Quinoa Pilaf

Side DishGluten-FreeVegetarianQuinoa

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!

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.


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

  • 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.


  • 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.


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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Quinoa Pilaf

Showing 4 of 53 Comments / Reviews

  • 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!

  • eatlivetravelwrite

    I recently made the following salad which will no doubt become a summer staple in our house:


    Your pilaf looks wonderful too – it’s bookmarked!

    Everything that Heidi creates is outstanding. I’m not surprised you like her lemon scented quinoa, I’m sure it’s terrific. ~Elise

  • Leisureguy

    Well, you probably already know it, but your readers may not: quinoa is not a grain (i.e., the seed of a grass, as are wheat, corn, barley, and oats). Quinoa is from a species of goosefoot. Nor are buckwheat or amaranth grains.

    Thanks! Corrected. I’m used to thinking of it as a grain (amaranth too) because I use it that way. ~Elise

  • Katrina

    I made quinoa for the first time about a month ago. I got the recipe from my godmother who describes it as a healthy version of fried rice (you can see my post about it here: http://eatingontulsatime.blogspot.com/2009/06/something-healthy.html).

    Now there’s an idea. Usually when one makes fried rice, you want to use day-old rice, so it’s drier and fries up better. I wonder if the same makes a difference with quinoa? ~Elise

  • Jeanette

    I love to cook it with Moroccan flavors. My favorite recipe with quinoa is from Epicurious.


    Hmm, looks good. Looks like they are substituting what would more normally be served with couscous with quinoa. ~Elise

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