Quinoa Pilaf

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.

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


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin 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 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or Thai basil*
  • 1 tablespoon 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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  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Diana

    I really like the idea of pine nuts in the quinoa. I love chimichurri quinoa, with all the awesome flavors of a chimichurri sauce served with a nice steak.

  • Christine

    I just made this, it is delicious! I don’t think I’ve ever made quinoa before! Only thing, when you rinse it is smaller than pasta, so it was falling through the holes :) Need a different strainer!

  • sandra

    i love this. first time with quinoa and my entire family loved it. Even the super picky 4 year old who hates everything, from risotto to lasagna. I really enjoyed the nutty taste.

  • Alex

    I like this recipe a lot but the problem is that it made way too much! My family only ate 1/4 of it and we wound up throwing it all away since it went bad. Next time I make this recipe I will definitley make 1/4 to 1/2 the recipe. It is definitley much more healthier than white rice or white pasta, plus tasty. Thanks.

  • misscriss

    I really love Quinoa the way my friend Jax makes it…replace half of the water with OJ, add in a little orange zest & toss in a handful of slivered almonds. mmm. It’s great (and tangy) hot, and left overs make a beautiful addition to a salad the next day.

  • Leslie

    I made this over the weekend. It was fabulous! I added some feta cheese to give it a kick. Absolutely wonderful. I love your ideas Elise!!

  • Trig

    Here’s a photo-recipe from my one and only blog post about quinoa: Quinoa Tabouleh. Cheers, Elise.

    Isn’t that beautiful. I especially love the idea of serving it with fried sardines. ~Elise

  • Kelly Lenihan

    I actually used quinoa last night in lieu of rice to serve with orange chicken. I made it with vegetable stock instead of water and it was flavorful and delicious. Vegetable stock doesn’t seem to be as overpowering as chicken stock, so it turned out great.

    I like the idea of serving quinoa cold with fresh cucumber, thanks for another great recipe.

  • Nick

    This recipe looks fantastic (as usual, Elise!) but I haven’t seen my favorite use for quinoa in the comments, so thought I’d chime in. It’s a very simple presentation of steamed/cooked quinoa, which you top with wilted beet greens or swiss chard, and then drizzle the whole thing with a tahini-lemon dressing. The combination is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

  • 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.

  • Laura

    This looks delicious. I have a favorite recipe for curried couscous salad and a while ago I made a Curried Quinoa Salad recipe from Ann Gentry’s Real Food Daily Cookbook. Ann Gentry’s recipe was basically the same thing as my favorite couscous recipe, but with Garam Masala instead of curry powder and with some sesame oil added in. The salad was delicious warm as a pilaf, too. The sesame oil was very good with the quinoa.

  • Chris

    I love quinoa. It was hard for me to find at first. It has such a unique texture. The pilaf sounds wonderful. A splash of seasoned rice vinegar would be nice with the cucumbers.

  • Siri

    I loved the crunchy taste to Quinoa the moment I tasted it couple of months ago. My first recipe to try was – Quinoa Vegetable Pancakes.

    Next on my list is this Pilaf. I will give it a try sometime soon.


  • Ruth

    Thanks for the great quinoa recipe, Elise. Here’s a recipe for Curried Quinoa that I really like. It serves 4 as a side dish and is especially good with pork or grilled chicken:
    1 cup quinoa; 1 1/2 TB vegetable oil; 1/2 onion,
    diced; 1 tsp grated fresh gingerroot; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp corriander; 1/4 tsp cinnamon; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 3/4 cups water; 1/2 cup frozen peas. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in cold water. Saute onion in oil 4-5min. Add ginger and quinoa; cook 1 min., stirring constantly. Stir in turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, and salt. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 min. Stir in the peas. Cover and cook 4-5min. or until peas are tender and all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before

    Love it! Thank you. ~Elise

  • Marjy

    I love quinoa in most forms. The last couple of times, it’s been simple (okay, lazy). I toss in a little corn at the end and put out a few condiments so my DH and I can season to taste. I like a dab of butter and a splash of soy sauce- he likes soy sauce and hot sauce. There’s also a quick service place near us that offers it as an option in their bowls and wraps instead of rice.

  • Cookin' Canuck

    Quinoa has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It’s quick to make and has a lovely nutty flavor. Have you tried red quinoa? It has a deep, rich color and even nuttier flavor. I found it at Whole Foods.

    As for a recipe, I usually cook the quinoa, throwing in some raw (red pepper) or tender-crisp veggies (green beans, snap peas, that sort of thing), cooked salmon, feta cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil. Then I serve it over a bed of spinach.

  • Susan H-M

    I have 2 quinoa recipes I make often. A pilaf, usually using either veg or chicken stock, with sliced/chopped carrots cooked with the quinoa. At the end toss with chopped pecans and parsley. And a coconut “stew” served over quinoa (cooked with water), we especially like this with the red quinoa. The stew is a bit of whatever is on hand, but always includes sweet potatoes, stock and coconut milk, and some combination of crookneck squash, peas, carrots, chicken, tofu. So yummy and comforting in the winter.

  • hoger

    A very nice quinoa variation is to mix 1/2 & 1/2 with brown rice and cook together. The rice adds a nice texture to the quinoa.

  • Sarah Henry

    While I love the quinoa salad you linked to (thanks for the link love) we also serve quinoa at my house as a simple side dish and jazz it up a bit with lemon zest, currants, a dash or two of cumin, and a splash or two of olive oil.

  • AndyC

    I typically go the Southwestern route with my quinoa (cumin, corn and black beans), but a friend of mine simmered it with coconut water (not coconut milk!) which lent just a hint of sweetness but kept the nutty taste of the quinoa. It was phenomenal served with some grilled fish and veggies.

  • Angie

    My favorite quinoa recipe is from Veganomicon. It’s quinoa salad with black beans and mango. Other ingredients include red bell pepper, scallions and cilantro. The dressing is simply red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil and salt. Very refreshing and delicious.

  • Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    Well, I hope you’re satisfied! ;)

    I couldn’t stop thinking about this quinoa all afternoon. So, on my way home from work I stopped and picked some up. I’m making your basic recipe, but I am going to also add fresh tomato and oregano with some Greek salad dressing and a little feta on top.

  • Marjorie

    What a great post! I “discovered” quinoa earlier this year and am addicted! Here’s my recipe for a great side or even main dish salad.

  • Carla

    Quinua (or quinoa, I guess) is very common here in Peru! My mom used to serve it with rice in some kind of vegetable stew. Some people prepare it similar to oatmeal for breakfast.

  • Jessica

    My absolute favorite quinoa recipe:


    I make this quinoa and black bean dish a l-o-t. We’ll eat it as a side dish or scooped up with freshly made whole wheat pita bread. Yum. My family and I could eat it all day long.

    (Love this blog, by the way. It’s my new go-to site for recipes. Thanks so much for sharing all you do!)

  • Kate Mai

    This is a favorite recipe of mine that I use as a main course or as a side. So fresh and delicious!
    Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

  • Karina

    Looks delicious. Quinoa is my new favorite grain (psuedo-grain?), hands down. I love it for hot dishes, like stir-fries (Elise, I use it fresh and hot right from the rice cooker; but I’ve also used leftover quinoa in stir-fries; both ways work). I also love cooked quinoa for salads (it reminds me of cous cous, which is off my list due to gluten). My favorite additions are fresh mint and parsley with a good squeeze of lime juice- and any garden fresh veggie you can throw in. Fabulous.

  • Regan

    For all of you quinoa lovers out there, they make pasta versions as well. I haven’t tried it, but a friend of mine claims it is a great alternative for those gluten-free pasta fans. I’ve seen it made by the “Ancient Harvest” brand.

  • misca

    the BEST quinoa dish I ever had was when I wanted cheesey grits topped with shrimp…And was outta grits.

    So I grabbed the box of quinoa and used that instead of grits added after it was done stired in a tlbs of butter, and some chedder and monteray jack cheese. Then COVERED it in satueed shrimpy goodness.

    I have never EVER eaten such delicious ness due to a shortage :D.

    As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”! ~Elise

  • Paula

    Elise: My first cooking experiment with quinoa was Aztec Platter, a recipe that’s in a cookbook by Nava Atlas & Lillian Kayte (Vegetarian Express). It’s a beautiful and healthful salad consisting of a lot of things, but naturally quinoa, corn, and beans. It’s a composed salad, dressed up with pumpkin seeds, black olives, tomatoes, bell pepper strips and a simple vinagrette-type dressing. For a cooking class ‘exam’ I gussied it up with chipotle aioli & grilled shrimp & served it in tortilla baskets. Whether simple or more elaborate, it was a great way for the uninitiated to try quinoa for the first time.

    Sounds great! ~Elise

  • April

    I’m trying that today. Just a warning to those new to quinoa. Do not ignore the step of rinsing. I forgot once, and the result was just nasty. There is a coating on quinoa that tastes like soap.

    Great advice. I do think some producers, like Trader Joe’s, do a good job of pre-rinsing. But in general, rinse until the water runs clear. ~Elise

  • Sean

    I’ve made a red quinoa stuffed white eggplant before that was pretty and yummy. I used Wegmans’ Thai culinary stock to bring the quinoa up, which wasn’t overpowering at all.

    Wegmans also sells a quinoa which, allegedly, is from a farming collective that uses price controls to allow the sometimes desperately poor people of South America to make a living off of an otherwise inexpensive crop. At least that’s why they say it’s more expensive, and if it’s true, then good for them. Their red quinoa is just plain wonderful.

  • Lori

    I to had it for the first time in CA. The tours we took to the wineries in Napa/Sanoma included lunch and they had a quinoa salad that was so yummy and fresh.

    It was just quinoa (we had 2 different varieties on the 2 days, both were good), cut red and green peppers, olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. Serve cold and Enjoy!!

  • Jen

    Excited to try this recipe! I really enjoy quinoa but don’t have a lot of recipes for it.

    I actually just made a quinoa dish last night called creamy quinoa primavera. Cook 1 1/2 cups quinoa in 3 cups chicken broth until broth is absorbed, then stir quinoa together with 2-3 teaspoons freshly chopped basil and about 1/2 a container of light cream cheese. Meanwhile, sautee 5 cups chopped veggies (broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, corn, etc.) in butter with a clove of garlic. Mix together quinoa mixture and veggies for a great side dish that’s excellent hot or cold.

  • sairuh

    It’s good to see more quinoa recipes! One thing I’ve experienced is that the brand really does matter. I like using Trader Joe’s, which needs very little rinsing and almost never bitter. On the other hand, Whole Foods’ 365 house brand is dreadful: no amount of rinsing got rid of the bitterness, and it came out mushy.

    I’ve also noticed that both quinoa and couscous make a great template for salads:


    Thanks for letting us know about the WF house brand. I too have had better results with the packaged quinoa from Trader Joe’s. Tastes better than what I got in bulk from WF. Perhaps they do a better job of pre-rinsing? ~Elise

  • Bryan

    Costco carries large bags of quinoa, if anyone wants a large amount for relatively cheap. I think it’s about 3 pounds.

  • Mina

    For the 4th I made an improvised quinoa salad. One box of quinoa prepared according to instructions, one can of black beans, one bag of fire roasted frozen corn from Trader Joe’s, the remnants of some goat cheese that I needed to use, a tad bit of butter, and the rest of the purple basil that came with my CSA box last week. Yum!!

    I’ve also tried to make a rice pudding type thing with quinoa using almond milk, sugar and cinnamon. Also yum.

    Quinoa rice pudding? I could totally see that. ~Elise

  • Heather

    My favorite way to make quinoa is to simply cook it in chicken broth instead of water. So tasty!

  • Stephanie

    I mix it with wheat berries, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and chopped pecans. Then I add in some olive oil and red wine vinegar. Yummy!

    Sounds like quinoa version of my favorite wild rice salad, great idea, thanks! ~Elise

  • Maggi

    I am totally in love with quinoa! I make a cold quinoa salad with chopped peppers, onions and shrimp tossed in a simple vinaigrette to bring to parties. Then as people ask what is this yummy salad, I promptly give the culinary lesson and extol the virtues of quinoa. My husband says my little trick is getting old, but I love it nonetheless.

    Great to spread the word about quinoa, especially with a delicious dish. ~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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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