Quinoa – Stovetop vs. Instant Pot

Quinoa – Stovetop vs. Instant Pot

Quinoa is a versatile pseudo grain (It is actually a seed, but most people eat it like a grain).  Quinoa is high in protein and one of the few plant sources that contains all 9 essential amino acids (the precursors to proteins that humans need to eat because we cannot make them within our own bodies), making it a complete protein. Quinoa on its own has a very mild nutty flavor.  You can eat it plain, in place of rice, or as an ingredient in another recipe.  If you want to eat your quinoa plain as a side dish, using broth in place of water gives it that little something extra.

So, which is easier, making quinoa on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot?  I decided to do both at the same time to see which was easier.  When using the instant pot you can cook the quinoa directly in the main pot or you can use the pot in pot method where you use a secondary cooking bowl on a trivet in the main cooking pot.  

First thing I want to mention is the water to quinoa ratio.  Most packages recommend a 2:1 ratio, meaning that you use two cups water for every one cup of quinoa.  Personally, I feel like this makes the quinoa to wet and mushy.  I prefer a 1 1/2:1 ratio meaning that I use 1 1/2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa.

Stovetop:

Put your water (or broth), quinoa and salt into a pot and bring to a boil:

 

Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed.

Once it is done cooking, fluff with a ford and you are ready to serve or use it as an ingredient in other recipes.

Stovetop total cooking time including waiting for the water to boil – 18 minutes. It took about 5 minutes to come to a boil, and I cooked for 13 minutes. 

Instant Pot:

When using the instant pot to cook quinoa, you have a choice of cooking the quinoa in the main pot, or using the pot-in-pot (PIP) method. Either way took almost the same amount of time and choice of method would be if you wanted to cook something else at the same time or not.  

To cook it in the main pot, you just dump in your water (or broth), quinoa and salt. Close lid, make sure valve is set to closed and cook for 1 minute on high. 

Remember that it will take a few minutes for the pot to come up to pressure.  Once the pot has finished cooking, allow it to natural pressure release (NPR) for 10 minutes, then switch the valve to open (QR) and allow pressure to come down.  Open the pot and fluff quinoa with a fork.  You are now ready to eat, or go use it in a recipe. I didn’t take many photos of that as it is pretty straight forward.  

Total cooking time for main pot – 22 minutes.  It took 9 minutes to come to pressure and start the countdown, 1 for the countdown, 10 minutes NPR and 2 minutes for it to vent and the pin to drop so I could open it. 

PIP – To cook the quinoa using the poi-in-pot method, you put a trivet into the bottom of the main pot, and pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pot. 

Put your quinoa, water and salt into an oven safe pot that will fit into your instant pot on top of the trivet.  I used a stainless steel mixing bowl and the trivet that came with my pot. 

Close the lid and cook on manual for 1 minute.  Allow to NPR for 10 minutes, then QR. Once done open the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. 

Total cooking time for PIP – 23 minutes.  Because there is more liquid in the pot (the one cup in the bottom and the one cup in the bowl) there is more material in the pot that needs to heat up for the pot to come to pressure.  It took 10 minutes for the pot to begin the 1 minute countdown. Then with the 1 minute cook, the 10 minute NPR, and a 2 minute QR.

Final Tally:

Stovetop – 18 minutes

IP, main pot – 22 minutes

IP, PIP- 23 minutes.

While the stovetop won in terms of speed (barely), the instant pot is more hands off.  Once everything is in the pot you press go and can walk away or work on something else without having to mind the stove to turn down the heat. If you didn’t want to turn on the stove or want a more hands off way to cook the quinoa, the IP works great.  Me, I’ll probably stick to the stovetop as I am usually in a rush

It is a good idea to have a fine mesh colander like this one on hand: 

If you want to rinse your quinoa, a traditional colander will have holes that are too big and you will watch all your quinoa slip out like a giant multi-holed hourglass. 

Quinoa also freezes really well.  So feel free to make a bunch extra so you have it ready to toss together something like this black bean quinoa salad.  To freeze the quinoa, let it cool completely, freeze in portions that you would use in the future (1 cup of raw quinoa makes about 3 cups of cooked – make your portions according to what you would use).  Place the quinoa in a freezer save container, plastic zip top bag or even seal with a vacuum sealer.  Plastic container or zip top bags are good for about 3 months in the freezer, vacuum sealed bags are good for about 6 months. You can defrost it in the fridge overnight. Or if you are like me and forget until you are ready to toss a recipe together, bags are better.  With a zip top or vacuum bag, you can stick the bag in a bowl water for an hour or so until it is defrosted, or pop it into the microwave. 

Quinoa - Stove top vs. Instant Pot

Quinoa is an amazing pseudo grain that is gluten free, high in protein and contains essential amino acids and lots of other good vitamins and minerals.  Alone, it is similar to rice with a neutral light flavor, but mixed into a recipe it adds a nice nutty flavor and texture to many dishes. This is how to cook the basic grain, with minimal seasoning.
Course Main Course, Pasta + Grains + Dumplings, Salad, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa See note about rinsing quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water or broth See note on water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt optional

Instructions

Stovetop instructions:

  • Bring quinoa, water and salt if using to a boil in a saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed. ½
  • Fluff with a fork before serving or using in further recipes.

Instant Pot instructions main pot:

  • To cook the quinoa in the main pot of your Instant Pot, add the quinoa, 1 1/2 cups water and salt if using to the pot. Close lid and turn valve to closed.
  • Cook for 1 minute on high. Allow to natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then switch valve to open for quick release. Cooking time stays the same even if doubling or tripling recipe.

Instant Pot - Pot in Pot instructions:

  • Place a trivet into the main pot and add one cup of water.
  • Place the quinoa, water and salt if using into an oven safe bowl that will fit inside your Instant Pot. Put this bowl on top of the trivet in the instant pot.
  • Close lid and turn valve to closed. Cook for 1 minute on high. Allow to natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then switch valve to open for quick release. Cooking time stays the same even if doubling or tripling recipe.

Notes

Note on rinsing the quinoa: Quinoa has a natural outer coating called saponin that is very bitter. Several brands offer pre-rinsed quinoa where the outer coat has been removed for you.  Check your package directions to see if it specifies that you should rinse or if it is pre-rinsed. When in doubt an extra rinse won't hurt.
To rinse your quinoa, you need something with a fine sieve.  A standard colander has holes that are too large and the quinoa will fall through. Rinse under cold running water for 30-45 seconds. Allow excess water to drip out for a few seconds are you are good to go.  No need to adjust water in the recipe if you rinse or not.
Note on water: Most package directions say to use 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water.  I have found that this leaves a very wet quinoa and is not ideal for a recipe that includes extra liquids.  If you are serving quinoa plain or in place of rice, the 2 cups of liquid is fine, and broth gives the quinoa an extra boost of flavor.
If using the cooked quinoa as ingredient in a further recipe, use 1 ½ cups water.  Definitely the lower amount if cooking in the instant pot.  Start out with the lower amount and you can always add a splash more near the end of cooking if it seems too dry for your liking.