How To Cook Quinoa and Nutritional Facts

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

By now you have heard of the numerous health benefits of quinoa. Despite being used in cooking and eating in the same way as most staple cereals, quinoa is considered a pseudo-grain instead of a “true” grain like wheat, because it is technically a broadleaf plant related to spinach and Swiss chard. Originally from South America, quinoa has a rich history as a crop dating back thousands of years and was so prized by the Incas that they referred to it as the “mother of all grains.” 

While the seeds most familiar to us may be the pearly white ones, quinoa seeds actually come in many colors including red, brown, yellow, black or pink. Quinoa is sold in either prepackaged containers or bulk bins at the store. If you are buying from the bulk bins, make sure there is no evidence of moisture inside the container. As always, buy from a store with a good turnover rate.

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How To Cook Quinoa (How Much Water)

How to cook quinoa: 1/2 cup of raw quinoa
  • Starting Amount: 1/2 cup raw quinoa
  • Pre-Soaking Requirement: No
  • Pre-Rinsing Requirement: Yes. Rinse under running water to remove the soapy saponins that have a bitter taste. (Most boxed quinoas you can buy in the US have been pre-rinsed, but you can always have a quick taste while rinsing to be sure.)
  • Cooking Liquid: 3/4 cup water (you can use broth, if preferred)
  • Cooking Time: Let simmer for 12 to 15 minutes on the stove, with lid on. Then remove from heat and let sit for another 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
  • Resulting Yield: 1.5 cups cooked
Cooked quinoa

Nutritional Facts (1/2 cup cooked white quinoa):

  • Calories: 111
  • Carbohydrates: 19.7 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 g
  • Net Carb: 17.1 g
  • Protein: 4.1 g
  • Fat: 1.8 g
  • Calcium: 15.7 mg
  • Iron: 1.4 mg
  • Potassium: 159 mg
  • Glycemic Index: 53 (Low)
  • Gluten-Free: Yes

Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that provides complete protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids. It also offers a good source of non-heme iron, which can be challenging to reach in a vegan diet.

Nutritional Differences: Red Quinoa vs White Quinoa

Nutritional differences between red quinoa and white quinoa

For some, red quinoa (and black quinoa too) offers an aesthetic appeal in a salad dish. Since the color is a lot darker, one may wonder if there are any nutritional differences among the 3 varieties.

In a nutshell, all 3 quinoa provides similar carbohydrates and calories. Red and black quinoa, however, seems to be slightly higher in fiber. In addition, black quinoa offers slightly more protein than red and white. However, the nutritional differences are not significant enough to warrant choosing one over the other.


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