Learn how to puff quinoa with this simple recipe! Popped quinoa adds a nutty crunch to yogurt, salads, or homemade granola. It's naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and packed with nutrients.
What is puffed quinoa?
Puffed quinoa are raw quinoa seeds that have been cooked in a hot skillet until they pop. Popping the quinoa gives it a nutty, aromatic flavor and crispy slightly airy texture.
It works great as a crisp topping for yogurt, salads, and smoothies!
Do I Need to Rinse the Quinoa?
Popped quinoa is easy to make! You only need one ingredient: quinoa! It's important to buy quinoa that's been rinsed to remove saponin, a naturally occurring chemical with a bitter flavor.
You can rinse the quinoa yourself, but it's not worth the effort. Most quinoa brands are prerinsed so check the bag for labels. Sometimes it says it on the back of the bag instead of the front.
How to Make Puffed Quinoa
Puffed quinoa can be a bit tricky! If you set the heat too high, the quinoa burns before it pops. If the heat is too low, it toasts instead of pops.
I found medium heat to be the ideal temperature to pop quinoa into nutty, crispy, golden brown perfection. But the pan should be sizzling hot before you add the quinoa!
Heat the skillet
Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium heat. It's important the skillet is super hot and up to temperature, but not set too high.
Don't turn the heat on and immediately add the quinoa. The pan won't be hot enough to pop the quinoa!
If using oil, add it now. I prefer the quinoa with oil, because it's nuttier and crunchier in the end.
Add the quinoa
Pour the quinoa into the hot skillet. You only want to use enough quinoa to cover the bottom of the skillet. If you add too much, the quinoa will either burn or not pop, or both!
I found a ⅓ cup to be the magic number. It only takes a few minutes to pop the quinoa, so you can easily pop multiple batches!
If you're using a smaller pan, reduce the amount to ¼ cup.
Pop & stir the quinoa
Once you add the quinoa to the pan, give it a shake or stir so it spreads evenly across the bottom of the skillet.
Continue to cook and stir every few seconds while the quinoa pops. Without oil, you can just shake the pan. The oil makes the quinoa stick together a bit, so it's easier to stir with a spatula.
Cook until the quinoa is golden brown, popped, and nutty, then transfer the hot quinoa to a bowl or plate to cool.
- Let the pan get hot before you add the quinoa! It should be set to medium, but sizzling hot and up to temp. If the pan isn't hot enough, the quinoa won't pop when it hits the pan.
- For a nuttier crunch, use a teaspoon of oil. Oil makes the quinoa super golden brown and nutty! Don't add too much oil though. A teaspoon is plenty. If you add too much oil, the quinoa will spit and clump together.
- For more than a ⅓ cup, work in batches. The quinoa pops and cooks quickly. If you want more than ⅓ cup, work in batches so the quinoa cooks evenly. If you add any more than ⅓ cup, the quinoa will either burn or not pop all the way.
- Stir or shake the quinoa every few seconds. Quinoa kernels are tiny and thus burn quickly. It's important to shake or stir the kernels every few seconds to prevent burning. If you don't use oil, you can just shake the pan. If you use oil, it's easier to stir them with a rubber spatula.
Ways to Use Puffed Quinoa
Puffed quinoa is more than just a crispy topping! It can also be used as an ingredient. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it:
- Yogurt and smoothie bowls - Adds a crispy crunch and plenty of feel-good nutrients.
- Salads - Skip the croutons and add popped quinoa for a lovely crunch.
- Granola bars - Add to your favorite granola bar recipe.
- Cookies - Add to breakfast cookies for extra protein and fiber.
- Snack - Season with your favorite spices and a pinch of kosher salt, then eat as a tasty snack.
Let the popped quinoa cool completely before you store it. If you put it in a sealable jar before it's cool, it will condensate and ruin the quinoa.
Once it's cool, transfer the quinoa to a jar and seal with a lid. Store in a cool dry place for up to two weeks.
There are a few culprits for unpopped quinoa. Don't add too much quinoa to the pan. If the quinoa doesn't hit the hot surface of the pan, it won't pop! If you add too much quinoa, part of the quinoa will pop and part of it will burn. If the pan's heat is set too low, the quinoa will just toast instead of pop.
More Quinoa Recipes
- Quinoa Salad with Feta & Peaches
- Herby Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Chickpeas
- Salmon Quinoa Bowl with Chipotle Mayo
- a large stainless steel skillet
- ⅓ cup quinoa
- 1 teaspoon canola oil optional
- Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium heat. It should be set to medium, but up to temperature before you start. The pan should be sizzling hot before you add the quinoa. If using oil, add it now.
- Pour the quinoa into the hot skillet and gently shake so it covers the pan in an even layer. If you used oil, you may need to use a spatula to spread it around as it sticks together a little bit.
- The quinoa should begin to pop immediately. Gently shake the pan every few seconds so the quinoa doesn't burn. If you used oil, instead of shaking the pan, use a spatula to stir the quinoa every few seconds.
- Continue to shake (or stir) and cook the quinoa until it's popped, golden brown, and aromatic. Transfer the popped quinoa to a plate or bowl to cool.