Quinoa has been a vital food source in South America for centuries, and still has many uses in modern cooking. Considered a grain, quinoa seeds are eaten either alone or as an addition to soups, baked goods and salads. Recipes might call for either precooked or dry — raw — quinoa, so understanding how cooking affects volume will enable you to determine the correct amount no matter what point you’re starting from.
Before cooking, always rinse quinoa thoroughly to remove the naturally occurring bitter compounds that coat the grains. Quinoa requires at least twice its volume in liquid to absorb during cooking. For example, 1 cup of dry quinoa will need at least 2 cups of liquid, such as water or stock.
The most common method is to bring the necessary amount of liquid to a simmer, add the quinoa and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Alternatively, you can bring a pot of liquid to a boil and cook the quinoa in the same way that you would cook pasta, draining the excess liquid at the end. The latter method will remove any bitterness that didn’t rinse off initially. Either way, the quinoa will be tender after 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time when the tail-like germ of the seed starts to unravel.
Conveniently, the final yield of cooked quinoa does not vary significantly across the different varieties of quinoa, whether domestic or imported. The final amount in all cases is about 3 times the original volume of dry quinoa. For example, 1 cup of dry quinoa will produce 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
Fluffing the cooked quinoa with a fork is a common technique for quinoa that is intended to be eaten as a standalone side dish. Keep in mind that this step will create tiny pockets of space between the grains, thereby increasing the volume. Gently pat the fluffed quinoa down into the measuring cups to get a consistent measurement.
References and ResourcesThe New Whole Foods Encyclopedia; Rebecca Wood
Techniques of Healthy Cooking; The Culinary Institute of America
Oxford Companion to Food; Alan Davidson