Quinoa Pilaf

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Do you like quinoa? It’s one of my favorite things to make. Even though it’s actually a seed, it behaves like a grain, and can easily take the place of rice in many recipes, including a classic pilaf. Like rice it’s gluten-free, but since it is actually a seed, it’s high protein. Perfect for those wanting to cut back a bit on carbs.

This quinoa pilaf is prepared in much the same way as rice pilaf. First we sauté onions, bell pepper, garlic, and the uncooked quinoa, then we add water, bring to a simmer, cover and let cook until the quinoa absorbs all of the liquid.

Quinoa

If you want, you can use stock instead of some or all of the water called for in the recipe. Personally I prefer it made with water because the quinoa itself has a wonderful nutty flavor which using stock can mask.

Serve it warm, room temp or chilled.

Do you have a favorite quinoa recipe? If so, please let us know in the comments. We would love to hear about it.

Quinoa Pilaf Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4

Once you've cooked the quinoa as instructed, feel free to improvise a bit on the add-ins in the last step. I chose mint, basil, chives, and cucumber for this recipe, but you could just as easily go with parsley, green onions, chopped fresh red bell pepper.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided 1 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or Thai basil*
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (or green onions including the greens)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

* Best way to chop basil or mint is to chiffonade it by rolling up the leaves like a cigar and slicing crosswise from the end.

Method

1 Rinse quinoa if instructed on box: Check your box of quinoa, if it recommends rinsing the quinoa, place the quinoa in a large sieve and rinse it until the water runs clear. (Some brands don't require rinsing.)

2 Sauté onion, bell pepper, garlic, pine nuts: Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart pot. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, but not browned.

3 Add quinoa: Add the uncooked quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally for a couple more minutes. You can let some of the quinoa get a little toasted.

4 Add water, salt, bring to simmer: Add 2 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low so that the quinoa and water are simmering while the pot is partially covered (enough to let out some steam).

Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and put into a large serving bowl. Fluff up with a fork.

5 Stir in olive oil, mint, basil, chives, cucumber: Let cool until just slightly warm, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in chopped mint, basil, chives, and cucumber. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Links:

Mexican Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Corn here on Simply Recipes

Quinoa Greek Salad here on Simply Recipes

Heidi's quinoa recipes - from 101 Cookbooks

Quinoa with summer vegetables from Karina of Karina's Kitchen

Quinoa Pilaf

Showing 4 of 52 Comments

  • Mary Morris

    This is a great starter recipe, and variations of it have become a new summer staple in our household. For color and flavor, instead of cooking bell pepper with the quinoa, I like to add fresh sweet red bell pepper, that compliments the fresh greens that I add after the quinoa is cooked and has cooled. Instead of pine nuts, which are expensive, I have been using slivered blanched almonds, which I toast in a sautee pan, adding flavor and texture. For seasoning, along with the salt and pepper, I add fresh squeezed lime juice and a bit more olive oil. A very satisfying dish that goes well with sliced melon and barbequed chicken or steak on a hot summer evening.

  • Purvis

    This was wonderful. I made this pretty much as written (fresh herbs included) except with red quinoa. It tasted moist and substantial, with the herbs contributing it a nice freshness, and the quinoa giving it a deliciously unique texture and taste. Usually my husband adds lemon, spices or hot sauce to everything I make to add flavor, but he didn’t think this needed anything–it was perfectly balanced.

  • Jessica Whistman

    We tried quinoa for the first time the other night in this absolutely delicious side dish with some chicken my dad made using the leftover brine from our turkey. The quinoa salad contained mostly quinoa, but also fresh chopped mangoes, a few handfuls of craisins, and some chopped fresh parsley, and was tossed with a vinaigrette… the combination (to me at least) was DELICIOUS, and I don’t usually like anything with vinaigrettes. My dad found the recipe in an old spiral bound cookbook my mom had and I probably liked it the best of anyone, and I like the least healthy food of anyone in the house, haha.

  • love to cook

    My family’s favorite quinoa recipe: after quinoa is cooked, I put it in a small baking dish, add 1 small can of chopped green chilis, 1/2 can chopped jalapenos, 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream and a handful of grated mexican cheese and mix everything together, then add a sprinkle of the grated cheese on top. I bake it at 350 for about 10 min, until the cheese is melted.

    I should have this recipe printed on cards, because everyone that comes over and eats it ask for the recipe before they leave!

  • RD

    I first heard about quinoa a few years ago from a couple of recipes in Sunset Magazine (an asian-style seafood stew and a unique take on chili rellenos). Back then the only place I could find it was at Whole Foods. I picked up a big (4 lb) bag at Costco at the beginning of summer (Safeway still does not carry it).

    So I made this recipe for some friends we had over for dinner back in July and then for a potluck bbq at a friends house in August. It is so delicious and the recipe makes a lot. This recipe is now my new “go-to” side dish for summer barbeque pot-lucks.

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