How to Make Quinoa Taste Better

Holly Riddle

By Holly Riddle

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Quinoa is a fantastic, nutritious food to include in your diet, but many people find it lacking in flavor, or worse, having a bitter taste. The next time you make quinoa, try incorporating some of these tips to make it more flavorful.

Bowl of cooked quinoa with a smaller bowl of raw quinoa and a dried plant.

While quinoa is still a relative newcomer in the pantries of most households (the ancient grain really hit the mainstream in the mid-2000s), there’s no denying that it definitely offers a lot to love.

The gluten-free grain is often used as a white rice alternative and provides an array of health benefits, including large servings of nutrients like manganese, copper and folate; antioxidants; anti-inflammatory compounds; more fiber than brown rice; and protein.

That said, some home cooks can find their quinoa dishes leave a little (or a lot) to be desired. Sometimes, quinoa can taste bitter and unpleasant. So how do you make it taste better if you run into this problem? Here are some tips and things to avoid.

Always Rinse Your Quinoa

You may be able to get away with not rinsing your rice all the time, but you definitely don’t want to skip the rinsing step when cooking with quinoa. It only takes a few seconds, but it makes a huge difference. Quinoa comes with a natural coating that makes it taste bitterer than it otherwise might, and rinsing helps remove this coating.

Make sure to rinse the quinoa thoroughly for best results.

Raw quinoa being rinsed in a metal strainer with a hand holding the strainer.

Don’t Want to Rinse? Buy Pre-Rinsed Quinoa

Don’t think you’ll remember to rinse your quinoa when you’re just trying to get a quick, healthful dinner on the table? Look for pre-rinsed quinoa at the store. While it’s not always available from every brand, it does exist and can make your cooking process a little easier.

Toast Your Quinoa

If you’ve tried the rinsing process and you still feel like you can taste those bitter undertones, consider toasting your quinoa before boiling it. All you have to do is let the quinoa cook in a small portion of olive oil until fragrant. This lends the quinoa a new, rich and toasty flavor that can help diminish any lingering bitter notes you might still be able to detect. 

Don’t Cook Quinoa Plain

Just like cooking rice in plain water can make for a duller, less flavorful dish, the same is true for quinoa. For more flavor and fewer bitter notes post-rinsing, cook your quinoa in the broth of your choice, along with some herbs and spices.

Add Extra Ingredients

But let’s say you’ve already cooked your quinoa. Is it too late to fix that bitter flavor? Are you better off just tossing your quinoa and making other dinner plans?

Not at all! You can still fix this quinoa conundrum. Add in extra ingredients to boost your dish’s flavor profile.

You can still add herbs and spices, but also consider adding in mix-in ingredients to form a quinoa salad. Skip the milder ingredients that won’t boost your quinoa’s flavor all that much and, instead, choose flavor-forward items like tangy salad dressings, sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped marinated peppers or olives.

Add Quinoa to an Already Flavorful Dish

Along these lines, instead of opting to eat your quinoa plain or nearly plain, consider adding it to a broader, more flavorful overall dish. For example, this Mediterranean quinoa salad brings big flavors with its balsamic vinegar and mint dressing, while this curried quinoa salad offers bold flavor via high-quality curry powder and sun-dried tomatoes.

Bowl of cooked quinoa with a smaller bowl of raw quinoa and a dried plant.
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5 from 3 votes

How to Make Flavorful Quinoa

Quinoa is a fantastic food to include in your diet, but many people find it lacking in flavor, or worse, having a bitter taste. The next time you make quinoa, try this simple recipe that incorporates some of our best tips for making quinoa taste good.
Prep Time1 minute
Cook Time15 minutes
Steaming Time5 minutes
Total Time21 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: South American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 160kcal


  • 1 cup quinoa dry, any color
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth low sodium, or broth of choice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp spice blend optional (include a mixture of garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, or your other favorite spices totaling 1/2 tsp combined)


  • Rinse the quinoa thoroughly with cold water through a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.
  • Place the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan and add the water, broth, and salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the quinoa from heat, sprinkle in the spice blend, and fluff with a fork. Replace the cover and allow to steam for 5 more minutes. Fluff again with a fork and serve.


If you decide to try toasting your quinoa before boiling, let the quinoa thoroughly drain after rinsing so there’s no liquid dripping from it (adding water to hot oil is a bad idea). Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your saucepan and add the thoroughly drained quinoa. Stir the quinoa over medium heat until it begins to toast. You’ll know it’s ready when it begins to brown and smell nutty (and it might even start to pop a little). Add your water, broth, and salt at this point and continue with the recipe above.


Calories: 160kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 472mg | Potassium: 247mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 110IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 2mg