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Ready-to-Use Quinoa

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2012

Quinoa is a pain to rinse before cooking. Is there an easier way?

Thoroughly washing quinoa before cooking removes all traces of its bitter saponin coating, nature’s way of making the high-protein seeds unattractive to birds and other seedeaters. In addition to being unpalatable, saponin is mildly toxic, causing low-level gastrointestinal distress in some people.

But cleaning quinoa is a chore because the tiny seeds (often mistakenly called grains) can easily slip through a fine-mesh strainer and down the drain. 

Many brands of quinoa available in supermarkets today are prewashed and require no rinsing. We tested one prewashed brand against traditional quinoa to see if anything besides the bitterness was lost. We found that the traditional quinoa offered no flavor or textural advantages.

Prewashed quinoa costs a few cents more per ounce, but we think the convenience is worth it.