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Thursday 30 June 2022
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25 Nutritious Vegan Quinoa Recipes

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Rich in protein, folate, fiber, zinc, and iron, quinoa is one of the most nutritious staple foods available to plant-based eaters. These 25 nutritious vegan quinoa recipes demonstrate how versatile and delicious quinoa can be. You’ll find options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

A dish of vegan quinoa and lentils is adorned with a dollop of white cashew cream and some sprigs of thyme.

When I had been vegan for only a few weeks, I started to notice a lot of recipes that called for quinoa.

The grain was completely new to me. I had never heard of it before, never seen it or eaten it. While whole grains are absolutely a staple of my diet now—the foundation of my diet, really—I didn’t grow up eating many of them. We ate pasta and rice on occasion, and that was it.

I had no clue how to pronounce quinoa. But I decided to pick it up at my health food store and give it a try.

The first thing I liked about this little grain (which is actually a pseudograin, or an edible seed), was that it cooked in less than fifteen minutes. I had been struggling to figure out how to cook rice properly and felt as though I was always waiting for brown rice to be ready. A short cook time was very appealing.

I also loved the nutty flavor and aroma of quinoa. I liked its pillowy texture. It was filling and light at the same time, equally good for cold salads and for warm main dishes.

It was basically love at first bite. And in the many years since, quinoa has remained one of the pantry ingredients that I use most often. I’d go as far as to say that rarely a week goes by when I don’t eat it once or twice.

January always feels like a good time to reconnect with foundational ingredients—the simple, nourishing plant foods that keep me going. Some examples are chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes, tofu, tempeh, and all sorts of whole grains.

Quinoa rises to the top of this list. So, what better time for a quinoa appreciation post and quinoa recipe roundup?

Quinoa nutrition

Of the many reasons to love quinoa, excellent nutrition is at the top of the list. Quinoa is an especially nutrient-dense complex carb, and here are a few of the nutrients you’ll find in it.

Protein

With six grams of protein per serving—which is about a cup, cooked—quinoa is higher in protein than other gluten-free whole grains. It’s comparable in protein to bulgur wheat, farro, and other forms of wheat.

When you combine quinoa with other good sources of plant protein, like beans, tofu, tempeh, or seitan, you’re well on the way to a protein-rich meal. This quinoa protein bowl is a good example of that, and it’s one of my favorite, older blog recipes.

Quinoa happens to be a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids (those are the ones we have to obtain from food, because our bodies don’t produce them endogenously).

This isn’t something I focus on too much, as we don’t have to obtain the essential amino acids within a single food source or meal. What matters is that we eat enough variety overall to source all of the essential amino acids on a regular basis.

Still, I like that quinoa has a diverse and fulsome amino acid profile—it’s just another cool feature of this nutritious grain.

Fiber

A serving of quinoa has nearly 20% of the daily recommended dietary allowance of dietary fiber. This is good news for digestive function and health. Higher fiber diets are also associated with healthy blood lipids and cardiac health.

Zinc

A cup of cooked quinoa provides about 18% of the RDA of zinc for men and 25% of the RDA of zinc for women. This is an impressive amount, and quinoa is one of the dietary sources of zinc that I recommend most often to my clients.

Iron

A cup of cooked quinoa contains about 2.8 milligrams of iron, which is about 16% of the RDA for premenopausal women. It’s 35% (!) of the RDA of iron for men of all ages and postmenopausal women.

For more on how to combine quinoa with other iron-rich foods and ensure adequacy of iron on a vegan diet, you can check out this post.

Folate

Folate is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in DNA synthesis. Not surprisingly, it becomes particularly important during times of rapid growth, including pregnancy.

Insufficient folate status is associated with neural tube defects in pregnancy. A supplement of folic acid—which is the synthetic form of folate—is recommended for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant.

Throughout the rest of the life cycle, it’s important to get folate through food sources. Quinoa is a powerful one. A serving of cooked quinoa has about 20% of the RDA of folate. (Other folate sources include dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, dry beans, peanuts, oranges, avocado, and strawberries.)

Magnesium

When we think about magnesium in food, our minds often turn to bananas and coconut water. Yet there are lots of other plant-based sources of this mineral, which plays an important role in bone health, muscle and nerve function, and regulation of blood pressure.

These sources include beans, greens, oatmeal, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and—you guessed it—quinoa. A cup of quinoa provides nearly 30% of the RDA of magnesium for adults.

Phytonutrients

In addition to all of these important micronutrients, quinoa is a good source of quercetin.

Quercetin is a phytonutrient, or a chemical compound, that has been associated with anti-inflammatory effects. It may also play a role in cancer prevention and in cardiac health.

How to make quinoa

I’m asked all the time how I prepare my quinoa, and I understand why. Quinoa can be a little tricky to get just right.

If you add too much water, you’ll have mush, instead of well-defined (if small), round grains.

If you add too little water in cooking, you may end up with grains that dry and fail to have the fluffy texture that quinoa is known for.

It’s easy to undercook quinoa and end up with something mushy, or to overcook and burn it.

There are three important things that I keep in mind when I cook quinoa.

Rinse

First, I rinse quinoa before cooking, unless the package of grains is marked as pre-rinsed. Some quinoa contains a surface coating of saponins, which are compounds that can create a bitter taste without rinsing.

I’ve read that most quinoa sold nowadays has little saponins on the surface, which means that rinsing is often unnecessary. But I do it anyway; it’s not a big deal, and I like to reduce that bitter taste when I can.

1 : 1.75 ratio

The second thing I do is make sure that I use a 1:1.75 ratio of dry grain to water when I cook quinoa.

I find that a 1:2 ratio is ever so slightly too much water, resulting in mushy quinoa. 1 3/4 cups water for every cup of dry grain is perfect.

13 minutes (usually)

I always used to give quinoa 15 minutes of cooking time. Now I find that 13 minutes is the sweet spot. I’d offer up the disclaimer that some quinoa seems for whatever reason to need an extra minute or two, but 13—with some fluffing and steaming after—is usually perfect.

How-to

So here’s what the whole process looks like.

Step 1

Rinse your quinoa through a fine sieve under cold, running water for about 1 minute.

Step 2

Place the quinoa in a pot along with 1 3/4 cups water. Bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 13 minutes.

Step 3

Check on the quinoa. If it looks fluffy and there’s no more water bubbling at the bottom, remove it from heat and let it sit for five minutes. Then, fluff it with a fork. Re-cover the quinoa and let it sit for another five minutes.

At this point it should be perfectly fluffy, warm, and ready to eat.

Meal prep and storage

Quinoa is an easy, useful grain to meal prep. It can be stored for five days in an airtight container in the fridge. Mix it into salads, warm it up as the base of a vegan lunch bowl, use it in a pilaf, or make it the base of a cozy gratin.

Can I freeze quinoa?

Yes, absolutely! Speaking of meal prep, cooked quinoa can be frozen for up to eight weeks.

Is quinoa gluten-free?

Quinoa is a gluten-free grain, which means that it doesn’t contain gluten naturally. However, if you have celiac disease, it’s wise to purchase quinoa that’s certified gluten-free in order to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Serving ideas

You can truly enjoy quinoa in the same way that you would most other grains: in bowls or salads, as a simple dinner side dish, or in a warm skillet of greens, beans, and grains.

It’s also possible to get creative with your quinoa usage. I’ve used it as a topping for warm soup, in a breakfast parfait, and as a porridge.

In fact, quinoa is one of the grains I most enjoy in the morning. It’s a nice alternative to oatmeal as usual, and quinoa lends itself to both savory and sweet preparations.

25 nutritious vegan quinoa recipes

So without further ado, here are 25 of the tastiest, most versatile, and most nutritious vegan quinoa recipes that I keep on rotation in my home.

I eat quinoa for breakfast, dinner, or lunch, so I’ve organized the recipes accordingly.

Quinoa breakfast recipes

Quinoa Breakfast Pudding

This warm, creamy quinoa breakfast pudding is a nutritious alternative to traditional oatmeal or hot cereal. Made with vanilla, coconut milk, and berries, it's as fragrant and tasty as it is nourishing.
A few small glass containers hold a creamy vegan quinoa breakfast pudding and berries

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Cocoa Strawberry Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

These cocoa strawberry quinoa breakfast bowls are a delicious way to make a healthy breakfast feel like dessert!

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Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries (gluten free)

This lemon scented quinoa and millet breakfast with blueberries is a simple, nutrient-dense, and grounding way to start your day.

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Avocado, Berry, and Quinoa Berry Breakfast Parfait

This avocado, berry, and quinoa breakfast parfait is so fresh and nutritious. It features a luscious vanilla avocado cream, which is layered with berries and layers of wholesome quinoa.
A glass mason jar holds a quinoa breakfast parfait with berries and avocado cream. It rests on a white cloth.

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Maple Vanilla Quinoa Porridge

This maple vanilla quinoa porridge is creamy and wholesome. Top it with any seasonal fresh fruit and sliced almonds for a nutritious, warming morning meal.

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Tofu Quinoa Veggie Scramble

This tofu quinoa veggie scramble combines the best of both worlds: protein-rich tofu and cooked whole grains. It's a hearty, healthy, one-dish vegan breakfast recipe that's easy to make.
An angled photograph of a vegan breakfast plate of tofu vegetable quinoa scramble.

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Quinoa Lunch Recipes

Quinoa, Carrot, and Spinach Salad with Spicy Carrot Chili Vinaigrette

This quinoa carrot spinach salad is refreshing, yet hearty! It's made with nutritious quinoa and chickpeas, as well as tender roasted carrots. The carrot chili vinaigrette is a sweet, spicy dressing that you can double and use on all of your salads and bowls.

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Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Cumin Dressing

This black bean quinoa salad is so simple to make, but it packs a big flavor punch! It's also loaded with plant-based nutrition from whole grains and protein-rich legumes. The salad is easy to make ahead and pack or store for easy vegan lunches.
A white, fluted plate is piled with a colorful salad of quinoa, black beans, and assorted diced vegetables.

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Carrot Raisin Kale Salad

This carrot raisin kale salad is sweet, creamy, and super delicious! It's got plenty of good, plant-based nutrition from quinoa, chickpeas, and kale. Plus, a drinkable, addictive creamy walnut curry dressing!
A white ceramic bowl holds a carrot raisin kale salad. A fork rests nearby.

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Quinoa Chickpea Caesar Salad

This vegan quinoa chickpea caesar salad is a healthy spin on a classic recipe! It's made with a protein-rich combination of crispy chickpeas and tender quinoa. Plus, it's smothered in an irresistable, dairy free cashew Caesar dressing.
Two white, fluted ceramic plates have been piled with a vegan quinoa chickpea caesar salad. The plates are resting on a white background.

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Tempeh quinoa salad

This tempeh quinoa salad is satisfying, nutritious, and colorful! A zesty salad of quinoa, beans, and crispy vegetables is topped with high protein slices of seared tempeh. The salad features a simple cumin vinaigrette.
An overhead image of a rimmed salad plate, which is covered in greens, quinoa, and seared tempeh slices.

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Cream of Broccoli and Quinoa Soup

This plant-based cream of broccoli and quinoa soup is a great way to get tons of nutrition (and eat your broccoli) in comfort food form.
Two bowls of vegan cream of broccoli and quinoa soup, topped with toasted pepitas and a scoop of cooked quinoa.

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Low-Key Curried Quinoa Lunch Salad

This low-key curried quinoa lunch salad lives up to its name! It's so easy to make, and it's also a tasty, nutritious vegan lunch option. Whip it together midday or add it to your weekly meal prep routine.

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Quinoa Bean Salad with Tahini and Pumpkin Seeds

This quinoa bean salad with tahini and pumpkin seeds is packed with nutrition, protein, fiber, and flavor! It's a fast and healthful lunch option that can be made ahead of time. It also happens to be a no oil vegan recipe.
A white, rimmed plate is covered in green spinach leaves and a red quinoa bean salad. It rests on a white surface.

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Quinoa Citrus Salad with Tofu

This quinoa citrus salad with tofu is packed with flavor and texture—as well as tons of plant-based nutrition. It's also festive and very pretty to look at!

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Protein-Packed Bean & Quinoa Salad

A summery salad that features protein-packed edamame, kidney beans, and black beans, as well as seasonal vegetables. This is a perfect way to showcase the texture (and nutritional benefits) of pulses.
Protein Packed Bean Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

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Quinoa dinner recipes

Cheesy Vegan Quinoa Bake

This cheesy vegan quinoa broccoli bake is the epitome of comfort food, but it's made with wholesome, plant-based ingredients, including quinoa, beans, and broccoli. It's kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, and easy to make ahead.
A ceramic plate rests on a gray linen cloth. It holds a cheesy vegan quinoa bake.

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Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins

These vegan quinoa and kale stuffed sweet potato skins are super nutritious and hearty. Plus, they're a smart way to utilize sweet potato skins, which are full of gut-friendly fiber!
Two baked sweet potatoes have been stuffed with a colorful mixture of kale, raw vegetables, and almonds.

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Red Lentil Quinoa Cakes

These red lentil quinoa cakes with harissa are nutritious, versatile, and easy to prepare from pantry ingredients.

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Artichoke, White Bean & Quinoa Burgers

These vegan artichoke white bean burgers are packed with Mediterranean flavor and healthful ingredients! They're also gluten free and super versatile.
An angled photograph of a vegan artichoke white bean burger, served on a bun with greens and a creamy dip.

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Black Bean Quinoa Chili

This vegan black bean quinoa chili is chock full of vegetables, whole grains, and beans. It's gluten free, easy to make, and it feeds a crowd.

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Quinoa with Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Chickpeas

Quinoa with roasted tomatoes and chickpeas is the perfect, easy summer vegan side dish. It's easy to make, but it's so flavorful, thanks to juicy and sweet burst cherry tomatoes. Chickpeas add some plant protein to this versatile recipe.
Quinoa with Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Chickpeas | The Full Helping

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Quinoa Protein Bowl

Quinoa, kale, butternut squash, and edamame are brought together with a creamy sauce in this protein-packed vegan recipe. The meal has about 20 grams of protein and tons of nutrition. Easy to make ahead and perfect for busy nights!
An angled photograph of a protein rich vegan meal, made with quinoa, edamame, squash, and greens.

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Slow Cooker Black Bean Butternut Chili

This make-ahead slow cooker black bean butternut chili is perfect nutritious vegan comfort food. Made with protein rich beans and quinoa as well as filling butternut squash. It's a perfect recipe for your weekly meal prep, and it freezes well!

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One-Pot Quinoa and Lentils

Mediterranean inspired quinoa and lentils is a one-pot vegan meal that's as tasty as it is nutritious! It's made with protein-rich whole grains, legumes, and greens. It's seasoned with herbs that are common in Mediterranean cooking and enriched with dairy-free cashew cream.
A bowl holding quinoa and lentils, topped with a white cashew cream, is placed next to a gray and white napkin and a small pinch pot of herbs.

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Mediterranean one-pot quinoa and lentils

A few more words about those quinoa and lentils.

This is a recipe that I first prepared a few years ago. I was short on time and needed something efficient and one-pot. It occurred to me that quinoa and lentils could be cooked together, without any need for separate cooking times.

I seasoned the dish with the Mediterranean-inspired flavors that I love and rely on often: garlic, lemon, thyme, and the umami-rich, acidic punch of sun-dried tomatoes. The quinoa and lentils also contain sautéed mushrooms and spinach, which means that it’s rich in phytonutrients as well as protein, fiber, and iron.

A close up, overhead image of grains and lentils with spinach that are smothered in white cashew cream.

At the end of cooking this dish, you’ll stir in about a half cup of my tried-and-true, all-purpose cashew cream. The cashew cream gives it a luxurious richness that I really love.

If you’d like for the dish not to be creamy, you can hold the cashew cream and simply top it with some of my cashew parmesan cheese instead. Or perhaps some crumbled vegan feta or homemade cashew cheese.

Once prepared, the leftovers of this nourishing pot of food will keep for up to five days in the fridge. They’re freezer-friendly, too, which makes the quinoa and lentils a good dish to include in any weekly meal prep or batch cooking that you do.

This is brown food at its finest, AKA not pretty to look at but very delicious to eat. It’s excellent in wintertime, and since I’ve been revisiting it lately myself, it feels like a perfect moment to re-share it with you.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces sliced mushrooms (I like to use button, shiitake, or chopped portobello)
  • 1 cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped, sun-dried tomatoes (about 50 grams; oil or dry-packed but with no need for re-hydration in hot water)
  • 5 ounces baby spinach (about 4 heaping cups)
  • Splash balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream  (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is clear and soft, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and mushrooms, if using. Cook until the mushrooms have released their juices and reduced in size (5-8 minutes).
  • Add the lentils, quinoa, salt, thyme, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If all of the liquid has been absorbed when you uncover the pot, add a splash of extra broth or water.
  • Add the tomatoes and baby spinach to the pot. Stir everything until the spinach has wilted completely into the quinoa and lentil mixture. Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, along with black pepper to taste and extra salt as needed. Finally, stir in the cashew cream, if using, and enjoy.

Notes

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The lentils and quinoa can be enjoyed with a leafy green salad, sautéed broccoli or broccoli rabe, roasted cauliflower, grilled or baked tofu or tempeh, or any other side that you’re craving.

Just putting this post together has reminded me of how truly and dearly I love this whole grain. Hope you’ll enjoy the quinoa recipes, too—and that you’ll find a few to savor at home.

And hey, happy Tuesday, everyone. I’ve gotten a few kind emails asking if I’m OK, since weekend reading posts have been stalled. I’m OK. I’ve had a lot on my mind and on my plate, and I just haven’t been able to write much on weekends—not even to write that I’m not able to write!

I appreciate the check-ins so much, and I’m excited to sit down and communicate more soon. For now, my heart is thankful for you.




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