Quinoa has become a popular staple for many health-conscious eaters. Considered a superfood, it is packed full of protein, fiber and an excellent source of various vitamins, minerals. A great base for mixing in vegetables, topping off a salad, or adding as a side to a protein; it’s no wonder why it’s become a favorite pairing for meals.
Whether you have leftovers or are meal prep cooking for the week ahead, you may be left wondering; how long does cooked quinoa last? If you store quinoa in an air-tight container in the fridge will last anywhere from 3-7 days.
Still, have questions about storage methods, shelf life, and signs quinoa has gone bad? Keep reading below!
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a seed that is often eaten as a substitute for rice. Although quinoa is a seed, nutritionally, it is more like a grain, often called a pseudo-grain. Quinoa seeds have a slightly bland yet nutty flavor. They come in a few varieties, such as red quinoa, black quinoa, and the most commonly found, white quinoa. Many find quinoa to be a popular alternative to white rice or brown rice. Quinoa is seen as a source of plant protein because it is one of the few plants containing a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids and many other essential nutrients.
How Long is Cooked Quinoa Good For at Room Temperature?
After quinoa has been cooked, it can be left out at room temperature for about 2 hours, which is the standard time for perishable foods by the USDA. However, use your own best judgment. I’ve certainly left quinoa out a bit longer when I’ve gotten carried away entertaining, and it’s been ok to eat. When quinoa is left out uncovered, it begins to dry out. You will begin to notice a difference in its quality. Use your own best judgment if it’s been out for more than 2 hours. If you know the quinoa isn’t going to be eaten in the next hour or two, it’s best to store it in the fridge.
How Long Does Quinoa Last in the Fridge?
With proper storage in an airtight container, cooked quinoa can last anywhere from 3-7 days in the fridge. This is great news if you are meal prepping for the next week or you just haven’t had a chance to eat that leftover quinoa. The best way to store cooked quinoa in your fridge is first to allow it to cool down. After it has cooled, then transfer quinoa to airtight containers or freezer bags for storage. If your container is not airtight, the quinoa will dry out faster and spoil sooner.
If you have mixed with other ingredients such as coconut milk, broth, veggies, etc., with your quinoa, you need to factor in how fresh those ingredients are in determining how long your quinoa will be good for.
How do you know Quinoa has Gone Bad in the Fridge?
To answer this question, I did my own experiment. I made a batch of quinoa using water only (no salt or seasonings), stored it in an airtight glass container with a plastic lid in the fridge. I checked on it daily to observe taste, quality, and appearance. While this was not a scientific experiment (I don’t have that kind of equipment, sorry), my goal was to see what happens to quinoa when it’s gone bad and how many days after cooking do I really want to be eating quinoa.
In my experiment, I found that after about 24-48 hours, quinoa still looked and tasted similar to how it did freshly cooked. On the fourth day, there were visible clumps- quinoa sticking together. It still tasted edible, but the quality and freshness had certainly begun to dissipate.
My conclusion was that for meal prepping, my limit would be 3 days, or it would be a good idea to freeze for the best quality quinoa. In terms of leftovers, the quinoa tasted fine and was certainly edible for up to about 5 days, but the quality had certainly diminished and my taste buds would have rather had a fresh batch of fluffy quinoa.
In terms of appearance after 5-7 days, a thin, moist coating became more and more visible that wasn’t there freshly cooked. I actually kept the quinoa in my fridge for a full 7 weeks to see what would happen. It never grew wings, but there was the presence of mold and it smelled awful.
Below are a few pics of the experiment, although as noted above, the changes were subtle, so they may be hard to see in photographs.
It’s had to capture in photos how quinoa’s quality diminishes over time as each day is just a slight change.
Of course, the best taste is on Day 1. Who doesn’t love fresh and fluffy quinoa? The quinoa was fresh, fluffy, and light. By day 4, a light sheen or coating began to develop on the quinoa. After 7 weeks, there were noticeable signs of mold. The smell was awful as well. Overall, you won’t see visible signs of spoilage for a few weeks. So an assumption of but “it looks okay” doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.
Can You Freeze Quinoa?
Yes! You can freeze both cooked and uncooked quinoa or dry quinoa. Since cooked quinoa’s refrigerator life is only a few days, freezing is an excellent option for retaining quality, freshness, and nutrients. As someone who likes to prep food yet doesn’t like the quality to diminish, I often find freezing foods to be the best option. If you are meal prepping and making a big batch of quinoa, try freezing the cooked quinoa for any meals that won’t be eaten within 3 days for best results.
Whether the quinoa has been cooked yet or is still uncooked, it needs to be stored in an airtight container or resealable plastic bags. While quinoa could last 8-12 months or longer in the freezer, I’ve found it really depends on how well it is stored and if it gets any freezer burn on it. As with any frozen foods, the quality, taste, and texture of frozen quinoa may begin to diminish after 1-2 months in the freezer.
Does Quinoa Go Bad?
Quinoa has a long shelf life and is considered to be non-perishable. The shelf life of quinoa is about 2-3 years from the harvesting and packaging date. Quinoa will often be marked with an expiration date or best-by-date, although this is really a general guideline. When stored properly in an airtight container away from moisture, it is likely to last much longer before it goes bad.
If you suspect your quinoa has gone bad, it’s best not to eat it. If it has a foul smell, taste, or doesn’t look right, before or after being cooked- it’s gone bad.
When it comes to quinoa, whether it’s cooked or uncooked when in doubt, throw it out. Eating bad food or food that is spoiled is never fun. You don’t want to risk an upset stomach or feeling ill if you don’t have to.
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about finding freedom with food here.