How to make fluffy quinoa in an Instant Pot

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How to make fluffy quinoa in an Instant Pot
The Instant Pot offers a quicker way to cook quinoa. VICUSCHKA/Shutterstock
  • Making perfectly fluffy quinoa in an Instant Pot takes 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cooking quinoa in an Instant Pot requires less water than when cooking on the stovetop.
  • Use broth instead of water to boost the flavor of the quinoa.

A pot of perfectly cooked quinoa is perfectly fluffy and filling, and you can quickly get that ideal consistency by making it in an Instant Pot. For Manali Singh, author of Cook With Manali, a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot is an indispensable kitchen tool. She explains that pressure cooking is an important part of Indian cooking - a cuisine that relies heavily on grains and legumes - and that her family uses the method to cook everything, from lentils to rice.

"My mom used her stove-top pressure cooker every single day, and that would be true of most Indian families," says Singh. When the Instant Pot came along, she felt it was a no-brainer for everyday cooking for several reasons.

  • Quicker than the stovetop. To make quinoa on the stovetop, you'll need to wait for the water to boil, cook the quinoa for 20 minutes or more, and let it stand for up to 10 minutes. In the Instant Pot, quinoa takes a total of 15 to 20 minutes to cook, including time to come to pressure and the pressure release.
  • Yields more consistent results. Singh appreciates that cooking quinoa in the Instant Pot delivers the same results every time. Because the timer automatically switches the pot to keep warm, there's no risk of overcooking quinoa and ending up with a mushy mess.
  • No need to monitor it. "I can put the quinoa, set it to pressure cook and answer my emails, take a shower. I don't have to wait to turn off the heat or watch the timer," says Singh about the hands-free nature of the Instant Pot.
  • Involves minimal cleanup. There's also no risk of water boiling over, meaning you won't have to scrub away stuck-on gunk.

Instant Pot quinoa to water/broth ratio

You'll need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa when cooking in a pot. Because water doesn't evaporate in an Instant Pot, you'll need less of it than you would for stovetop cooking. While water is a good go-to for cooking quinoa, consider using chicken or vegetable broth for an even more flavorful result. Singh uses a ratio of 1 cup of quinoa to 1 and ¼ cup of water or broth.

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Quick tip: There are many varieties of quinoa, but the ones you're most likely to spot at the grocery store include white, black, and red. Some brands also sell a mix of the three called tricolor quinoa. For the fluffiest results, use white quinoa. If you like a chewy texture akin to barley, opt for red quinoa. Both black and red quinoa have a more robust flavor that's sometimes described as nutty or earthy.

How to make quinoa in an Instant Pot

How to make fluffy quinoa in an Instant Pot
Be sure to always rinse your quinoa to help prevent a bitter aftertaste. fcafotodigital/Getty Images

  1. Spray the Instant Pot with oil. A very light spray with oil helps prevent quinoa from sticking to the inner pot. This makes for easier cleanup.
  2. Rinse the quinoa. Rinsing removes the bitter-tasting compound called saponin that can ruin a perfect pot of quinoa. Some quinoa is pre-rinsed, but it's still a good idea to put quinoa in a strainer and wash it until the water runs clear. This removes any impurities or debris.
  3. Add liquid and quinoa to the Instant Pot. Add two cups of water or broth per cup of quinoa. Add about ½ teaspoon of salt for every 2 cups of water. Reduce the salt if you're using salted broth. Add the rinsed quinoa, then stir everything together.
  4. Set the cook time. Close the lid, select manual high pressure, and set the cook time to two minutes. Once the two-minute cook time is up, it will take about 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to naturally release, during which time the quinoa will continue cooking. Depending on how much quinoa you're cooking, it may take several minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. When that happens, the timer will begin to countdown.
  5. Allow the pressure to release. When the timer goes off, allow the pressure to release naturally before opening the lid. This may take a few minutes.
  6. Fluff with a fork. Once the pressure releases, open the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. You'll know quinoa is cooked when you can see that each seed has burst open, revealing the white germ that looks like a little tail.

Tips for the best Instant Pot quinoa

  • Toast for extra flavor. Add your preferred cooking oil to the Instant Pot, select the sauté mode, and lightly toast the quinoa until it starts to brown. Doing this brings out the nutty flavor of quinoa.
  • Add saffron to your quinoa. A bit of saffron goes a long way, says Singh. Adding this spice to Instant Pot quinoa is the easiest way to turn quinoa skeptics into quinoa lovers.
  • Think outside the box. Quinoa isn't just an excellent base for salads. Use it to make fried "rice" and fritters, for example. One of Singh's favorite ways to use quinoa is in khichdi, an Indian porridge that traditionally contains rice and lentils. She uses quinoa in place of the rice.
  • Add mix-ins. Quinoa can be fairly bland on its own, but Singh recommends mix-ins like peas, sweet potato, and chickpeas to add texture and flavor. Adding nuts and feta cheese to quinoa is another tasty option.

Insider's takeaway

Quinoa is super simple to make in the Instant Pot. This hands-free method of cooking quinoa takes 20 minutes or less. For maximum flavor, rinse quinoa with water and cook it in chicken broth. Make sure to pressure release naturally to get that coveted fluffy texture.

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