Recipe: Everyday quinoa

Posted on August 2, 2021

Serves four as a side.


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 shallot, fine dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, fine dice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt (4g)
  • 1/4 tsp MSG
  • “some” chili flakes
  • black pepper and turmeric to taste
  • 2 cups water


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant and barely starting to turn golden, about 2-3min
  3. Add quinoa and increase heat to medium. Toast quinoa another 2-3min, stirring occasionally. There’s no visual cue for this, just don’t go too long.
  4. Add water, salt, and spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a bare simmer (low heat). Cook covered for 15min.
  5. After 15min, uncover and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Cook uncovered until remaining liquid evaporates and quinoa is the texture you want it.


Somewhere earlier this year I decided to develop a taste (and a recipe) for quinoa, mostly because it seemed like a fun thing to do. I read a few internet recipes and generalized them to this basic technique, and a few variations I’m going to post about later. This takes about 20min, scales up or down well, and produces good consistent results. I make it (at 1/4 scale) maybe three or four times a week.

Quinoa has a reputation for being… not very tasty. I think this comes from a couple of sources.

First, quinoa in a state of nature is covered with saponins, which taste like ass. You need to rinse quinoa before cooking it. “But my bag says it’s pre-washed!” rinse it anyway, it takes barely a minute and you shouldn’t take chances unless you want bitter soapy-tasting quinoa, which you don’t. Use a fine mesh strainer, and fish the last little seeds out with a little silicone spatula in step 3. It’s not as annoying as you think, I promise.

(As an aside, I used to soak the quinoa before rinsing it, but it turns out that’s not necessary. At least, I stopped doing it a while ago, and didn’t notice any change in taste or texture.)

The second “problem” with quinoa is that people want it to be some sort of Maximally Healthy superfood. It’s nutritional profile is great, don’t get me wrong, but for god’s sake don’t skimp on fat or salt here. Plain quinoa is… subtle-tasting, which means bland. Use plenty of butter and salt and season it like you mean it.

A few notes on seasoning:

  • I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you don’t, go by weight rather than volume. Or just eyeball it, this isn’t rocket science. I go with “a two-finger pinch per person”.
  • The recipe above is deliberately a bit light on salt. Don’t add just the amount I listed and then complain that it tastes boring, taste for salt at the end and add more if you need to. (Do this with every recipe, actually.)
  • Yes, MSG. It’s delicious. If you don’t have any, get some, but otherwise you can replace it with a bit of soy sauce and fish sauce and get your glutamates from more “natural” sources. Or just add more salt if you hate umami, I’m not your boss.
  • You don’t have to season with turmeric and pepper, but I like it that way. I’ve also made it with a Bay leaf for seasoning instead. I think it’s hard to go wrong here.

This’ll do well pretty much any place you’d use rice. One thing I like to do as a quick low-effort meal is chop up and fry some farmer’s sausage while the quinoa cooks, throw in a handful of sauerkraut with the sausage right at the end just to warm it up, then put that on top of the quinoa. It’s also good with sausage gravy (or gumbo) overtop, or as a side for damn near any protein. I haven’t tried frying it like rice but I bet that’d work.

Adding water will get you a softer texture, which can be nice if you’re sort of in the mood for grits. I have a couple variations based on this idea that I’ll post later.