtle hint of nutty earthiness not unlike the flavour of brown rice. Its flavour is mild though, making it the perfect foil for the flavours of any dressing or other ingredients you want to combine with it or serve alongside it.
Does quinoa need to be rinsed?
Quinoa is coated in naturally occurring insecticides than can alter the taste, making it bitter, and make the quinoa difficult to digest. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking it. Most packaged quinoa has been pre-rinsed so be sure to check the packaging.
How to cook quinoa perfectly
There are two main reasons why my technique works. First, I use a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of liquid per every cup of quinoa. Second, I toast the seeds (yes, quinoa is officially a seed, not a grain) in the pan before adding the liquid.
Oh, and there is another thing: I use vegetable or chicken broth instead of water. This last trick doesn't affect texture but it does improve flavour.
Here's how to cook quinoa perfectly every time:
Measure desired amount of quinoa and put it in a sieve. Run it under cold water and drain well.
Heat a bit of oil (about a tablespoon per cup of quinoa) in a stainless steel pot or skillet. Use medium-high heat.
At this point you may sauté onions and garlic as a base, if desired. Toss the drained quinoa in the pot and stir to coat in the oil. Keep stirring so it won't burn. The idea here is to toast the quinoa and remove excess water.
When the quinoa looks dry and the water has evaporated go ahead and add the cooking liquid. For every cup of quinoa you'll need 1 1/2 cups of broth or water.
Cooked uncovered over medium heat until all of the liquid is absorbed into the quinoa. There should not be any liquid bubbling on the side of the pan. This is a crucial step.
Stir the quinoa well, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan well. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and put a lid on the pot. Cook for 20 minutes.
After the cooking time has elapsed turn off the heat but keep the lid on the quinoa. Let it rest a good 10 minutes then uncover and fluff with a fork.
We hope you give this technique a try and let us know how it worked for you. After you have mastered how to cook quinoa perfectly put your new found skills to good use with these delectable quinoa recipes.