Quinoa con Queso

One of my favorite foods is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a grain-like seed native of South America. It’s a lot like couscous, but nuttier in flavor, and smoother on the tongue. It’s also high in protein and completely gluten-free. You can make a pilaf with it, or use it for stuffing, or just eat it plain. I recently stumbled upon a recipe for quinoa with queso fresco in this book, and then found many other variations online. As I played around and experimented with this recipe I had two revelations. The first is that quinoa tastes great with milk poured over it. The second is quinoa tastes great with cheese (queso).

Who knew?

If you’ve never had quinoa, I urge you to try it. It’s incredibly easy to make. If you like quinoa, but have never had it with milk or cheese, trust me, this is good. Here we are using queso fresco, a Mexican fresh farmers cheese, but you could also use Cotija, feta, or mozzarella. You can keep it simple with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cheese, or dress it up with zucchini, roasted chiles, or potatoes.

Quinoa con Queso Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4.

If you want, you can add more vegetables up front to this dish, for example, sauté some chopped zucchini along with the onions. And/or serve with new potatoes, either chopped and mixed in (cooked of course), or served alongside.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 large fresh tomato, cored, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped large green chile, either Anaheim or Poblano (optional)*
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh, finely chopped)
  • 1/4 pound (4 ounces) fresh farmer's cheese, or queso fresco, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup milk
  • Fresh basil, cilantro, or chives for garnish (optional)

*See How to roast chile peppers over a gas flame.

Method

1 Put 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

2 While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more. Add the chopped tomato, about 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, dried oregano, and tomato paste. Add chopped green chiles (cooked) if using. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well combined. Let cook until the tomatoes have cooked through and the sauce has cooked down a bit. Then stir in the cheese. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.

3 Stir 1 cup of milk into the now cooked quinoa. Serve the quinoa in bowls and top with sauce. Garnish with chopped basil, parsley, cilantro, or chives.

quinoa-con-queso-b.jpg
The same dish but with a roasted and diced poblano chile in the sauce.

39 Comments

  1. Brian

    This sounds great. Quinoa is a little pricier, but what I love about it is the nutty flavor, as you said, especially if you toast it in a bit of butter and olive oil first, and even better, it’s so forgiving. To anyone who ever had difficulty making rice, I’d say try making quinoa first. It’s how I perfected my rice technique, not to mention that quinoa is so healthy and delicious.

  2. Lee

    Have you ever had quinoa pudding? Cook quinoa in milk, make a rich custard, add some raisins plumped (I like plumping them in a little bourbon or rum), lots of fresh nutmeg, and bake. I’m going to try your recipe tomorrow night. I don’t even have to go to the store!

  3. Tracey

    We love quinoa, just about to sit down to a meal that includes some actually. Wish I’d seen this recipe sooner :D It’s rocketing to the top of my “to make” list.
    yum yum.

  4. Diana

    I love quinoa with cheese! My favorite way to eat quinoa is to make a sort of Greek salad with feta, avocado, tomato, cucumber and kalamata olives mixed into it. Excited to try this recipe as I have some Anaheim peppers I grew to use up. Thanks Elise!

  5. Melissa

    This recipe looks great! Can’t wait to try it. I would love it if you’d post a recipe for fresh cheese some time. Keep up the great work, we love your site and make something from it at least once a week.

  6. stephanie

    I cannot wait to make this! have to make some changes, my husband won’t touch anything that is cooked with tomatoes, so I’ll probably use roasted red peppers and use mozzarella cheese instead. This is so versatile, I love when you have a recipe that you can mix-and-match like this! I’ll have make a batch of this with grilled eggplant just for me. Thank you for the recipe, I love you site!

  7. Marianne DeMartini

    I love quinoa, this looks delicious! Have to try it tonight. Thanks for using my little bowl in your beautiful picture, Elise!

    Oh yes, readers take note! This beautiful dish is the handcrafted work of Marianne DeMartini. You can see her work on her Etsy site. ~Elise

  8. Wayne

    I found a recipe for a similar dish years ago, called Patatas con Queso. Replace the Quinoa with roasted cubed potatoes, then add 1/2 C. of Crema to the sauce. Mix the sauce and potatoes together and serve. I loved that one so much,that I want to try it with Quinoa instead! Thanks for the new recipe!

  9. Allyson Elizabeth D'Angelo

    Can’t wait to try this. I have 2 8 yr old girls, and wondered if they would like the texture of Quinoa, but they did. When I first bought this I just made a garden fresh Quinoa with what I had on hand in the refrigerator. Tomatoes, cucumber, onion and some fresh herbs (parsley and mint). The mint just set this off. We drizzled with a dark, Italian salad dressing, but it was great and fresh all on its own.

    It may be a little more expensive in some areas, but boy does it make a lot. It goes along way!

  10. Liane

    I also love quinoa and cheese is a most logical application. It goes very well with parmesan and gouda, too.

    Thanks for sharing Marianne’s work – I love pottery and her work is beautiful!

  11. Karen

    Quinoa used to be my breakfast cereal. Milk AND brown sugar. Yuuummmm! Since I’ve been low carb I had to give it up, but have fond memories. :)

  12. Muze

    I’ve never had it before but it looks delicious and for someone like me who is a type 1 diabetic, I’ve been trying to look for ways to replace rice with more healthier substitutes, as rice has too much carbs in it, and definitely raises the blood sugar level to a not-so-good degree. Thank you for this recommendation.

  13. Torrey

    Really liked this one. I used Feta Cheese and canned Anaheim chilies, because that’s what I had on hand. And thankfully there are still good tomatoes around. Delicious! Great colors and textures, too. Nice way to do quinoa, and a quick and easy meatless entree.

  14. Josselyn

    I don’t digest quinoa well, but I make this dish with brown rice all the time! Healthy and satisfying. Maybe I’ll try mixing in a little quinoa next time, to try and get my body to adjust.

  15. Malli

    Quinoa is an absolute favorite of mine. But I never thought it would go so well with cheese or milk… I will take up your suggestions and make this since your plate is tempting me:)

  16. Carina

    I love quinoa with bleu cheese. I mix sauteed mushrooms, chopped apple and bleu cheese (along with a bit of sage) into cooked quinoa, then use it as a stuffing for roasted acorn squash. It’s a lovely blend of sweet and savory.

  17. Natalie

    The flavors were really good, and the cheese complimented them so well that I will double the quantity of it next time. Way too much milk though. Adding the full cup of milk to the cooked quinoa just made for quinoa soup. I cooked it an extra 5 minutes to reduce it and served it with a slotted spoon to drain the excess. By the time I went back for a second serving most of the rest of the milk had absorbed, so maybe it just needs to sit for a bit, but I would still use a half cup less milk. Overall a tasty, filling, vegetarian meal!

    That’s weird. I have no problem with the milk. It all gets absorbed when I’ve made it. Maybe it does just need to sit a little longer. ~Elise

  18. Michelle

    My boyfriend and I had a similar dish when we were SoBo hiking on the Long Trail in VT two summers back. We stopped at a hostel and they served us quinoa with a salsa fresca and small chunks of goat cheese. Such awesome memories this dish brings. Thank you! :)

  19. Rob

    I loved this! I decided to cook the quinoa in chicken stock and seared some shrimp that I marinated in some garlic and adobo sauce for 30 minutes and served those on top. Other than that I followed the recipe and wow, it is tasty!

  20. Marcia A

    I made the Quinoa con Queso last night and it really was very good…I enjoyed every bite! I made a couple of changes due to my dairy allergy for those who may be interested.First,I used soy milk [Silk to be exact],in the quinoa and instead of the 4 ounces of diced farmers cheese I used 2 ounces of grated Daiya [it's a brand found at our local Whole Foods] mozzerella cheese. I added the cheese last and allowed the sauce to sit a few minutes so the cheese would melt but not just dissolve into the sauce. I can’t wait to have the left overs tonight!

  21. Sue

    I made this last night and it was a hit – my 4yr old and teenage daughters all loved it! I added a little shredded chicken since my husband has to have meat in his meals and used paneer cheese (available at Costco) because I couldn’t locate any farmer’s cheese or Queso Fresco.

  22. Alison

    My daughter and I love to eat quinoa for breakfast topped with butter, brown sugar and milk. Yummm. Thanks for the great recipes!!

  23. teelaehn

    This made a great weeknight meal. I like to cook vegetarian a few times a week, and quinoa is high in protein and minerals. I added a chopped green bell pepper (sauteed it with the onion), and substituted a minced chipotle pepper for a roasted green pepper since that’s what I had on hand. Can’t wait to make it again and experiment with more veggies!

  24. Jillena

    All these years of eating quinoa, or eating queso fresco, never combined them! My mother-in-law makes me Spanish quinoa in place of rice, I’ll get some quest fresco on that one! Thanks!

  25. eileen

    In this last year we too have become obsessed with quinoa. I love it with goat cheese, olives, baby tomatoes, celery, a small amount of any nuts, few tablespoons of evoo and parsley. I also add a can of chickpeas from time to time to up the protein. Its a standard for us now. Lately I have been cutting the cheese to reduce calories, but the cheese is a great taste addition. It may seem a little more expensive than other grains or legumes(3.50 lb bulk at wf,) but a cup and a half of quinoa with the additions can easily serve six as a side or four for the main part of a meal. So its actually pretty economical for the nutritional value.

  26. Jimena Aliaga

    I had to do a double take when I read “Quinoa con Queso” because I never expected to see a dish whose main ingredient is a native crop of my country (Peru – South America) here. Even more surprising was to see the exact combination we use here (Quinoa + cheese).

    Quinua (as we call it) is a crop that has been around since long before the Inka Empire. It is a very traditional in my country and is prepared frequently, especially in the Andes region (Highlands).

    I’m just glad to see it here and know that people around the world get to taste a little bit of my country.

    I’ll cook this version soon and see how it goes. Thank you for the recipe!

  27. Grace

    I like quinoa and I value its nutritional content. But my hubby doesn’t like it at all, and I’ve been looking for ways to “disguise” its taste. I stumbled upon your post and my eyes lit up. I will try this tonight, thank you!!

  28. jennifer

    When i read that this supercereal was form the Inkas in the highlands of Peru i tried it in this recipe and now I am a very big fan, Thank you!!!

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