What is quinoa?

Tiny, bead-shaped seeds (although more similarly treated like grains) with a little tail that unfurls when cooked. It has a slightly nutty flavour and firm texture.

Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein – containing all eight of the essential amino acids. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. The facts suggest it is close to a perfect ingredient as you can get.

Read our guide to learn about the health benefits of quinoa.

How to prepare quinoa

Quinoa is easy to prepare and its fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavour make it an excellent alternative to white rice or couscous. When cooked, its grains quadruple in size and become almost translucent.

Quinoa can be prepared much like rice. It should usually be rinsed or soaked before use to remove its bitter coating, so check packet instructions. Bring two cups of water to the boil to one cup of grain, cover, simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (al dente).

Find more information on how to use grains here.

How to cook quinoa

Quinoa can be used in the same way as rice and is great in stuffings, pilafs and breakfast cereals. Try quinoa porridge, and quinoa & apricot muffins. For an alterntative roast, try stuffed butternut squash with quinoa or for a summery salad, try California quinoa & avocado salad.

Our cookery team demonstrates the best way to cook quinoa:

How to store quinoa

Store dried quinoa in a dark, cool place for up to one year. Keep cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge.


Available from larger supermarkets or heath food stores. Buy it dried and find it alongside other grains, or ready-to-eat in pouches.

Choose the best quinoa

Buy Fairtrade quinoa, and check the packaging for any rips or tears.

Alternatives to quinoa

Try barley or oats.