How to pop quinoa like popcorn

Updated July 19, 2017

Native Americans began cultivating both corn and quinoa thousands of years ago. Quinoa was a staple food for the ancient Incans; the name means "mother grain" in their language, according to Purdue University. You can use quinoa as a gluten-free alternative to popcorn, though it will not pop as large as popcorn because the grain is smaller. The method for popping quinoa resembles the method for air-popping popcorn. In addition to eating it on its own, you can add popped quinoa to granola or cereal.

Place the desired amount of quinoa in a strainer and run water over it to rinse off the bitter coating. This is unnecessary if your quinoa is prerinsed; the package should state whether it is.

Allow the quinoa to dry.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the quinoa in a single layer.

Shake the skillet or stir the quinoa continually to keep it from burning.

Remove the skillet from the heat as soon as you notice a roasting smell. Immediately move the quinoa to a bowl.

Spray the quinoa with vegetable oil or butter-flavoured spray and sprinkle it with salt. Toss the quinoa to coat it evenly.


Add pepper, chilli powder or your favourite spice to the popped quinoa for extra flavour.


If you need to pop more quinoa than will fit in a single layer in your skillet, pop it in multiple single-layer batches so that it will heat evenly.

Things You'll Need

  • Quinoa
  • Cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet
  • Vegetable oil spray or butter-flavoured spray
  • Salt
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About the Author

Petra Wakefield is a writing professional whose work appears on various websites, focusing primarily on topics about science, fitness and outdoor activities. She holds a Master of Science in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University.