Electric pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot, make perfectly fluffy, tasty quinoa with minimal effort. Infused with lemongrass and citrus flavors, Instant Pot Quinoa becomes a unique, protein-packed side dish everyone will crave.
I’ve owned an Instant Pot for a few years now, but I didn’t become a devoted convert until last year. I had — quite erroneously, I should admit right here at the beginning — lumped the pressure cooker in with the slow cooker, about which I’m rather tepid. I enjoy cooking immensely, and it’s a pleasurable challenge to tease the best flavors out of the food I prepare.
Dry heat is your friend: the heat of a pot on the stove, or a pan in the oven, sears, toasts, and browns the dishes we love so well. Think, roasted potatoes or caramelized onions. But the slow cooker, while efficient with hands-free effort, is also quite efficient at watering things down (including, somehow, soup) with its steamy braise of an environment.
I appreciate the slow cooker for its excellent track record of helping busy moms get home-cooked food on the table. But when viewed strictly as a flavor producer, it leaves something to be desired.
The IP was an impulse Black Friday purchase without a plan (yyeezz, I fell for the word-of-mouth marketing among my foodie friends, lol). Still, I used it for things like soup stock: my recipe that normally takes 12 hours or more on the stove (and 24 in the slow cooker) … the IP accomplished in about two. That, alone, saved the unit from return.
And in the many months that followed, I puzzled over the Facebook groups where IP owners obsessed over converting every recipe in their repertoire, from breakfast to dessert. I didn’t get it. Why would you bake a cheesecake in a pressure cooker? What’s wrong with a bain marie, lol?
But, it was eggs that won me over. Now, I don’t consume eggs very often myself, but after reading testimony after testimony about how the IP cooks up perfect — and more importantly, perfectly peelable — hard-boiled eggs, the light finally dawned on me: The electric pressure cooker isn’t just a convenience appliance (like slow cookers and microwaves), but rather, its cooking process actually produces a proper result.
I began testing the IP for ingredient prep (rather than full meals), making batches of brown rice, cooked beans, oats, quinoa, etc. I learned that, in many cases, there was a significant time savings (hello, dried beans from zero to table in one hour, whut!). In other cases, there was actually no time savings, but the quality produced — and the fool-proof ease of producing that qualilty — made time-savings moot.
Quinoa, for example. Cooking quinoa on the stove top is actually slightly faster than the IP, once you factor in the time to pressurize and depressurize the unit. However, the IP produces, for my tastes, absolutely perfect quinoa. And that makes it worth it.
One of the things I love about contemporary electric multi-cookers, like the Instant Pot, is the Saute function. Toasting the quinoa before cooking it produces a more deeply flavored, nuttier result, and you can do that right in the IP — no need to dirty an extra pot. Also, the Keep Warm function that switches on after cooking is awesome: you don’t have to worry about being right there when the time’s up. I work from home — so lunch is usually at home — and this feature has saved me more than once (e.g., getting held up on a phone call), when whatever’s cooking inside the IP had to wait an extra half-hour without scorching or drying out.
And that brings us to today’s recipe, which is my favorite way to serve a side of quinoa. Think, Chipotle’s citrus rice, only with the extra flavor boost of lemongrass.
Tips for perfect Instant Pot Quinoa
- The water-to-quinoa ratio is surprisingly low in the Instant Pot, just 1:1. That’s because water does not escape the pressure cooker, so we can use less.
- Always rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve before using. There’s an outer coating, called saponin, that’s bitter and should be washed off. Some brands come pre-rinsed, so be sure to read the packaging.
- It’s not a typo in the recipe that we cook the quinoa for just one minute. The quinoa continues to cook while the unit depressurizes.
- I always use vegetable broth instead of water. Even just a little makes a noticeable difference. I keep a jar of Better Than Bouillon on hand, and mix up a diluted cupful (to minimize the sodium load).
- I almost always cook onions along with quinoa in the Instant Pot. I like the savory notes of the onions, and it adds an easy boost of flavor.
In case you’re curious, I have two Instant Pots: the the 6 quart DUO and the 3 quart LUX mini. The 6 quart is perfect for small families or batch cooking and meal prep (e.g., making a big batch of rice to freeze). The 3 quart is perfect for one or two people, or soup or baked potatoes. The 3 quart has a fairly small footprint, so it ends up staying on the counter a lot. At either size, I love that cleanup is such a breeze!
Enjoy perfect Instant Pot Quinoa with Lemongrass as a side dish, or mix into a salad, like this beautiful, rainbow Buddha Bowl.
Instant Pot Quinoa with Lemongrass
- 1/2 onions chopped
- 1 cup quinoa well rinsed and drained
- 6 inch piece lemongrass stalk cut into 2" pieces, crushed*
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- zest from one lemon
- 1 teaspoon pink himalayan or kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
- Use the Instant Pot's Saute function to preheat the pot. When the unit shows High heat, add the onions and quinoa, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Turn off the unit.
- Add the lemongrass, coriander, and veggie stock and give everything a stir. Close the lid, and set the vent to Seal.
- Set manual high pressure to 1 minute. Cook and let natural release for 15 minutes (you can quick release after that).
- Remove and discard the lemongrass stalks. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve.
- Makes about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
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