What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Quinoa is a high-protein and versatile food. But what does quinoa taste like? If you’ve never tried it, this post will fill you in on its unique flavor and have you preparing quinoa for dinner—tonight! I’ve included delicious recipes, too!

Close-up of cooked quinoa in a sauce pan, ready to be added to the summer corn edamame salad.

Quinoa. Gotta love it! First off, in case you don’t know how to pronounce it, it’s KEEN-wah. Quinoa is a versatile low-carb food that packs a lot of punch when included in your meal. I do get asked a lot, “what does quinoa taste like?” so I decided to dedicate a post to this popular food. 

Because I know I can make you a believer. Yep, a quinoa believer, through and through. I’m going to cover stuff like why you should eat quinoa and what’s so good about it. I’ll tell you some nutrition facts and give you ideas on how to use it. And, I’ll provide recipes that are easy to make, clean eating, and tasty!

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa is high-protein and low-fat. It’s classified as a pseudo-grain because it does not grow on grass as rice, oats, and wheat do. Quinoa is actually the seed of the plant with the scientific name Chenopodium quinoa. While not a grain, it is considered a whole-grain food. Quinoa has some really good things going for it.

Quinoa nutrition: 

  • ½ cup of quinoa has about 120 calories
  • Quinoa is a good source of fiber
  • Quinoa is a complete protein with 9 essential amino acids
  • It has a low glycemic index and does not have a lot of sugar
  • Quinoa is low fat
  • Vitamins in quinoa include iron, folate, zinc, and more
  • Quinoa has antioxidants like quercetin and saponin

Interestingly, it’s the saponin that can make quinoa taste bitter (but more on that below!).

What Are The Health Benefits Of Quinoa?

The health benefits of quinoa are far reaching and varied:

  • May reduce diabetes risk (because of the fiber and low glycemic index))
  • It’s suitable for gluten-free diets
  • Quinoa may help weight loss as protein and fiber work to fill you up
  • The fiber helps the digestive system work well
  • Protein aids in muscle gain
  • Vegetarians benefit from quinoa as it’s a complete protein
Overhead image of an Instant Pot Quinoa Chicken Bowl, with quinoa, tomatoes, chicken, and peppers, with a fork in the bowl.

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

I like to describe quinoa as nutty and kind of earthy. You could even say it has a sweet flavor. It’s neat in that it’s so versatile and can be used in many recipes, adapting to the flavors of the dish. 

Not quite in the way that tofu does, but still, you can add quinoa to everything from chocolate breakfast bowls to salads. I get asked, “what does quinoa taste like?” often. My best answer is to give it a try by finding a recipe that looks good and heading to the kitchen.

You may wonder about the color of your quinoa. White quinoa is basically thought to be the least bitter of the 3 and turns out the fluffiest when cooked. For salads, many people will choose red quinoa or black quinoa (said to have the earthiest taste). They both have a texture that works well in cold dishes.

Why Does My Quinoa Taste So Bad?

Your quinoa may taste bad because there were still too many saponins present on the uncooked quinoa before you boiled it. Remember I mentioned the saponins above? Saponin is the natural coating on the quinoa seed that works like natural pest control, with the bitter taste preventing birds and insects from eating the unpalatable seed. Quinoa can taste bitter if not rinsed. So make sure you rinse it well!

Overhead view of a glass bowl of organic quinoa which is uncooked/raw and will be cooked.

How Do I Rinse Quinoa?

Take a mesh strainer (with fine holes) and rinse the uncooked quinoa under running water until the water runs clear. This will take about a minute. A lot of quinoa manufacturers will “rinse” the quinoa before packaging. It’s often not perfectly rinsed, though, and may still have saponins. So it’s still a good idea to rinse your quinoa by sifting it through your fingers under the water until it is clear.

What Happens If You Don’t Rinse Quinoa?

Some people don’t rinse quinoa before eating it and it doesn’t present any issues at all. For others, unrinsed quinoa tastes soapy and bitter, making it not so flavorful.

But there are quinoa eaters in both camps. Take a look:

Flavor: Unrinsed quinoa has an earthier and even nuttier flavor. Many don’t find it bitter at all – and not rinsing saves you cleaning the quinoa seeds out of your strainer.

Texture: Unrinsed quinoa has a firmer texture when cooked and the seeds may not pop open quite as much. If you prefer softer quinoa, rinsing it will do the trick.

But don’t overcook your quinoa. If you do, instead of nicely popped open, tasty quinoa, you may end up with a sticky mushy end product. Not so appealing. Follow the directions on the box and all will be well. 

How Do I Cook Quinoa?

To cook quinoa:

  1. Rinse well in a fine mesh strainer
  2. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a saucepan
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat
  4. Reduce to low and cook for 15-20 minutes with the lid on (the package will have directions)
  5. Fluff with a fork
  6. Season and eat, or use it as one of the ingredients in a terrific recipe!
Close up view of the Make Ahead Quinoa Noodle Casserole, topped with cheese, with a wooden spoon on the casserole ready to serve.

How Do I Make My Quinoa Taste Better? Plus Recipes!

There are lots of things to do to make your quinoa taste better. As I mentioned, it’s a versatile addition to lots of dishes. It’s a healthy way to consume carbohydrates but I do tend to use it as an addition to dishes, not a side on its own. Look below for ways to make your quinoa taste better. I’ve got recipe suggestions here, too!

  • Try quinoa noodles as a way to add this superfood to your diet. Save time in the kitchen with this Healthy Quinoa Make Ahead Casserole.
  • Add coconut milk to your quinoa as a way to sweeten it.
  • Season with lots of parsley and drizzle with lemon juice.
  • Love Mexican tacos? Spice up your quinoa to make it taste better by adding it to Quinoa Taco Stackers.
  • Cook quinoa in vegetable broth, adding olive oil and sea salt as a way to make it subtly delicious!
  • Going for Greek? Another way to make quinoa taste amazing is in Make Ahead Greek Quinoa Stacks.
35 Easy Weeknight Dinners - Make-Ahead Greek Quinoa Stacks
  • Take your favorite spices (cumin and turmeric are fab with quinoa) and herbs and add them to the warm quinoa for an aromatic side dish. I personally prefer it over brown rice, for example, cuz it’s super versatile.
  • Mix it with chicken in the Instant Pot Quinoa Chicken Bowl.
  • Rather than cooking your quinoa in water, cook it in vegetable, beef, or chicken broth – remember to use a low sodium broth.
  • Quinoa for breakfast? You bet! This Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl is superb!
  • Do you love black beans like I do? Add quinoa to these Spicy Quinoa and Black Bean Enchiladas.
  • Try a quinoa salad. Adding quinoa to a salad will make it taste better when you make a zesty vinaigrette. Try my Quinoa Lentil Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette.
Three baked egg muffin cups, stacked on top of eachother, ready to enjoy for a quick egg muffin cup on the go breakfast.
The turkey and quinoa stuffed zucchini boats have been baked in the oven and are ready to eat.

Don’t keep asking yourself, “what does quinoa taste like?” Go ahead and give it a try! It’s a clean eating food that you can easily add to meals all week long. You’ll reap the benefits of extra protein and fiber with this good-tasting superfood!

This post contains affiliate links to products I use regularly and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey there! I’m Lacey Baier and I’d like to welcome you! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, as well as cleanish, my clean-eating supplement brand. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Austin, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

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