Perfect Quinoa Pilaf

Did you know that quinoa is not technically a grain? It's a seed (or sometimes referred to as a pseudocereal) and is grouped into the same family as spinach, swiss chard and beets.  High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, quinoa may be protective against cardiovascular diseases and also help lower cholesterol.  Quinoa is a complete protein source and is rich in fiber. It's also a very versatile food that can be incorporated into a wide range of recipes, and can be eaten whole or ground into flour. It's become very popular in the last few years, and for good reason!

As I mentioned, there are many ways that you can incorporate quinoa into your diet. However, in this post, I'm going to share a very simple recipe that has become very popular among my clients.  This Quinoa Pilaf recipe has been a longtime favourite as it makes the perfect side-dish for stews, soups or stir-fry and can be used as the base for salads. Lately it's been on high rotation as part of my Buddha Bowls.

I'll admit that even as a trained chef, I've had my fair share of trouble with quinoa. When cooking it, I used to cross my fingers that it wouldn't end up too soggy and that it would fluff up nicely.  In this recipe, you'll lightly cook onion and garlic in oil to create a nice base of flavour, and then you'll quickly "toast" the quinoa before adding any liquid.  The process of toasting, combined with the right balance of liquid to quinoa ratio, will result in a light and airy dish with a hint of nuttiness. 

Also, you'll notice I mentioned "rinsing" the quinoa. Many chefs will suggest doing this as the outer shell of the quinoa is coated in sapponins. These bitter-tasting sapponins area actually healthful phytonutrients but they can result in a less palatable final product if they are not rinsed off. I recommend rinsing your quinoa off in a fine mesh strainer under cold water for a few minutes.  That said, the processing and cooking of quinoa often removes a great deal of the sapponins so this isn't mandatory, just a personal preference. 

Now, without further ado, please scroll down to find the full recipe!


Makes approximately 3 cups


1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups, water or low sodium organic vegetable broth
Sea salt


Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of sea salt, and sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables become translucent.

Add the quinoa and continue cooking for a few more minutes (5 minutes or so), stirring constantly to toast quinoa a bit. You should begin to smell the nutty aroma of the quinoa while you're doing this.

Pour in the water or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow the quinoa to simmer. Cook uncovered until the liquid has absorbed and the quinoa has unfurled, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and serve immediately.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.