Quinoa Pilaf

With its nutty flavor and pops of sweet from the carrots and peas, this Quinoa Pilaf is a great side for poultry or pork. With one simple change in the flavor of stock used, this pilaf works equally well as an accompaniment for beef.

Quinoa Pilaf

I mentioned in my last post that I had been craving quinoa while I was ill and that just as soon as I was feeling better, I would do a post on said quinoa. This is now that post.

That was an extraordinarily boring intro.

But, hey, here is something full of all kinds of excitement—I actually left the house Friday night and went to a store for the first time in almost 3 weeks. That’s just pure craziness, not being able to leave the house and not even caring. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere Friday night either were it not for the fact that I SERIOUSLY wanted a Marie Callendar’s razzleberry pie. You know—the kind in the freezer section at the grocery store.

I had asked the powers-that-be if they would pick one up for me on one their TWO trips out to the grocery store earlier in the day, but they forgot. I had to have my pie. I had been thinking about it all week; the perfect dessert following a big ol’ bowl of quinoa. Finally, last Friday night I couldn’t stand it any longer and talked my man into driving me to the store.

Before you get all “oh my gosh, she has to have her husband drive her places, he must be a control freak” there are two things you need to know: 1) I didn’t trust myself driving quite yet, and 2) I didn’t want to go to the store alone at night. I mean, I am drop dead sexy hot, especially after being sick for three weeks, and it was Friday night and some 70 year old man might give me “the look”. I just didn’t want to deal with that sort of thing, so I asked my hunka hunka burning love to go with me.

Actually, now that I think about it, I haven’t gotten “the look” in a few years. Uh oh. I’ve done gone and lost all my charms. Whew! That’s a relief!

John and Terri

Next to Lentil, Quinoa and Orzo Salad, pilaf-style is my favorite way to eat quinoa. I love the texture of quinoa, especially the little ‘pop’ that happens while chewing.

I’ve found through trial and error that quinoa is best cooked with less liquid than the 2:1 ratio which is generally recommended. I like to use between 1 ½ and 1 ¾ parts liquid to 1 part quinoa. A higher ratio produces a softer, almost mushy texture, whereas the lower liquid to grain ratio causes the quinoa to have a little more resistance when eaten. A sort of ‘al-dente’ texture, which seems to work well for this tiny grain.

Quinoa comes in several different color varieties, white/cream, red and black. Overall, I have come to prefer the red. My very favorite, though, is a mixture of the different colors and varieties. Each has a subtly different flavor and texture, with the white being the softest and most generic and the red or black having the most personality. No matter which color you decide to use, be sure to give this grain a good rinse in a fine meshed sieve under cool, running water. Quinoa has a natural coating, saponin, which makes it bitter if not rinsed. The coating deters predators and mankind alike, so rub the grain with your hand(s) to help remove the coating while rinsing under the cool water. It makes for a good symbiotic relationship, which can be explained in a lengthy treatise, but not today.

Quinoa Pilaf

If you’ve ever wondered about how to use quinoa, think of it as a superstar replacement for rice. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is a complete protein. In other words, it has all 9 amino acids which are required by the body to be able to build proteins. Believe it or not, the human body can’t use any less than the full 9 to make a protein and guess what you are made of? Yes! Good for you; you got it right. Proteins! I could go on for several more paragraphs giving you the ins and outs of protein building blocks, but you probably wouldn’t bother to read it. Am I right or am I right?

Quinoa Pilaf

Let’s move on to the Quinoa Pilaf. This is a very simple, but very flavorful dish. I used diced carrots, minced onions and minced fresh garlic cloves, all sautéed in a little butter for the pilaf add-ins. The raw quinoa was then added to the vegetables and everything was cooked in a salt-free chicken stock. I added salt, to taste; no other herbs or seasonings.

As a last minute addition, I stirred in some defrosted frozen peas. You know what I mean—previously frozen peas that had been defrosted. The heat from the cooked pilaf will warm the peas. Don’t cook the peas with the pilaf because they will get over-cooked, turn mushy, and will end up an undesirable olive green color. Then again, perhaps you may prefer them that way. If so, then toss them in with the quinoa prior to cooking…Okay, wait. I sorta lied. I actually warmed the peas in the microwave prior to adding them to the pilaf because I was originally going to use them as a side for the dinner. Once everything was on my plate, I realized that the peas worked great in the pilaf, so I ended up mixing everything together, except for the meatloaf which really needed its very own place on my plate. Or something like that.

Quinoa Pilaf

Side note: How many times have I used the words “quinoa” and “pilaf” in this post? Do you think that Google will punish me for using the same words too many times in one post and put this post last in Google searches for Quinoa Pilaf? Did you know that Google does stuff like that? Do I care? Yes, actually, I do care. A little bit; but not enough to change this post.

If you really wanted to make this a full, one dish meal, you could throw in some shredded chicken and you’d be set. As a matter of fact, I’m wishing that I had done that myself. YUM! So, next time I’ll make this lovely creation with all of the previously mentioned ingredients plus chicken plus some chicken-y herbs like rosemary, sage and/or thyme.

Okay, I’ve said enough. Here’s the Quinoa Pilaf recipe.

Quinoa Pilaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 cups

Simple and flavorful, this Quinoa Pilaf is a great side dish for poultry or pork. As a side dish for beef, simply use beef stock instead of chicken stock for the liquid.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • ½ small onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 ¾ cup salt-free chicken stock
  • ½ cup frozen baby peas, defrosted (can put in a strainer and rinse under warm water for a quick defrost)


  1. In a 2-quart saucepot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions and carrots; sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 1 minute.
  2. Add the quinoa, salt and chicken stock; stir to distribute ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover pot with lid. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove lid, stir and check for moisture content and doneness. If there is remaining liquid in bottom of pan, return lid to pot and continue to cook for an additional 2-5 minutes, depending on amount of liquid. If, on the other hand, the quinoa needs additional cooking time and there is not enough liquid present, add about ¼ cup (maybe more) additional liquid and give it a quick stir. Continue to cook until quinoa is has reached desired texture.
  4. Stir in peas. Serve hot.


Cooking Liquid: If stock or broth is not available, water may also be used. To serve this pilaf with beef, use beef stock instead of chicken stock.

One-Pot Meal: To make this pilaf a complete meal, stir in shredded or diced chicken or beef. Fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage or parsley may be added as well as seasoning salt blends of choice.


Quinoa Pilaf

For your quinoa reading pleasure:

You may also like:

Lentil, Quinoa and Orzo Salad
Lentil, Quinoa and Orzo Salad
Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Blueberries and Peaches
Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Blueberries and Peaches
Oatmeal Scotchies
Oatmeal Scotchies



  1. says

    Woohoo – glad you’re feeling well enough to get out of the house a little and start cooking again. I love quinoa, and just like you, I like it a little more on the firm side. I could eat my weight in the stuff.

  2. Shelley says

    Hi Terri. So sorry to hear you have been under the weather. I really enjoy your posts and I’m glad you are feeling better. Question on the quinoa. You say to rinse it well but the box I bought at Walmart said it’s pre-rinsed, no need to rinse. So…..I’m assuming they mean what they say? Or is this one of those things and I should go ahead and rinse it? I dislike rice so I plan on using quinoa wherever a recipe calls for rice. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Shelley. I’m glad that you asked that question. I meant to address that issue in the post, but then forgot to say anything. Some quinoa, like yours, states that it has been washed. My best advice is to go ahead and give it a rinse anyway. Some brands have been washed well and some have not, even though they state that they are prewashed. Also, you can taste test the quinoa by making a small amount, maybe 1/2 cup quinoa and 3/4 cup water, without washing it, just to see how it tastes. Then, you’ll know if you can trust your chosen brand for being washed well or not.

      There is a brand that I have bought from Walmart that does a good job on prewashing, BUT don’t ask me what it is because I can’t remember. hahaha. Best wishes on your quinoa adventures! I included two informative links at the bottom of the post. You might want to check those out if you are just getting started with quinoa. ~Terri

  3. says

    Dear Terri, So glad to hear you are feeling better and back in the kitchen ! I had to laugh at your grocery store story… running out to get pie and give the older gentlemen in town a thrill. 🙂

    I love that you helped me come to terms with cooking quinoa as well. I have cooked it and it’s always overcooked. My sister and I were talking about it just this weekend and she said that she likes her’s with a slight “bite” left to it. So less water is definitely going to be a step I take when I play around with it soon. 🙂

    Keep feeling better my friend!! Glad you have your “hunka, hunka burning love” there beside you to help you along. 🙂

    • says

      Thank you, Ramona. About the quinoa being overcooked–I have found that the white variety is softer when cooked than the red or black variety. So, it’s the trickiest one to keep from getting over-cooked. The red one holds its shape better when cooked and has a ‘chewier’ texture. For the best quinoa experience, I suggest using a blend of the different types. Sometimes I can’t find a blend, so I buy the red and white individually and then mix them together. I have found that the mix gives a nice blend of textures for eating, soft and chewy together. ~Terri

  4. TANJA says

    I have never made quinoa before, but I will try this as fried rice. sorry to hear you have been ill. I once broke my ankle and was laid up for 15 wks. I just found you blog by way of tasty kitchen and pioneer woman. love your recipes and stories.

    • says

      Tanja, I’ve been thinking the same thing, that it would taste great made up like fried rice. Ouch! 15 weeks with a broken ankle sounds so painful. We get a lot of ankle surgery patients where I work and they are almost always in more pain than other people who have undergone orthopedic surgeries on other body parts. ~Terri

  5. Rie says

    Glad to see your are feeling well enough to post…and with a sense of humor. I too have not received “the look” in many years…teehee. A friend and I were just saying that a few weeks/months ago.
    As for the quinoa. I will be giving it a go. I am looking for healthy salad “things” to bring for lunch and this would be good. You are helping to get into quinoa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *