Quinoa Pilaf

Naturally high-protein and gluten-free quinoa, cooked with onions, garlic, bell peppers, pilaf style, with chopped fresh herbs added for the finish. Healthy and easy!

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 53 Comments

  • Abbi

    LOVE this recipe! Delicious as written, and easily adapted for different crowds. I’ll be making this as a gluten free ‘stuffing’ alternative for Thanksgiving!

  • Alecia

    Mmmm! I love quinoa. We like to cook it in our rice steamer with fresh mango cut into bit sized chunks. When done cooking, I mix in fresh spinach (it will wilt down) and feta. Really good as a side with grilled chicken or fish.

  • DK

    I love quinoa. They are so versatile. I eat them as pilaf, as substitute for rice or as patties.

    Quinoa dinner rolls, Baked Quinoa and mixed bean croquettes ( I have posted these in my blog) are my all time favorites! Do give them a try, you will love them too

  • Linda Larsen

    Love your recipe for quinoa. I also like that you call for rinsing the grain first. Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponsin which is easily removed with water. Most processed quinoa has had that coating removed, but it’s still a good idea to rinse it, as you say, until the water runs clear.

  • julie

    Best quinoa recipe, ever: quinoa with kale and walnuts.

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