Vegetarian, delicious, fridge-clearing quinoa pilaf recipe

Guest post by HiLLjO

Quinoa is fast becoming my signature dish at home. I started incorporating this versatile grain more and more into our meals at home last fall and it has just blown me away with its potential. Our hands-down favorite quinoa dish right now is Quinoa Pilaf; I even set it out for our family dinner at Christmas! It’s vegetarian, delicious, and a great way to clean out the vegetable drawer stragglers (lone celery stalk, anyone?). Plus, there’s more protein in one ounce of quinoa than in one ounce of meat! HA!

This recipe is very basic and there is no “wrong” way to make it.

Quinoa flowering © by net_efekt, used under Creative Commons license.

All you will need for this recipe is:

  • 1 to 2 cups dry quinoa (any color)
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Several vegetables of different varieties chopped to your liking
  • Spices and lemon

First thing to do is to make the quinoa. This will take the longest at about 20 minutes! I use a rice cooker for my grains: I add the two parts water to one part dry quinoa and set to “cook.” After it goes on “warm” I unplug the cooker and let the grain soak up the remaining water.

As the quinoa cooks I like to prepare my vegetables I’ll be using. For this recipe I usually use onion, garlic, celery, carrot and mushroom. I dice my onion and garlic* and simply cut the rest of the veggies into slices.

While the cooker goes onto warm I get a sauté pan nice and hot over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan and coat the bottom evenly. First add the onion and sauté about two minutes. Next add another tablespoon of oil, stir, and add the prepared vegetables only. Sauté these a bit longer — about five minutes — while stirring very frequently.

When the quinoa is done, stir it once to make sure it’s fluffy. If it’s still liquid-y it needs to sit longer. If it’s dry then add two tablespoons oil to the pan, increase the heat one level to medium-hi and add the prepared quinoa. Stir constantly until mixed evenly and decrease heat back to medium. Continue stirring every two minutes, then add the garlic and spices when the mixture has reached even temperature and the onions have become transparent.

Serve immediately while warm after drizzling with lemon juice.

Some tips:

  • Don’t be shy with the salt; quinoa can be very bland and this increases its flavor immensely.
  • Olive oil’s smoke point is very low so if the pan gets too hot it can smoke. Try sunflower oil!
  • Get crazy with your vegetable choices! Try eggplant, zucchini, or even okra!
    • Setting aside the chopped garlic allows for the antibacterial compound alicin to be released!


Comments on Vegetarian, delicious, fridge-clearing quinoa pilaf recipe

  1. I’ve never tried quinoa, but it has been on my ‘try out’ list for a while now. Any tips on the spices? What do you normally put in there? Or, if it varies, can you share how you pick your spices?

    • Quinoa has a pretty neutral flavor of its own, so you can pretty much go crazy with what you throw in. What you put in your rice will probably work for your quinoa. Also, I like to cook quinoa with a broth of some sort (veggie, chick, or beef) for an extra flavor boost.

        • There is a variation on this that I absolutely love: cook the quinoa in a mix of half coconut milk and half veg broth. Sauté some lemongrass and onion with whatever vegetables you have. If you have any on hand, add some thyme when the vegetables are close to done. After you’ve put everything together add juice from one lime and mix.

    • I agree with the broth tip, that is great!
      I kind of pick my spices based on what kind of dish I’m making it. For savory I use garlic, salt, pepper, a bit of thyme, lemon.
      For spicy chili powder, pepper, cayenne and salt is great.
      It’s such a nice basic flavor that I’ve seen people make all kinds of versions, warm + cold, sweet + savory.

  2. Just a note with the quinoa, rinse it well before you use it. Even if it comes pre-rinsed. Quinoa has saponin on it, and some people are sensitive to it, the more saponin you eat the more you will react.

  3. Quinoa is so versatile because it’s mild and the grains are so small. I’m not always a big fan of the texture so I tend to blend it with rice or other grains or toss it into soups. It is also really easy to mix in salads. If you’re trying to up your protein intake keep a little jar of cooked quinoa in your fridge and sprinkle it into whatever else you’re eating.

  4. I love Quinoa like I love rice. So I started using it to make fried rice. I make the Quinoa seperate but cook all my items (eggs, shrimp, frozen veggies, non frozen veggies) in a wok with Soyaki from TJ’s then add Quinoa for the final fry. It’s delicious and easy.

Join the Conversation