How to Prepeare Low Calorie Quinoa

by Kelly M

I feel like I just found a gold mine.

Now I know how people who win the lottery must feel.

You must understand, I am by no means a strict calorie counter, but it’s nice to be aware.

So once I discovered this method, I realized I’m never going back.


All of them: rice, bulgur, millet, spelt, barley, to name a few. I’ve even got oatmeal! But today I’m tackling quinoa.

I know what you’re thinking, stop yacking and tell us what the big deal is! What is this magical concept?


The secret is just water. If it has a higher water content, it’s going to be lower calorie. 

But won’t that make it soggy?

Nope. The method here is just cooking the grains (or beans) in twice the water for a longer period of time so it soaks all the extra liquid up. It still retains a perfect texture while giving you a remarkably low calorie count!

I’m sold. How do I make this?

How To Prepare Low Calorie Quinoa

This really opens the door to limitless possibilities. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Nutritional Comparison

Regular Cooked Quinoa 

Calories: 222


My Low Calorie Quinoa (Calculated using the nutritional label on the back of the package of my bulk Whole Foods quinoa)

Calories: 110 (!!!)


1c. dry quinoa

4c. water

1t coconut oil, or other oil (optional)

The rule of thumb is 1 cup of water per 1/4 cup of dry quinoa.


Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve under running water. Heat a pot, with oil if using, over medium high heat, and add in dry quinoa. Toast for a few minutes, stirring occasionally but making sure it doesn’t burn. After the quinoa has toasted for a few minutes and, is lightly browned, add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Make sure to NOT life the lid during this time. If you will not be using the quinoa immediately, letting it sit the pot over super low heat help it soak up the water even more, but that last part is totally optional.

Fluff with a fork and enjoy your low calorie nutrition packed deliciousness!

Yes, deliciousness should be a word.


-Kelly M.



Leave a Comment

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tara January 11, 2012 at 3:52 am

This is a great idea!! I actually haven’t made quinoa in a while, but it’s taking up space in my cupboard so I need to use it up sometime soon. I’ll keep this method in mind!!


2 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Thank you! Quinoa is one of those things that seems to get overlooked, isn’t it? Not anymore! ;)


3 Hilliary @Happily Ever Healthy January 11, 2012 at 5:25 am

Oh I cannot wait to try this! I love quinoa!


4 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I hope you like it! ;)


5 Lauren @ Fun, Fit and Fabulous! January 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I totally use this trick with oats but never thought to do it with any other grains. Genius!!! Oh, and delicioussness is totaly and word in my book! :)


6 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Thank you so much! I love your vocabulary. ;)


7 Sarah S January 12, 2012 at 6:42 am

Erm, won’t it have less flavor? I’m trying to wrap my head around this, but I’m tired and having a sugar crash, so I think I’m missing something.


8 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Sorry about your sugar crash. ;) I suppose it would seem like it would lose flavor… but the quinoa actually retains its flavor and texture quite well.


9 Mimi (Gingersnaps) January 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

My sister refuses to touch quinoa because she said it’s like eating a BeanieBaby. Now I think of it as BeanieBaby stuffing.

My favorite grain is basmati rice. It smells like popcorn! I used to refuse to touch white rice but then I learned something neat: brown rice vs. white rice is a moot debate; the white rice has less minerals but brown rice inhibits protein absorption from other foods. I figured since grains don’t have much in way of minerals anyway, screw it, I’ll eat the rice I like.

Oh, BEST grain recipe I’ve ever made, hands down, was Averie’s peanut butter Caribbean garbanzo bean thingy. It had grains, chickpeas, spices, fruity bits, peanut butter…fuuuu that was good!

I’m back in town now! We need to meet up for lunch sometime!!


10 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I love the BeanieBaby analogy! I’m sorry quinoa has been ruined for you, though, but at least it was done in the funniest way possible.

I never really thought about it… but basmati rice really does sme like popcorn! I’ll have to tackle it next in your honor. ;) And thank you for the tip about brown rice! That’s especially helpfu now that I have to *gasp!* cut down on whole grains.

We need to meet up! Like, yesterday! ;)


11 Irina G (Fit Flexitarian) January 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Wow! This is totally genius. I am going to have to try it. Love love love! Plus, I bet the extra water makes it a bit fluffier, no? I’m a big fan of quinoa and also very concerned with maintaining my 100lb weight loss, so this is quite exciting for me.


12 Kelly M January 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Thank you, Irina! This comment totally made my day. ;) Your 100lbs off is SUCH an accomplishment, and you should be so proud of yourself for that. Really, you rock.

And yes! It is fluffier! Thank you for pointing that out. ;)


13 Irina G (Fit Flexitarian) January 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Just wanted to let you know that I totally made some low-calorie (and SUPER fluffy!) quinoa last night. I coupled it with some pearl onions and mustard greens and it turned out absolutely delicious. Take a look:


14 Julie (A Case of the Runs) January 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I usually cook mine with x2 the amount of water as I have quinoa, and it’s a little dry that way. If I add mroe water, it doesn’t quite soak up. Maybe the water will help it from flying everywhere? Or maybe I should stop using the red variety.


15 Hannah January 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm

How fun! Not being into obsessive calorie counting but definitely liking my volume, I’d love to try this with a mix of water and coconut milk :)


16 Megg January 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Whoa, are you serious? It’s that easy??? Thanks for sharing this.. I can’t wait to try it for myself!


17 pselvarangan August 7, 2012 at 7:56 am

Chemistry wise how by cooking in more water can the calorie of Quinoa be lowered? I do not think so. One may drain the water and get a small buffering in lowering the starch content..thats about it.


18 Steph August 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is it 110 calories for one cup cooked?


19 Kelly M August 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thank you for the question, Steph! And yes, it is 110 calories for one cup cooked. Hope this helps!


20 Steph August 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Do you think if I upped the ratio of water to quinoa to 8:1, it would make the quinoa to be 55 calories?


21 Kelly M August 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

That should theoretically work, but I’m afraid the quinoa will just turn into a mushy mess, so I’m not sure I would try it…


22 Berni October 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

so, i’ve never made Quinoa and i’m eager to try this.
and i don’t know if this is a silly question or not…
but that 1 cup of dry Quinoa, is that 1 serving at 110 calories?!
if not, how many servings does this recipe make?


23 Alli January 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Is the 1 cup of dry Quinoa 110Cal or is it if you then measure out a cup of what you COOKED for 110cal?
thanks :) Happy new year!!


24 Kelly M January 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Happy New Year, Alli! It is 110 calories for the quinoa AFTER you have cooked it. Hope this helps!


25 Rosie February 10, 2013 at 7:47 am

Hi there ! I’ve just started eating Quinoa having discovered how nutritous it is. I’m not very good at keeping up my protein levels so was delighted to see Quinoa was good for that too! I’m also on a diet to get rid of some extra weight I’ve gained from a recent holiday so to find your recipe for a lower calorie way of cooking Quinoa was a Eureka moment ! Talk about good timing. Thank you !
The other day I cooked some Quinoa using a mushroom stock cube in the water to add some flavour and it was rather nice. Regarding the large amount of water used in relation to the amount of Quinoa, if lack of flavour is a concern, any flavour stock cube could be added as long as it wasn’t too full of salt.

In answer to Pselvarangan’s comment of August 7th 2012 , I would suggest that the reason why the calorie count is halved is because the Quinoa swells so much with the extra water that there is less actual Quinoa in that cup. More water means less Quinoa !


26 Rosie February 10, 2013 at 7:58 am

Hi there ! I added a mushroom stock cube to the cooking water & the result was rather nice ! Any flavour would do. In answer to Pselvarangan’s comment I would suggest that the reason why the calorie count is halved is because the extra water causes the Quinoa to swell so much that you are getting less actual Quinoa in that cup, so less calories ! Great news !


27 Rosie February 10, 2013 at 8:01 am

Hi there ! I added a mushroom stock cube to the cooking water & the result was rather nice ! In answer to Pselvarangan’s comment I would suggest that the reason why the calorie count is halved is because the extra water causes the Quinoa to swell so much that you are getting less actual Quinoa in that cup, so less calories ! Great news !


28 Rosie February 10, 2013 at 8:05 am

Sorry folks ! The site kept telling me to moderate my comment, which I did , TWICE, & now it’s printed all three ammendments ! Aplogies !


29 Amy March 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

Love this idea exited to try!! I usually boil the water and then add quinoa. What’s the strategy behind pre-toasting? Does it enhance flavor??


30 stephanie May 12, 2013 at 2:55 am

Your a genius!! How many servings does this recipe make to equal 110 calories per serving?


31 Kim @ Hungry Healthy Girl May 12, 2013 at 4:17 am

I’ve never heard of this, but I will totally be trying it next time a make quinoa! I just bought a huge bag at Costco yesterday, so we’re in business!


32 Michelle Owens May 12, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I totally want to try this method, but in the directions above, it seems the number of minutes you let the quinoa simmer is missing… like just a blank space. Help!


33 Carol May 13, 2013 at 7:57 am

Can’t see the number of minutes to simmer the quinoa – how long? The usual 15 minutes or longer because there is more water?


34 Quinn Alexandra June 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Can you do a rice version of this on your website? Would it just be the same idea as this but with rice?


35 Kelly M June 13, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Absolutely! I will work on a rice version.


36 Ayjona June 19, 2013 at 6:50 am

You might want to add that you’d have to use half the quinoa to cut the calorie intake in half, water notwithstanding.


37 esmay August 15, 2013 at 12:18 am

How did you calculate how many calories the quinoa would be when you cook it with more water?


38 Kelly M June 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Hi Esmay! I take the calories of the dry quinoa, and divide it by the new number of servings. Same quinoa, more water, bigger serving. Does that help?


39 alexie August 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

So basically, if you add twice as much water as suggested you cut calories in half? GENIOUS!

this could work with couscous right?


40 Kate March 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm

I followed the recipe tonight, using 1/4 C quinoa and 1 C water and it was the prefect consistency! Thank you!


41 Jade July 28, 2014 at 8:33 am

I tried this trick with rice and it was wonderful! I plan on trying next with the quinoa!
Do you think this trick would work for healthy pasta noodles too? And I don’t have access to coconut flour, so would the oatmeal trick still work without it?

Thank you so much! :)


42 Kelly M July 31, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jade! I would try the oatmeal version with just less liquid. Perhaps you could add in come pumpkin puree to thicken it up? Good luck!


43 Jade August 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I really appreciate you reply! :D

I’d also like to inquire if you think this trick would work for noodles?

Thanks once again :)


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