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What Is Quinoa? 15 Creative Recipes

This protein-packed grain looks a bit like couscous, is as versatile as rice, and tastes delicious on its own or in these quinoa recipes.

Healthy colorful cooked quinoa . Superfood backgroundAlexeiLogvinovich/Shutterstock

Basic Quinoa Recipe

Pronounced “keen-wah,” this protein-packed grain contains every amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which promotes healthy tissue growth throughout the body. Quinoa is also a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. It looks a bit like couscous and is as versatile as rice, but quinoa has a richer, nuttier flavor than either of them, and you can use it for both sweet and savory dishes, says Wesley McWhorter, RD, a chef and dietitian at the UT Health School of Public Health in Houston, Texas. “It also holds up well the next day, unlike rice, so it’s a good option for cold leftovers the next day,” he says.

We found 15 creative recipes that utilize this versatile grain.

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa SaladCourtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

This Asian-inspired dish from Ambitious Kitchen incorporates peppers, carrots, onions, and cilantro, but feel free to experiment with the ingredients you like, as well.

Enchilada Chicken Quinoa Stuffed Bell PeppersCourtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

Enchilada Chicken Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Roasted bell peppers from Ambitious Kitchen are stuffed with quinoa, chicken, red enchilada sauce, cheese, and spices in this satisfying Mexican-themed dish.

Shrimp And Vegetable Quinoa Fried RiceCourtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

Shrimp and Vegetable Quinoa Fried Rice

This “healthified version of shrimp fried rice” on Simply Quinoa suggests sautéing the veggies in water instead of oil. In general, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice (and makes a tasty pilaf).

Dark Chocolate Quinoa CookiesCourtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

The secret to the rich flavor of these cookies on Simply Quinoa is a half cup of cocoa powder with chocolate chunks folded into the batter.

Rosemary Quinoa Turkey MeatballsCourtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

Rosemary Quinoa Turkey Meatballs

Quinoa functions as the perfect binder in these protein-filled turkey meatballs from the blog Simply Quinoa. The recipe’s good-for-you factor is boosted by the use of spaghetti squash in place of pasta, but you could serve these with whatever you like.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Quinoa PancakesCourtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Quinoa Pancakes

Quinoa and Greek yogurt amp up protein in these pancakes from the blog Ambitious Kitchen. On its own, quinoa also makes a great breakfast mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey.

Quinoa Fruit And Nut Protein BarsCourtesy of Almonds and Avocados Blog

Quinoa, Fruit, and Nut Protein Bars

These fruit and nut bars from the blog Healthy Little Foodies incorporate many nutrient-rich foods like bananas and dates to sweeten things up, and chopped nuts and seeds for texture.

Southwestern Quinoa BitesCourtesy of So Very Blessed

Southwestern Quinoa Bites

These quinoa bites from the blog So Very Blessed combine quinoa with black beans, frozen corn, and onion. Plus, they bake up easily in a muffin tin.

Healthy Reeses Quinoa Crispy TreatsCourtesy of Alyssa Rimmer

Healthy “Reese’s” Quinoa Crispy Treats

These Reeses Pieces meets Rice Krispies Treats from the blog Simply Quinoa are a double treat.

Quinoa Stuffed EggplantCourtesy of Adventures in Cooking

Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant

These stuffed eggplants from the Simply Quinoa are filled with veggies and topped with tahini sauce.

No Bake Brown Butter Quinoa BarsCourtesy of How Sweet It is

No-Bake Brown Butter Quinoa Bars

From the blog How Sweet Eat Is, satisfy a dessert craving with no-bake bars filled with quinoa, oats, almonds, flaxseed, and chocolate chips.

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Zucchini Breakfast CookiesCourtesy of Healthful Pursuit

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Zucchini Breakfast Cookies

From the blog Healthful Pursuit, these vegan and gluten free delights are made with flour, maple syrup, vanilla extract and dairy-free chocolate chips, with added nutrition from quinoa, zucchini, and flaxseed. Quinoa also works well for baking delicious and nutritious breads and muffins.

Sesame Ginger Sweet Teriyaki Salmon With Garlic Quinoa Stir FryCourtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

Sesame Ginger Sweet Teriyaki Salmon with Garlic Quinoa Stir Fry

The blog Ambitious Kitchen perks up a simple quinoa stir fry with fresh ginger and garlic.

Apple Spice Quinoa GranolaCourtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction

Apple Spice Quinoa Granola

Granola from the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction jazzes itself up with quinoa, apples, raisins, and more.

Quinoa CookieCourtesy of Two Peas and their Pod

Quinoa Cookie

In these cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod, the quinoa adds a distinct crunchiness and protein boost.


Perri O. Blumberg
A former food editor at Reader's Digest, Perri Blumberg is a writer and editor based in New York City. After attending Columbia University, where she received a BA in psychology, she went on to study food at a health-supportive culinary school. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Men's Journal, Country Living, and on Mind, Body, Green, among others.