Waldorf Quinoa Salad {recipe} and How to Cook Quinoa

Waldorf Quinoa
The first time I ever thought about cooking with quinoa, I had absolutely no idea how to approach it. Do you cook it in a lot of water, like pasta then drain it? Do you cook it with just enough water like rice? Can you cook quinoa in any of the same ways you might cook oatmeal and let it just soak overnight? What about cooking it the microwave?!

Turns out, it’s yes, yes, and yes! Basically, you can cook quinoa however you’d like.

The microwave part though, we’ve already tried with oatmeal and don’t really need to do it again.

Besides, we don’t own a microwave oven anymore.

Before cooking quinoa with any method, rinse it. We put the quinoa in a large bowl or pot, add just enough water to cover the quinoa to cover by an inch, then not just swirl, but get our hands in there and rub the grains together. Drain through a fine mesh strainer, dump back into bowl or pot, and repeat. We do this several times until the rinse water is essentially clear.

Cooking Quinoa on the Stovetop – The “Rice” Method

It seems that the most common way to cook quinoa is on the stovetop, like rice, with just enough liquid for the quinoa to soak up during the cooking time. The quinoa-to-liquid ratio hovers around 1:2 (1 cup uncooked quinoa in 2 cups liquid), with slight variation depending on the type of quinoa and personal preference for the final texture. We generally like softer quinoa so use the 1:2 ratio, and when we want a sturdier, “crunchier” texture, we just use a different quinoa, black or red.

For every 1 cup uncooked quinoa, add 2 cups cooking liquid (usually, we just use water, though using a stock will add some flavor to the cooked quinoa). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to low and simmer uncovered until the liquid is gone and the quinoa is translucent and the small white “sprout” is visible, about 15 minutes. The first few times you cook quinoa, watch the pot carefully, stir occasionally, and remember exactly how long it takes for your stove.

Cooking Quinoa on the Stovetop – The “Drain” Method

What we are calling the “drain” method is the way we cook pasta — cook quinoa in a lot of liquid, then drain off the excess water.

For every 1 cup of quinoa, add at least 3 times the amount of water to a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Once the quinoa is cooked, remove the pot from the heat, pour into a fine mesh strainer to drain off excess cooking liquid.

Cooking Quinoa on the Stovetop – The “Overnight” Method

We thought the “Overnight” method, which is the same method we’ve used before on oatmeal, would be some huge convenience or time-saver, but it’s just sort of a time saver. It does save the 15 minutes of cooking time, and if you’re still new to cooking quinoa, it saves you from 15 minutes of “active” watching time so it doesn’t burn. You still have to measure the quinoa and liquid, and bring the pot to a boil. The advantage here is that once you bring it to a boil, you’re free because you turn it off, cover it, and let it sit overnight.

Put quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit out overnight.

Cooking Quinoa in a Rice Cooker

This is the only way we cook quinoa now and don’t know how we ever did it before figuring out we could do it this way.

Just put quinoa in a rice cooker. Add about twice as much water. You don’t have to be super precise, but don’t eyeball it either. Turn on the rice cooker. If you have a smart rice cooker, it will make perfect quinoa no matter what you do.

Quinoa Cooked in Rice Cooker

How do you cook quinoa? Is there some other method we missed that could change our lives? Please share!

We like to make the maximum capacity of quinoa in the rice cooker, eat some of it “fresh” out of the pot that day, and store the leftover in the fridge to make quinoa dishes for the rest of the week, like a Waldorf-inspired Quinoa Salad. This salad has the basic components of a Waldorf Salad — apples, blue cheese, celery, grapes, and walnuts — but minus the creamy dressing (which is usually mayo). We just tossed everything with a light, lemon and herb vinaigrette.