Ah, quinoa. The superfood is filled with so many nutrients for everyone, especially vegans! It’s a gluten-free seed that acts as a delicious substitute for carbs, which we can use in many dishes and drinks.
Suppose you have a pack of quinoa stored in the pantry or an opened pack in the fridge, ready to use… That may leave you wondering, how long does quinoa last? Can you leave quinoa in storage for a few months and use it without worrying about it getting spoiled.
We answer your wonderments about the shelf life of quinoa, so read on!
What is Quinoa?
What is quinoa in the first place?
This is an edible seed that we once thought was a grain! However, it actually comes from the flowering plant of the amaranth family. It’s considered a pseudocereal as it doesn’t grow on grass like barley, oats, or wheat.
Many of us consume quinoa because it’s packed with fiber, protein, B vitamins, and other nutrients. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains the following:
- 222 calories
- 39g carbs
- 4g fat
- 8g protein
- 5g fiber
Another plus is that quinoa is naturally gluten-free and an excellent substitute for other grains like rice. You don’t only take it as a carb substitute, though, as you can prepare drinks and dishes with it, a well-rounded nutritional ingredient.
We know it as the only plant food containing all nine essential amino acids, deeming it a complete source of protein. It is popularly known as a health food today, but quinoa has also been used for centuries, an ancient grain good for its nutrients.
Does Quinoa Go Bad?
To answer your question – quinoa does go bad and has a shelf life of 2 to 3 years when left unopened and properly stored. It can even last longer than that, which we’ll get to in the next section.
You can find the shelf life of quinoa in its packaging. It would usually last for a few years after its manufacturing date, though various factors determine its actual shelf life.
How Long Does Quinoa Last: Typical Shelf Life of Quinoa
Again, different factors determine the shelf life of quinoa. We’ll show you the different quinoa lifespans based on how it’s stored.
1. Uncooked Quinoa Shelf Life
There are different types of raw quinoa, such as red, white, and black. Regardless of variety, they last for 2-3 years from their production date. However, that is just the best by date, which refers to the food quality and not safety.
Meaning, quinoa can last longer than the date stated on its packaging! So, it can last even longer than the best-by date, as long as there are no apparent signs it has spoiled. It can last for months to years past the best-by date!
2. Cooked Quinoa Shelf Life
Once you open your quinoa packages and cook them, then the lifespan shortens. After cooking quinoa, it will last for up to one week in your fridge when stored in an airtight container. That said, it would most likely last for less than a week, typically within 3-5 days.
However, if you leave it out in your kitchen overnight, it may spoil within 24 hours.
You can have cooked quinoa last longer by storing it in the freezer for 8-12 months. However, it won’t taste as good over time, as the freezing process has quinoa lose its quality.
How to Tell If Quinoa Has Gone Bad
Before you start using quinoa in your drinks or dishes, you first have to check if it’s still safe to consume, especially if it spent a long time in your pantry. It isn’t easy to tell whether or not your uncooked quinoa has gone bad, though!
Here are the signs to tell if quinoa is bad:
- Spoiled uncooked quinoa would smell rotten or have a very different texture than when you first got it.
- Spoiled cooked quinoa would have a slimy texture, as it is supposed to be sticky and fluffy. If uncooked quinoa has a hard texture, it indicates spoilage, as it’s a soft grain.
- The same indicators go for cooked quinoa, which is smell and texture, but this is easier to detect than the uncooked version. Spoiled cooked quinoa would be very hard with a foul odor.
- Presence of mold or insects is a prominent factor. You may see green or white substances.
- If none of the indicators show, you can taste a tiny amount of quinoa to see if it still tastes as expected. If not, chuck it out.
How to Store Quinoa Properly
Quinoa lasts long as long as you keep it in a dry area. Here are the tips on how to store quinoa to extend its shelf life:
1. Storing Raw Quinoa
Storing raw quinoa is very easy. Just keep it in its original packaging or transfer it to an airtight container.
Then, please place it in a dark, cool, and dry environment, away from any light or heat sources. We recommend keeping it in your kitchen cabinet or pantry, opening it only as needed.
2. Storing Cooked Quinoa
Many people would cook quinoa in bulk, which is a good idea if you do meal plans with a busy work schedule.
That said, you need to practice proper hygiene and food storage to maximize the cooked quinoa’s shelf life, which prevents food waste. Besides avoiding food wastage, you also avoid wasting money throwing spoiled quinoa, which is an expensive ingredient.
There are only two places you can store cooked: The fridge or freezer.
Once cooked, quinoa becomes a perishable food that should not sit out at room temperature for an extended period of time. You shouldn’t leave cooked quinoa out for over two hours, or it spoils much quicker than expected.
After cooking quinoa, allow it to cool for 15-30 minutes, depending on how much you cook. Then, quickly transfer the cooked quinoa into your airtight container and place it in the fridge to use for your next dish.
We recommend using a shallow airtight container for a faster cooling process!
3. Freezing Cooked Quinoa
As mentioned, you can store cooked or raw quinoa in the freezer. Freezing is a common preservation method for ingredients other than quinoa, which extends its shelf life by delaying spoilage.
If you plan on storing cooked quinoa for longer than a week, then we recommend freezing it. That said, note that the quinoa’s texture and flavor would degrade over time.
Like storing cooked quinoa in the fridge, let the food cool down completely until it reaches room temperature. Then place it in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag.
We suggest storing quinoa in meal-sized portions in separate containers or bags. Squeeze all air from the bag before you seal it and label the food name and date of freezing, so you’re aware of how long you’ve stored it.
Only defrost cooked quinoa when it’s time to consume it. Defrost it in the fridge overnight or thaw it in a pot or microwave if you’re in a hurry.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are more things to learn about quinoa other than its expiration date! Here are frequently asked questions and informative answers to handle this healthy food even better.
1. Are there different kinds of quinoa?
There are three kinds of quinoa:
- Red quinoa seeds are oval and flat, having a rich and nutty flavor, having a chewy texture. It holds its shape well when cooked, making it suitable for salads.
- White quinoa is commonly used in cooking, having a light and delicate texture.
- Black quinoa is slightly sweeter with an earthier flavor.
You can also purchase multicolor quinoa, which is a combination of all three varieties. This type of quinoa gives you a blend of flavors and textures, which we appreciate!
2. Why does quinoa spoil so fast?
Quinoa has a long shelf life, so you won’t need to worry about it spoiling so quickly. The only two reasons it would spoil soon is because you purchased bad-quality quinoa or you did not store it adequately enough.
That’s why it’s crucial to choose high-quality quinoa from reputable brands, with a later best-by date. Furthermore, follow the tips above to store quinoa properly for longer shelf life.
3. What can I do with quinoa?
There are so many drinks and dishes you can pair or use quinoa with, such as:
- As a rice substitute with meats and veggies
- Breakfast bowls
- Burger patties
- Create vegan “meat.”
- Add it to soups
- Place it in wraps
- Stuff quinoa in squash or sweet potatoes
- Quinoa milk or horchata
- Quinoa black bean salad
4. Can I reheat cooked quinoa?
You can reheat cooked quinoa that’s been stored in the fridge or freezer. Either heat it in a pot or microwave, adding a bit of water for rehydration. That way, your quinoa won’t come up too dry.
5. Can I put hot cooked quinoa in the freezer or fridge?
As much as possible, we don’t recommend storing any food in the fridge while it’s still hot. Other food in the refrigerator may end up spoiling because of the sudden temperature change, and your fridge will need to work harder!
If you have no time, divide the hot cooked quinoa into smaller portions and shallow containers when placing it in the fridge, which helps with the cooling process.
Wrapping It Up
We hope that this article answered your question, “how long does quinoa last?” Follow our tips on storing this ingredient, whether cooked or uncooked quinoa, to extend its shelf life.