How to CookGrains

How to Make Fluffy Quinoa

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: No one likes soggy quinoa. Here's how to fluff up your favorite starchy seeds.

Quinoa is the indisputable wunderkind of the grainy food world, so much so that the UN General Assembly declared 2013 the "International Year of Quinoa." Which other seeds (or grains, or starches, or grainy starchy seeds) can claim such lofty diplomatic status?   

But even though you know that eating quinoa should be a positive, enlightening experience -- like eating clouds (but with a bit more crunch) -- have you ever paused and secretly, shamefully thought to yourself, "Boy, this is overrated"? When quinoa’s good, it’s good, but when it’s bad -- soggy and water-logged -- it’s really bad. Shoveling through a bowl mushy quinoa can feel like digging through a bucket of wet sand.

Food52er SKK brought Martha Rose Shulman’s method to our attention, and it yielded quinoa so wonderfully aerated that it’s a pleasure to run our forks (and our fingers) through it. Here's how to make your quinoa perfectly fluffy, every time:

Prepare the quinoa.
Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover it with cool water. Let it soak for 5 minutes or so, then use a fine mesh sieve to rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear. (Some people claim that soaking the quinoa improves its texture, helps to break down the harder shell of the individual seeds, and, like rinsing, removes the bitter saponin resin. Other people don’t soak or rinse their quinoa at all.) 

Place a pan over medium-high heat and add the quinoa. Toast the quinoa, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and is slightly darker in color. 

If you’re starting with wet quinoa, this will be a slower process, as you’ll have to allow time for any excess water to evaporate and for the quinoa to dry; it might take up to 10 or 15 minutes. Toasting is optional, but it will make your quinoa more flavorful. 

Watch your water ratio.
When the quinoa is toasted, add your cooking liquid, be it water or stock. (If you don’t have the time to toast the quinoa, simply add the dry or rinsed quinoa to the pot with the liquid and bring it all to a boil).

Here’s a critical step: While package instructions might suggest that you use 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of quinoa, our community members have found that using 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of liquid for every cup of quinoa yields better results. (Note that pre-soaked quinoa might require less water.)

Add the liquid, bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. When the quinoa is finished, you’ll see that the seed is translucent and the germ is a thin white circle around it.

The quinoa should still have some bite to it. If there’s water left in the pot when the quinoa is finished cooking, you can drain the quinoa or, leaving the heat on, uncover the pot and let the last bits of water boil off.

Give it time to rest: 
Return the quinoa to the pan and lay a clean dish towel close to the surface of the grains, then replace the lid on the pot and allow the quinoa to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The lid will trap the heat and the dishtowel will absorb excess moisture.

Uncover the quinoa and fluff it with a fork so that all of the grains can breathe some fresh air. 

What are your tricks for cooking quinoa? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom 

Tags: Quinoa, Seed, Weeknight Cooking, Tips & Techniques, DIY Food, Everyday Cooking, How-To & Diy