Quinoa is gluten-free grain that is very nutritious. However, it can be soggy and bland. This recipe from the January/February 2014 issue of Cook’s Illustrated solves both problems by toasting the uncooked quinoa to develop a nutty flavour, reducing the amount of liquid used to cook it, and flavouring the cooked grain with onion, fresh herbs and lemon juice. This is a great side dish with fish or chicken. You could also add some feta cheese to make it a vegetarian entree.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure your butter does not contain colour and that you use freshly squeezed lemon juice.

If your quinoa is not prewashed, rinse it and let it dry for 15 minutes

Toasting the quinoa brings out its nutty flavour

Flavour the quinoa with your favourite fresh herbs

Quinoa pilaf with herbs and lemon


1 ½ cups (375 ml) prewashed quinoa (see note below if quinoa is not prewashed)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

1 small onion, chopped fine

¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt

1 ¾ cups (425 ml) water

3 tablespoons (45 ml) chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, chives, mint, and tarragon

1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice


Note: If you buy unwashed quinoa, rinse the grains in a fine-mesh strainer, drain them, and then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a dish towel and let them dry for 15 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.

Toast quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer quinoa to bowl and set aside.

Return now-empty pan to medium-low heat and melt butter. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and light golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, stir in water and quinoa, and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until grains are just tender and liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork, stir in herbs and lemon juice, and serve. Serves 4-6.

From the January/February 2014 issue of Cook’s Illustrated