15 Ways to Use Leftover Cooked Quinoa

Tired of throwing out leftover cooked quinoa that’s gone bad? Read on to learn about my favorite fool-proof method for getting fluffy, perfectly cooked quinoa every time, as well as 15 delicious and creative ways to use it.

What’s Quinoa?

Pronounced “keen-wah,” this trendy, nutritious, protein-packed superfood is technically a seed, but it’s cooked like other grains. It has the nutritional profile of proteins and grains, so in my mind I categorize it as both. It’s easy to cook quinoa badly, so read on for my simple tips for getting fluffy, light quinoa every time. In this week’s meal plan, I’ve included my favorite ways to utilize this wonderful, tasty, super pseudo-grain.

Common Quinoa Mistakes

Have you ever been frustrated by soggy, heavy, or burnt quinoa? Yeah, I’ve been there. I used to think that getting fluffy, perfect quinoa was some sort of accidental unreplicable magic that only happened when the stars and planets were in perfect alignment. I used to just cook quinoa like pasta in an unmeasured pot of water and then toss it in a strainer. Don’t do that. That’s a good way to get soggy, heavy quinoa.

Another common mistake is using the wrong ratio of quinoa to water which causes the quinoa to be either too waterlogged or undercooked and crunchy. Too high of heat is also common problem, which will burn the bottom and not properly cook the grains.

To Rinse or Not to Rinse?

Many people like to rinse quinoa before cooking it, because the grains have a natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter. I don’t usually bother, because most store bought quinoa is generally pre-rinsed. However, if you are finding that it has a bitter taste, just place it in a fine mesh strainer and run it under water until the water is clear.

How to Cook Fluffy Quinoa Every Time:

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stovetop

  • If you want your quinoa to be fluffy and light, take the time to measure out a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water in a saucepan or small pot.
  • Simmer it on low heat, covered with a lid, for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is almost gone.
  • When the water is gone but before it starts to stick, turn off the heat and keep it covered it with a lid. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to let it steam inside the pot from the residual internal heat. This is important for letting the quinoa steam and fluff itself up. It works every time!
  • Fluff it with a fork and store in a covered container in the fridge until ready to use.

How to Cook Quinoa in the Instant Pot

When cooking quinoa in the Instant Pot, you need less water, because there isn’t any evaporation with pressure cooking. Use 1.5 cups of water for every cup of dry quinoa. To prevent sticking and foam, it helps to spray the inner pot with oil before cooking quinoa. Cook at high pressure for 1 minute, and use natural pressure release. When you account for the time to come to pressure and the natural release, it takes 15-20 minutes to cook in the IP.

15 Ways to Use Cooked Quinoa

#1: Add Cooked Quinoa to Breakfast Cookies

These hearty breakfast cookies are my favorite thing to do with leftover quinoa! They are naturally flour free, sweetened with mashed banana, and boosted with a scoop of leftover cooked grains. Get the recipe here.

#2: Build a Buddha Bowl

Quinoa’s neutral flavor and fun, fluffy texture works great in any sort of buddha bowl situation. If you’re new to buddha bowls, check out this post for my best tips for building one without a recipe.

#3: Put Your Leftover Quinoa Into Pancakes

I’ve tried many quinoa pancakes over the years, and this one is my absolute favorite. These lemony pancakes are naturally flour free, filling, and perfect for using up cooke quinoa. Recipe here.

#4: Add Leftover Quinoa to a Super Salad

Throw your quinoa into any salad or slaw! This one is one of my favorite salads of all time with crunchy cabbage, sweet mango, and spicy peanut sauce. For more salad and slaw inspiration, click here.

#5: Throw Leftover Quinoa into a Pot of Chili

Quinoa is great for giving a pot of chili some extra texture and a nice nutrient boost. I usually add dry quinoa to my chili when there’s about 20 minutes left of cooking, but cooked quinoa works great too! Just add pre-cooked quinoa to chili shortly before eating it so that it doesn’t overcook and get too soggy. Here’s a great recipe for smoky red lentil & quinoa chili.

#6: Top Your Leftover Quinoa with a Yummy Stew

Instead of serving your next soup or stew on top of rice, why not use quinoa? Here are some of my favorite soup and stew recipes.

#7: Make Quinoa Crusts with Your Leftover Quinoa!

Did you know you can take cooked quinoa and mix it with a little bit of ground flax seed for simple, flourless 2-ingredient quinoa crusts? Great for tarts, quiche, pizza, etc. Instructions here.

Top view of baked gluten free quinoa pizza crust.

#8: Add Leftover Quinoa to a Pot of Curry

Serve your curry on top of quinoa instead of rice, or throw the cooked quinoa into the curry at the end of cooking, just to warm it up and soak up the flavors. Here’s a recipe for my favorite Easy Weeknight Curry.

#9: Use it the Next Morning in a Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Have you ever tried quinoa for breakfast? It’s a great way to use up leftover quinoa and it’s yummy warm or cold. It’s somewhere between a cereal and porridge. The key to good breakfast quinoa is to use flavorful milk and toppings, because the quinoa itself is pretty much a blank slate in terms of adding flavor, just like any breakfast grain. I love using coconut milk, but any plant-based milk is tasty! Recipe here.

#10: Include Leftover Quinoa in Breakfast Baking

It’s easy to throw quinoa into any hearty baked goods, including muffins, cookies, and bread loaves.

#11: Dress Up Your Quinoa with some Fruit & Fresh Herbs

Some seasonal fruit, nuts, and fresh herbs elevate quinoa to impressive salad levels. Here’s a few of my favorite combos:

#12: Make Veggie Burgers with Your Leftover Quinoa

Check out my simple and easy veggie burger formula. Cooked quinoa works perfectly here.

#13: Stuff Peppers with Your Leftover Quinoa

Toss your cooked quinoa in a skillet with some sautéed veggies and a few spices and you’ve got a stuffed pepper filling! Recipe here.

#14: Stuff Squash with Your Leftover Quinoa

While we’re talking about stuffing vegetables, here’s one from our Seasonal Eating Cookbook. The sweet roasted delicata squash, savory quinoa, crunchy nuts, and creamy tahini sauce couldn’t be a more perfect combo. 👌

#15: Make Quick Southwest Quinoa

This recipe usually uses dry quinoa, but you can shortcut it by using already cooked quinoa, tossing it with some salsa, corn, black beans, and Mexican spices, and topping it with all the yummy fixings. Recipe here.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful, and may you never throw out forgotten quinoa again! 🙂

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