Quinoa in the Microwave: Fast & Easy

The Midwest is a little slow to get on the quinoa train, but I think it is about time we climbed aboard. Once you try quinoa, it will quickly become a staple in your house. Quinoa is healthy, full of protein, and versatile. One of the biggest frustrations with quinoa is how long it takes to cook. Quinoa is typically cooked on the stove. It only takes 10-20 minutes, but every minute saved cooking dinner counts! I saw recipes cooking 1 cup of quinoa in the microwave. I often use quinoa for side or add-ins for salads and don’t need that much at one time. So I started to wonder, how do you cook half a cup of quinoa in the microwave?

To cook half a cup of quinoa in the microwave: add ½ cup rinsed quinoa and 1 cup water to large microwave safe bowl (~45 ounce bowl). Cover with microwave safe plate. Microwave for 3 minutes. Use oven mitts to carefully remove, stir, recover with plate, and return to microwave for another 3 minutes. Let sit for 1-2 minutes in the microwave. Use oven mitts again to carefully remove and stir. If there is excess water, let sit on counter while it absorbs (~2-5 minutes).

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What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is pronounced “keen-wah” (although I think it is more fun to pronounce it “keen-o-ah”). It has a bit of a nutty taste and a light and fluffy texture. Quinoa is kind of fun to eat, but not nearly as fun as pearled couscous. If you eat it without any seasoning, it will taste a bit bland. But just like tofu, it is great at holding onto seasoning. It can be used as an alternative to rice. If your recipe calls for rice, try using quinoa instead.

According to NutritionFact’s “Quinoa,” quinoa is botanically more similar to a seed-like fruit because it doesn’t come from a type of grass. Healthline’s “What is Quinoa? One of the World’s Healthiest Foods” teaches us that it is considered a pseudo-grain because it’s nutritional benefits are more similar to grains. It is grown in South America, was considered sacred by the Incas, and started booming in popularity in the US in the past decade. There are ~3000 different varieties of quinoa (I can’t begin to wrap my head around that) that do vary in their nutritional content. White, red, and black are the most common types.

According to International Year of Quinoa 2013, the United Nations named 2013 as the year of quinoa to thank the indigenous people of the Andes for protecting and preserving quinoa. They further recognize their knowledge of quinoa and their goal to live with nature in harmony. Quinoa’s nutritional benefits and unique ability to grow in different conditions was also appreciated. It is considered a tool to help fight world hunger.

Overflowing bowl of cooked quinoa that was cooked in the microwave

Why Everyone Likes Quinoa

Quinoa is a big win for vegans and vegetarians because it is a complete protein. There are 9 amino acids that you need but that your body cannot create. Instead you have to eat them. Most complete proteins comes from animal products. People following a plant-based diet need to make sure they are regularly eating all 9 amino acids to stay healthy. Since quinoa is a complete protein, it gives you an easy solution to that challenge. Thank you, quinoa (and thank you Healthline for this information)!

If you follow a gluten-free diet, quinoa is also looking out for you! That’s right, quinoa is gluten free. Quinoa gets a lot of credit for its health benefits, but it really should be congratulated for its inclusiveness. Finally, an easy guest at dinner parties.

Check out LifeScience’s Quinoa: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts for more information. They report that quinoa might be good for cholesterol, digestion, diabetes, and hypertension. Always remember to talk to a registered dietician for diet information for YOU and to your doctor about your medical needs (don’t make life choices from generalized information you read on the internet).

Small bowl of cooked quinoa

How to Cook ½ Cup Quinoa in the Microwave

I first learned to cook quinoa in the microwave after trying Foolproof Living’s “Microwavable Quinoa“. Check out their instructions too. They guide you through cooking 1 cup of quinoa. I had problems with my quinoa overflowing when I tried this. I was always rinsing it off the bottom of the microwavable plate. So I decided it would be better to try cooking ½ cup of quinoa in the microwave.

One cup of cooked quinoa turns into ~3 cups once cooked (thank you, A Couple Cook’s “Quinoa to Water Ratio”). So half a cup of cooked quinoa would create ~1 and ½ cups of quinoa. This amount worked better for me because I like to make a fast lunch, create a simple side dish for dinner, or add it to salads (check out Hearty Summer Salad with Easy to Make Orange Dressing).

You will like making quinoa in the microwave because it is fast, easy to make, and mess free. It will reliably make perfect quinoa every time. You don’t have to worry about quinoa burning on the stove if you take an extra minute to chop something. Instead it will be happily and safely sitting inside the microwave waiting its turn.

Steps to Make Quinoa in the Microwave

Add ½ cup of rinsed quinoa and 1 cup of water to a large microwave safe bowl. A 45 ounce bowl worked best for me. If you use a smaller bowl, it may overflow and create a bit of a mess. So either use the large bowl or make sure to have a tight seal between your bowl (and be prepared to rinse it off the bottom of the plate).

Cover your bowl with a microwave safe plate. It is ok if you have a gap between your bowl and your plate (as long as you use a 45 ounce bowl). Microwave for 3 minutes. Use oven mitts and carefully remove from the microwave. Stir, recover with microwave safe plate, and return it to the microwave. Again, microwave it for 3 minutes. Let it sit in the microwave for 1-2 minutes before removing (again, use oven mitts).

If there is still water in your quinoa, don’t fret! Just let it sit on the counter while it continues to absorb. This may take an extra 2-5 minutes.

Close up picture of uncooked quinoa

A Few Notes about Quinoa in the Microwave: Fast & Easy

  • I’ve cooked both red and white quinoa in the microwave. I imagine you can use any of the 3000 varieties with these instructions, but I have not tried it (but I would love to talk to you if you have tried them all).
  • ½ cup of uncooked quinoa will make ~1 and ½ cups of cooked quinoa.
  • If there are gaps in-between your bowl and covering plate, that is ok! – as long as you used a microwave safe bowl that holds at least 45 ounces.
  • Spice it up! Toss in your favorite seasoning once it is done cooking. I like to use garlic, basil, and oregano, but your options are endless.
  • I always try to rinse quinoa, but I have been guilty of skipping this step. Saponin is a natural coating on quinoa and can give it a bit of a soapy taste. So experts recommend rinsing to remove this. However most boxed forms on quinoa you buy in the store come pre-rinsed. This helpful information comes from Kitchn’s “Do You Really Need to Rinse Quinoa Before Cooking It?” Check out their comparison of rinsed and non-rinsed.
  • Quinoa makes a perfect addition to a salad. Check out our Hearty Summer Salad with Easy to Make Orange Dressing
  • You can toss in your favorite vegetables to create a quick, easy, and healthy meal. Or check out Lu’s Quick, Healthy Vegetarian Brown Rice & Quinoa Bowl (Packed-Lunch Friendly) and use this quinoa as a substitute if you don’t have Seeds of Change Brown Rice and Quinoa Mix on hand. Just make sure you halve the recipe because it calls for 3 cups cooked quinoa and this recipe will make 1 and ½ cups.
  • Looking for dessert? Lu’s Amazing Small Batch Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Perfect for On!) will help satisfy that sweet tooth!

Quinoa in the Microwave: Fast & Easy

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Ifyougiveagirlanoven@gmail.com Course: dinner, lunch, sidesCuisine: vegetarian, veganDifficulty: easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Half a cup of quinoa is perfect for salad add-ins or side dishes. Skip the stove. Cooking quinoa in the microwave is fast, easy, and reliable!


  • 1/2 cup 1/2 quinoa

  • 1 cup 1 water


  • Rinse quinoa. Add ½ cup quinoa and 1 cup water to large microwave safe bowl (~45 ounces). Cover with microwave safe plate. Microwave for 3 minutes.
  • Use oven mitts to carefully remove from microwave. Stir. Cover with microwave safe plate. Return to microwave for another 3 minutes.
  • Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Use oven mitts to remove from microwave. Stir.
  • If there is water remaining, set aside on the counter while it continues to absorb (~2-4 minutes). Allow to cool, season, and enjoy!

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