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10 Creative Ways to Cook With Quinoa

Quinoa often plays the role of superfood sidekick to healthy main dishes, but this seed can do a whole lot more. For inspiration, look no further than this roundup of nutritious recipes.

Chances are you’ve heard of quinoa and know it’s good for you. But is it in your healthy grocery rotation yet?

You may want to add it to your list. This seed, produced by the Chenopodium quinoa plant, is packed with nutrients.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of cooked quinoa contains:

This nutrient profile makes quinoa a healthy food for weight loss. Namely, it is a good source of fiber, which can help prevent overeating, according to the Mayo Clinic. Compared with low-fiber fare, foods with high amounts of fiber tend to contain fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Amino Acids and the Body

Quinoa is a plant source of protein with all nine of the essential amino acids the human body needs but doesn’t produce on its own, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes.

These essential amino acids serve vital health functions such as optimizing blood circulation and immune response, according to an article published in November 2018 in Advances in Nutrition. It’s also gluten-free and low in fat, making it an excellent addition to many popular eating plans.

What’s more, one study found that quinoa had the highest antioxidant content of the 10 grains studied, suggesting that this superfood may help to fight against oxidative stress, which contributes to chronic disease risk.

New foods can be intimidating to prepare. But don’t be put off: Cooking this versatile superfood is simple. Quinoa is a complete protein.

In less than 20 minutes, you can boil it and enjoy it on its own, paired with your favorite meal, or mixed into dishes such as salads, stir-fries, or soups. If you’re looking for new ways to add quinoa to your diet and reap its health benefits, check out these 10 creative quinoa recipes.

Black Bean Fried Quinoa

Black Bean Fried Quinoa

If you are looking for a quick and easy meal, try a stir-fry. This recipe from Marisa Moore pairs black beans with quinoa for a plant-based, protein-rich dish that can serve as an entrée or a tasty side. The combination of black beans, quinoa, and veggies like onion and green bell pepper makes this recipe a great way to boost your daily fiber intake.

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Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Bucket List Tummy

Think quinoa can’t be a dessert? Think again! If you haven’t experimented with quinoa outside of savory flavors, this recipe from Bucket List Tummy is a great way to get started. To make it, you’ll combine quinoa and oats for a crunchy topping that provides 3 g of fiber, making it a good source of the nutrients.

If you swap white for almond flour this treat becomes gluten-free. Keep in mind this is a treat, with chocolate chips and maple syrup, so enjoy it in moderation.

Per slice, you’ll get 262 calories, 17 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, and 5 g protein.

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Quinoa Mac and Cheese

quinoa mac and cheese

Hungry Hobby

Traditional macaroni and cheese is often packed with refined carbs from white pasta, and the packaged variety can be loaded with sodium. For example, one cup of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has 570 milligrams (mg) of sodium. One box contains about three cups. For most adults, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

This recipe from Hungry Hobby provides a healthy spin on classic comfort food by replacing traditional pasta with quinoa. The result: a delicious meal that contains 344 calories, 12 g fat, 44 g carbohydrates, and 15 g protein in just one serving. And as an added bonus, it can be made entirely gluten-free as well.

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Quinoa Corn and Bean Chowder

Quinoa Corn Bean Chowder

Sharon Palmer

Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup? While tasty, many cream-based soups can pack in high levels of saturated fat and sodium. By exchanging heavy cream for plant-based milk and adding quinoa, this creamy chowder from Sharon Palmer will satisfy your cravings in a more nutritious way. Because it’s entirely plant-based, it’s eminently suitable for a vegan or vegetarian diet as well. With nearly 10 g of fiber per serving, plus 282 calories, 6 g fat, 46 g carbohydrates, and 13 g protein, this meal will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

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Portobellos With Almonds, Arugula, and Quinoa

portabella Quinoa

Victoria Shanta Retelny

Whether you’re looking for an easy plant-based meal or a delicious appetizer for your next event, this recipe from Victoria Shanta Retelny checks all the boxes. With just eight ingredients, including almonds and portobello mushrooms, this fiber-rich idea is quick, simple to prepare, and will keep you feeling satisfied for hours. Each serving contains 400 calories, 24 g fat, 38 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, and 12 g protein.

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Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Jessica Levinson

Quinoa makes the perfect base for this delicious, satisfying salad from Jessica Levinson. This hearty recipe incorporates a variety of flavors and textures, including cranberries and goat cheese, into a colorful dish. The tangy dressing is made with apple cider vinegar, which is a cupboard staple, and olive oil, which was linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in March 2020 — making this salad as heart-healthy as it is tasty.

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Gluten-Free Chicken Fajita Casserole

Chicken Fajita Casserole

Meals With Maggie

If you’re looking to step up your meal prep game, adding a casserole dish to your dinner rotation can help. Casseroles can be prepared in advance for a quick and easy meal anytime during the week. This simple dish from Meals With Maggie uses just seven ingredients for a nutrient-packed dinner your whole family will love — and one that you can feel good about putting on the table. Just one serving contains 29 g of protein, thanks to the addition of quinoa and chicken. You also get 289 calories, 8 g fat, and 26 g carbohydrates. At 52 mg of vitamin C per serving, it’s an excellent source of that nutrient as well.

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Quinoa Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos

Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Poblanos


Stuffed peppers are a family favorite, but what you choose to stuff them with can make all the difference. Stuffing made with red meat, for example, can contain high levels of saturated fat, notes the AHA, which can in turn raise blood cholesterol levels — so if you’re looking to reduce the amount of red meat in your diet, check out this recipe from LiveBest, which uses quinoa as the basis for a delicious stuffing. You can enjoy the same great flavor with less saturated fat and more fiber, and this simple recipe shows you just how to do it.

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Kale Quinoa Salad

Kale quinoa salad

Sound Bites Nutrition

A leafy green salad is the perfect complement to any meal. But if you’re getting bored of the same garden salad day after day, kick it up a notch by adding quinoa, as this recipe by Sound Bites Nutrition demonstrates. Quinoa adds an interesting texture and mellow flavor to enhance your salad while adding protein and fiber for satiety. Plus, the kale in this recipe is rich in vitamins A and C, among others, as well as manganese and fiber, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In each serving, you’ll find 125 calories, 6 g fat, 17 g carbohydrates, and 4 g protein.

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Carrot Cake Quinoa Muffins

carrot cake quinoa cupcakes

Hungry Hobby

When you think of muffins, quinoa might not spring to mind immediately. But this versatile seed can be used as a grain alternative or complement in many baked goods. By mixing together oats with quinoa, as this recipe from Hungry Hobby does, you can create a muffin that’s a good source of fiber and tastes just like the familiar favorite. With the addition of cream cheese frosting, these make an excellent dessert treat. You’ll get 243 calories, 7 g fat, 40 g carbohydrates, and 5 g of protein per muffin if you include the cream cheese frosting; if not, each muffin contains 151 calories, 5 g fat, 20 g carbohydrates, and 4 g protein.

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