Quinoa pilaf recipe

Published June 29, 2010 9:30PM (EDT)


  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups water (or stock, if you want to get serious)
  • Olive oil, or any fat of your choosing
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 325. This is also what I do when making rice. Yes, I'm Chinese. No, I can't make rice on the stovetop. I used to be filled with shame about this, but then I realized that every Chinese home I've ever been in has a plug-in rice cooker, so now I feel much less bad about it.
  2. Put a heavy 2-qt (or thereabouts) saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Be generous with it: think of the poor cursed quinoa Quixotes. When the fat is hot enough to shimmer, add the quinoa and stir, coating all the grains in oil.
  3. Toast, stirring. The sound in the pot should be a bit squeaky. When the smell is a little like toasting nuts, a little like popcorn, and it starts to sound like a sizzle, add the water or stock; the pot should be hot enough for it to boil instantly. Keep cooking it over high heat until it maintains a boil. Add a few pinches of salt, give it a quick stir, put the lid on, and drop it in the oven.
  4. 16 minutes later (13 for rice), pull it out and uncover. The quinoa should be cooked, throwing steam but with no liquid in the grains. (If it's still wet, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.) Gently stir to fluff the grains, letting it steam off to dry for a few minutes. Taste it. Doesn't it taste like brown rice's cooler cousin? Does it pop in your teeth? Then you've done it right. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and serve.

    Note: This is also the method for perfect basic long-grained white rice pilaf. If you want to get fancy, toast some aromatics (garlic, onion, spices, etc.), in the oil before adding the quinoa or rice. Also note that if you increase the quantities of this recipe, it might take more time in the oven, but check it at the recommended times anyway.

    To serve: Serve this with anything you would eat with rice. Though there isn't quite the same level of starch in quinoa to pick up very loose sauces, it's still great, and richer and creamy sauces work especially beautifully. One thing I like to do is spread the cooked quinoa out to let it steam off and cool and make a salad with it: fold in raw and roasted vegetables, nuts, grated parmigiano cheese, and dress it with vinegar or lemon juice and nice olive oil.


By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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