Does Quinoa Go Bad

All too often this “super grain” is left untouched in the pantry for months at a time. Or we cook a big batch and wonder how long does quinoa last in the fridge once cooked.

That brings the question: does quinoa go bad?

Many people wonder whether quinoa lasts weeks, months or years. Or if cooked quinoa will make it to the end of the week.

Let’s take a look at a closer look at the shelf life, storage methods and signs of spoilage of this uber-healthy food.

Salmon, quinoa, and veggies
(credit: Ella Olsson)

How To Store Quinoa

When it comes to uncooked quinoa, keeping it completely dry is the most important thing.

You can store it in the package it comes in or transfer it to an airtight container after opening. Place it in your pantry or another dark and cool place with a consistent temperature, and you’re good to go.

Once you cook quinoa, the leftovers should go into the fridge.

Give it some time to cool off a bit. 10 to 20 minutes is usually enough, depending on how much quinoa you have. Then transfer the cooked product into an airtight container or freezer bags and transfer them into the fridge.

If you find it more convenient, you can put the pot you used to cook the quinoa in the refrigerator instead. Make sure it has a lid on, which will prevent contaminants from getting into the pot and the food from catching any odors.

Tip

Never let cooked quinoa remain at room temperature for more than two hours (USDA).

Luch meal prep with quinoa and veggies
(credit: Ella Olsson)

Can You Freeze Cooked Quinoa?

If you would like to store quinoa for a prolonged period (think weeks or even months), freezing is the way to go. The process is very straightforward and looks like this:

  1. Cook quinoa your favorite way.
  2. Divide it into meal-sized portion and let it cool down to about room temperature.
  3. Transfer the quinoa into freezer containers or bags. Add labels if needed.
  4. Put the containers or bags into the freezer.

The best and recommended way to defrost quinoa is to do it overnight in the fridge. If you’re short on time and want to use the contents of the whole bag, there are a few ways to go:

  • Microwave frozen quinoa. Make sure to use a glass dish when microwaving and add a glass of water to the microwave so quinoa won’t dry out.
  • Use a non-stick pan on low heat to defrost and reheat the gluten-free “grain” (technically it’s not a grain).
  • Steam the quinoa in a covered pot (time-consuming)

You’ll find that your thawed quinoa still tastes flavorful, has excellent texture and still contains high levels of fiber, protein, and vitamins.

Quinoa with grilled peppers and mint
(credit: Nick Bratanek)

How Long Does Quinoa Last

Many factors determine the lifespan of quinoa. Similar to grains (like rice) and seeds, quinoa won’t last forever.

Shelf Life of Uncooked Quinoa
When it comes to raw quinoa, each variety (red, white, black) lasts at least 2 to 3 years from the production date.

A package of quinoa is typically marked with a “best by” printed date instead of an expiration date. Don’t assume that you should throw your quinoa out if you see that it has passed the date marked on the label.

Quinoa should remain safe to eat way beyond the printed date, and that means months or even years. In short, if there aren’t any obvious signs of spoilage, quinoa is most likely safe to eat.

Shelf life of Cooked Quinoa
After being cooked, quinoa lasts up to a week in the refrigerator.

If you place your cooked quinoa in the freezer, it will still be good to eat 8 to 12 months later. It won’t go bad in the freezer, but with time it slowly loses its quality. That’s why it’s recommended to consume it within a year of freezing.

 PantryFridge
Quinoa Uncooked“Best by” + 6 – 12 months 
Quinoa Cooked 3 – 7 days
Vegan bowl with quinoa, avocado, and beets
(credit: Prudence Earl)

How to Tell If Quinoa Is Bad

If you have ever wondered how to tell that uncooked quinoa is bad, know that it’s not always that easy. Quinoa has an extensive shelf life as long as it is kept dry.

There are some obvious signs of spoilage like an off (or funny) odor, signs of mold, or any insects or bugs that have found their way into the package.

But sometimes quinoa won’t show any signs of spoilage when it is no longer safe to eat. Fortunately, when you cook quinoa that has gone bad, you should notice a change in texture and taste. If that’s the case, quinoa will turn out hard and with altered taste.

Tip

If your quinoa sits in the pantry for quite a long time and there seems to be something wrong with it after cooking it, throw it away.

When it comes to cooked quinoa, the signs that it is spoiled are usually quite obvious: off smell, signs of mold or any discolorations that weren’t there before. If you notice any of the mentioned signs, get rid of the quinoa.

Also, if you kept the quinoa in the fridge for over a week, I suggest throwing it away anyways, even if it seems to be fine. Better safe than sorry.

Quinoa
Image used under Creative Commons from net_efekt

Quinoa FAQ

Does quinoa go bad if left out?

You can read in a bunch of places that perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. So the rule of thumb is to chuck it into the fridge within two hours or throw it away.

But I’m sure I’m not the only one who left out cooked food for much longer before refrigerating or reheating and never suffered from food-borne illness. So, if the quinoa was left out for a few hours, you can eat it at your own risk. If you accidentally left cooked quinoa out overnight, cut your losses and toss it out.

Generally speaking, the bacteria can multiply on cooked food that’s in a certain temperature range, but it’s difficult to say when exactly the food becomes “bad” or unsafe to eat.

Can you put hot quinoa in the fridge?

Before transferring the cooked quinoa into the fridge, let it cool for a bit (10 – 20 minutes). Putting it there piping hot will force your fridge to work extra hard, and some perishables nearby might be affected by the sudden temperature change.

That small cooldown period should be long enough to lower the temperature to a point where it won’t affect other food in the refrigerator.

Sources