Cooking quinoa for the first time

A lot can be said of the nutritional properties of quinoa, but faced with a new ingredient never seen before, I baulk a little, unsure of how to treat it with due respect. A little research online and a dash of sucking-it-up is always a brilliant cure for it.

Quinoa is a seed that resembles millet (yah, those seeds pet birds are often fed) and originates from South America. Many organic grocery stores sell them today and I bought mine at a local store for about AUD$22 per kg. Often you will find three varieties: black, red and white quinoa.

When cooked, the outer germ circlet falls from the seed, forming a little white spiral tail, which is attached to the kernel. This circlet remains crunchy while the kernel is soft, delicate and pearly translucent. When describing this to some friends over lunch, they latched onto the idea of a grain with a tail and somehow ‘sperm grain’ is now the household catchphrase for quinoa.

Served alongside a chicken and bean satay stirfry

Most people say to treat quinoa like couscous, but unlike the African grain that has a 1:1 ratio to liquid, the quinoa to liquid ratio might differ depending on the variety you’ve purchased.

White quinoa is a 1 part grain (eg. 1 cup) to 1 part (eg. 1 cup) liquid ratio.
Red quinoa is a 1 part grain (eg. 1 cup) to 1.25 part (eg. 1 1/4cup) liquid ratio.
Black quinoa is a 1 part grain (eg. 1 cup) to 1.30 part (eg. 1 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp) liquid ratio.

Cooking quinoa is as quick as couscous, so it will be a new permanent addition to our pantry to tackle those long busy work days.


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup liquid (stock or water. Adjust this liquid ratio according to the variety of quinoa)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Couple of drops of olive oil


  1. Place quinoa in a strainer or cheese cloth. Pick away any impurities. Then rinse throughly in running water to remove bitter-tasting sasponins (natural coating in quinoa).
  2. Soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse again and place into a pot with water/stock, salt and oil to boil for 30 seconds.
  4. Cover and reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  5. Turn off the heat, fluff up, cover, and let sit for another 5 minutes to finish cooking.
  6. Serve warm with just about anything or allow to cool to mix in as a fresh salad.