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It may no longer be the international year of quinoa (here’s looking at you, 2013!), but it’s safe to say that quinoa mania is still going strong. Whether it’s rolled up in our sushi, baked into our bread, or served in a salad, this nutritious seed seems to be everywhere. And it’s no surprise, considering it’s jam-packed with protein, all nine essential amino acids, and is also high in good-for-you fiber, iron, and manganese. With a subtly nutty flavor and texture that’s somewhere between chewy and fluffy, it’s perfect for all different kinds of cuisines and meal types.
Despite quinoa's impressive assets, eating bowl after bowl of the stuff is a one-way ticket to Dullsville. Luckily, given the versatility of this mighty little seed, there are plenty of ways to dress it up and build on its flavor. Check out these amazing options for some quinoa-cooking inspiration!
Photo: Carey/Reclaiming Provincial
1. Cinnamon Apple Quinoa Parfait
Breakfast that can double as dessert? Sign us up! Quinoa gets the sweet treatment thanks to a cinnamon-y oat crumble and a caramelized apple mixture. Layer the three in between a few dollops of Greek yogurt, and voilà: pure delight in every spoonful.
2. Veggie Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
What breakfast food list would be complete without an egg dish? If you lean toward savory in the AM, this bowl has just what you need to satisfy your sunny-side up craving. Think grated cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, and quinoa—topped with an egg and seasoned to perfection.
3. Quinoa Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup
Though we might have to save it for those “treat yo self" mornings, this decadent dish is definitely not to be missed. Pump up the nutritional value of regular pancakes by adding quinoa and blueberries to the mix (hello, protein and antioxidant megapowers!). Though not light on calories, these made-from-scratch pancakes are packed with good-for-you ingredients.
4. Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Cookies
Cookies for breakfast might feel taboo, but these oaty, whole-wheat treats will make you throw out the dessert rulebook—especially since you get a taste of pumpkin, a heart-healthy, immunity-boosting superfood, in every bite.
5. Warm Quinoa and Berry Bowl
With just six ingredients, this breakfast dish only looks—and tastes—gourmet. A berry medley, quinoa, some water, a tad of agave, and some zesty ginger combine for one delicious morning meal.
6. Cranberry Quinoa Muffins
A coffeehouse staple, muffins are often big on size but small on satiety. Quinoa to the rescue! Add some to the mix, and you’ve got the dose of protein you need to keep you full and to help you power through your morning—without worrying about your stomach grumbling an hour later.
Photo: Lori/Foxes Love Lemons
9. Crispy Gluten-Free Granola Bars with Quinoa
Ditch the store-bought versions and stash these bake-to-take bars in your bag—they’re just the things you need when a 3:00 p.m. snack-attack hits.
10. Cheese and Vegetable Quinoa Bites
The next time you host a party, serve up some of these savory baked bites. These little guys contain cheese, shredded carrots, and fresh spinach (a superfood in its own right), and owe their flavor to garlic and shallots.
11. Crispy Quinoa Bites
Another stellar finger-food option, these bites have a hint of Italian flavor, thanks to fresh basil, garlic, mozzarella cheese, and grape tomatoes. Hey, anything that sounds like pizza is a welcome snack in our books.
12. Roasted Shrimp Quinoa Spring Rolls
Swap out vermicelli noodles, the traditional filling for spring rolls, for nutritious and delicious quinoa. Whip up a super simple dipping sauce (seriously, it only requires four ingredients!), and you’ve got an app that may outshine your main meal.
13. Spicy Quinoa-Crusted Chicken Fingers with Creamy Avocado Dipping Sauce
Think chicken fingers are just for the kid’s menu? Think again! Three standout ingredients—cumin, chili powder, and quinoa—in the crust give this childhood favorite a serious upgrade. And don’t even dare to dip these guys in ketchup; this avocado dipping sauce is what dreams are made of.
14. Black Bean Quinoa Sliders
What’s better than bite-sized burgers? Bite-sized burgers with tons of fiber and protein, flavored with red onions, garlic, cilantro, and some creamy tahini. That's what!
15. Quinoa Egg Muffins
Though they’re called “muffins,” these baked wonders shouldn’t be confused with the fluffy, bread-y variety. More along the lines of a mini frittata, they pack plenty of protein and a generous serving of your favorite veggies.
Photo: Christal/Nutritionist in the Kitch
16. Black Bean and Quinoa Soup
There’s something ultra-comforting about soups in general, but this black bean soup in particular has a way of warming us up (both literally and figuratively). Quinoa’s texture makes it extra hearty—and adds plenty of protein and good-for-you nutrients.
17. The “Zen” Quinoa Bowl
What happens when you pair tons of veggies with egg whites, quinoa, and kicky spices, then top it all off with avocado slices? Something awesome, obviously! This supremely delicious meal can be enjoyed morning, noon, or night.
20. Lemon Quinoa Cilantro Chickpea Salad
Is anything more refreshing than lemon paired with cilantro? Apart from lemonade, we doubt it. Add cherry tomatoes, avocado, quinoa, and other goodies, and the result is a salad as pretty as it is delicious.
Photo: Amie/The Healthy Apple
21. Toasted Quinoa Salad with Crunchy Maple Almond Clusters
Sweetened with a little maple syrup and cinnamon, baked almonds add a little extra oomph to an otherwise simple salad. Throw in some toasted quinoa, and garnish with sprouts, fresh basil, and orange zest for a light and refreshing meal.
22. Ribboned Asparagus and Quinoa Salad
Oh, how we love asparagus. Not only is it low-calorie with bone-boosting vitamin K, it also contains hangover-curing superpowers. No wonder it’s a superfood. Instead of enjoying it in spear-form, put the vegetable peeler to work creating thin ribbons. Throw in some quinoa and pine nuts, and top it all off with a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for a simple but oh-so-satisfying dish.
23. Sweet Potato Quinoa Soup
This chunky soup is brimming with healthy ingredients—and that’s on top of the quinoa. Colorful sweet potatoes are chock-full of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and more superstar nutrients. Truth bomb: a medium sweet potato packs even more potassium than a banana!
24. Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts seem to inspire love ‘em or hate ‘em reactions. That said, we’re fairly certain that, when roasted with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dill and paired with almonds, raisins, and—of course—quinoa, even the most adamant haters will enjoy this oft-ignored cruciferous veggie.
25. Broccoli Quinoa Quesadillas
These aren’t the quesadillas from your old college days—though they’re almost as easy to make. The main difference? They contain quinoa and another superfood (and cancer-fighting star), broccoli.
26. Quinoa and Mean Greens Medley
This dish is basically brimming with superfoods—we’re talking four nutritional powerhouses, all packed into one phenomenal meal. The stars of this recipe? Quinoa, kale, spinach, and broccoli. Whether served as a side or enjoyed as an entrée, this dish is one to keep on heavy rotation.
27. Black Bean and Quinoa Salad
Another colorful quinoa combination, this slightly spicy salad is a rock-steady choice for weeknight meals. It’s easy and speedy to pull together—the ideal combo for a post-work cooking session.
Photo: Lauren/The Talking Kitchen
28. Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad
Time crunch? This one’s for you! Hands down one of the best things about roasting veggies is how easy it is (just slice, season, and throw ‘em in the oven). Cubed veggies, such as zucchini and bell peppers, turn into a full-on meal when paired with quinoa and topped with a zesty and refreshing dressing.
29. Edamame Quinoa Salad
This colorful salad will help you taste the rainbow—without food coloring—thanks to a mix of bold ingredients: red cabbage, red peppers, pineapple, almonds, and more. Top it all off with chili powder and garlic dressing for a festive finish.
Photo: Skinny Ms.
30. Quinoa and Shrimp Paella
One of the most beautiful things about paella? It varies from cook to cook and can be adapted based on your veggie, meat, and even rice preferences. This recipe replaces the rice base with quinoa—an amazing alternative to the traditional Spanish dish. Muy delicioso!
31. Red Quinoa Cakes
Real talk: Sometimes we just can’t say no to something gooey and cheesy. These bad boys, which go a little heavy on the cheddar, are no exception. They look a bit like burger patties, but these cheesy quinoa cakes can be made so that they’re completely vegetarian-friendly—it only takes a simple swap of vegetable broth for chicken broth.
32. Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
This vegan meal is for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike. Rosemary, garlic, and a balsamic vinegar glaze amps up the umami flavor of the mushrooms. Quinoa and kale keep it super filling.
33. Baked Turkey, Zucchini, and Quinoa Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps
Swapping out bread can be a great opportunity to add more healthful (and gluten-free) ingredients into a dish, and here it’s swapped out twice over: subbing quinoa for breadcrumbs and lettuce for the bun.
34. Porcini Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
Unlike regular risotto, this one skips arborio rice. Instead, quinoa is the base for this completely dairy-free dish. Asparagus, spinach, and two different kinds of mushrooms come together for an earthy-yet-springy flavor.
Photo: Sarah/Making Thyme for My Health
35. Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
Casseroles might be the ultimate comfort food. They’re warm, filling, and make excellent leftovers. This one has the added benefit of also including quinoa, tons of spinach, and artichoke hearts.
36. Cilantro-Quinoa Turkey Burgers with Garlicky Kale
As if the cilantro, ground turkey, and quinoa combo wasn’t enticing enough, top it all off with a big ol’ heap of kale sautéed to garlicky goodness, wedge it all between two buns, and you’ve got a delicious new take on the standard burger.
37. Quinoa Puttanesca
Yet another twist on an Italian mainstay, this Puttanesca recipe ditches pasta in favor of quinoa and adds another nutritional superstar: spinach! This leafy green is full of vitamins that help protect your vision and boost your bone health.
38. Slow-Cooker Chicken, Quinoa, and Kale Soup
Digging out your slow cooker is so worth it for this soup. With protein-packed quinoa and nutrient-dense kale, this meal’s basically a superfood free-for-all.
39. Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
Meet your new favorite dish for fall. Nothing says y-u-m like acorn squash filled up with cholesterol-lowering apples, antioxidant-rich cranberries, walnuts (which may help prevent diabetes), and other goodies.
40. Zesty Shrimp and Quinoa
Apart from protein, this dish packs divine flavor from onion, garlic, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of (optional) hot sauce.
Photo: Skinny Ms.
41. Quinoa Brownies
The secret good-for-you ingredients in these gooey brownies? Quinoa, flax, and… wait for it… butternut squash purée! You get a healthy dose of protein, omega-3s, and vitamin A in every single delectable bite.
42. Unforgettable Chocolate Quinoa Cake
This moist, chocolaty cake clearly deserves the title “unforgettable.” And swapping out flour for quinoa is straight-up genius, making the cake protein-packed and gluten-free.
43. Salted Quinoa Chocolate Bark with Pistachios
What makes the best chocolate bark? A combo of sweet, salty, crunchy, and a little spicy. Toasted quinoa, shelled pistachios, sea salt, and cayenne pepper hit all four criteria.
44. Quinoa Almond Macaroons
Coconut-y and a little crunchy, these five-ingredient macaroons are gluten-free and topped with a full tank of protein, thanks to a cup of quinoa.
45. Blueberry Almond and Amaretto Quinoa Crisp
Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This dessert is accessible to cooks of all experience levels. With just four steps, quick prep time, and excellent ingredients like fresh, antioxidant-rich blueberries and crunchy almond slices, you’ve got a sweet treat that’s both delish and Instagram-worthy.
46. Guilt-Free Oats and Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies
As if chocolate chip cookies could get any better, this recipe cuts back on some sugar and swaps flour for quinoa flour without sacrificing taste. Plus, it doesn’t require a mixer—perfect for people with just basic kitchen equipment. Better yet, with a simple switch to gluten-free oats, these cookies can easily be made completely gluten-free.
Photo: Alyssa/Queen of Quinoa
47. Dark Chocolate Quinoa Truffles
How can you go wrong with chocolate-covered chocolate? Okay, so there’s a bit more to the filling than just cocoa—it’s a mixture of dates, quinoa, almond butter, and more. That said, these tasty truffles are so easy to make, and even easier to enjoy.
48. Peanut Butter and Nutella Quinoa Bites
We couldn’t dream up a more delicious combination: nutella and peanut butter criss-crossed with a drizzle of chocolate. These no-bake balls are easy to make, better to eat, and will satisfy any raging chocoholic.
49. Quinoa Chocolate Drops
We’re big fans of almost anything that involves peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that taste absolutely freaking amazing together. This nutty, no-bake dessert is no exception.
50. Chocolate Quinoa Crunch Bars
A candy-shop treat made with natural sugar and quinoa, these crunchy chocolate bars will satisfy both your sweet and salty cravings alike. Score!