Quinoa pilaf with herbs, veggies and bright lemon is a simple, crowd-pleasing side dish. Make it in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop!
I love an easy quinoa dish! My kid isn't a fan of quinoa, so I tend to cook it up in easy lunches for myself during the week. That way, I get my quinoa fix without dealing with complaints at the dinner table
This quinoa pilaf recipe is super simple to make. Just saute the veggies while the quinoa cooks, toss it all together, and eat! For lunches, I tend to eat this as an entree, but traditionally you'd serve this as a side with grilled or roasted protein. There are serving suggestions at below, if you need ideas for what to serve with this.
Making the quinoa
Before adding the liquid, some pilaf recipes have you toast the grains in oil. For the sake of simplicity, my pilaf recipe skips the toasting.
If you'd like to toast your quinoa, though, it's easy! Just add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the dry grains, stirring, until they smell nice and toasty. Then add the broth and cook as usual. You can even do this in the Instant Pot using the saute function.
In this recipe, I'm using quinoa in place of the more common rice. I love how quinoa's nutty flavor pairs with the earthy mushrooms and tender asparagus!
You can prepare your quinoa for this pilaf on the stovetop, in the Instant Pot, or in the rice cooker. The recipe card below includes stovetop and Instant Pot directions. Learn more about how to cook quinoa three different ways.
Making the veggies
While the quinoa cooks, prepare the vegetables, so you'll be ready to toss everything together when the cooking time is up.
I like to save time by buying pre-sliced button mushrooms. They usually cost the same as unsliced and save you a few minutes of prep time. The prep time in the recipe card below assumes you bought pre-sliced mushrooms.
The only real prep you need to do here is chop the onion, mince the garlic, and prepare the asparagus.
Chopping onion and mincing garlic are pretty simple, so let's just talk about the asparagus. Asparagus stems tend to have a woody part near the bottom, which you need to remove before cooking.
You can slice the woody portion away, but even more precise is to use your hands. The stem should snap off right where the woody part meets the tender part of the stem. You tend to lose less of the goods this way.
After snapping off the ends, cut the remaining asparagus into 1 ½" pieces.
Now, cook the vegetables! Saute the garlic, onion, and mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the asparagus and lots of dried herbs, and cook for a few minutes more. Then, transfer the cooked vegetables to your serving bowl.
When the quinoa finishes cooking, toss it into the same bowl, add some lemon juice, mix well, and eat!
How to serve quinoa pilaf
I've actually eaten this dish as an entree, but chances are you're looking to use this as a side dish. Here are some ideas for proteins you can serve with it:
- lemon herb tofu - serve the quinoa pilaf on the side instead of dishing it over pasta
- crispy baked tofu
- warm Brussels sprout salad
It's also nice cold the next day as a salad for lunch.
However you serve it, I know it's going to be a hit!
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for four to five days.
You can also freeze your leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to six months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then warm in the microwave or with a splash of broth on the stovetop.
More whole grain pilafs
Quinoa Pilaf Recipe
For the Quinoa
- 1 cup dry quinoa - rinsed
- 1 ½-2 cups vegetable broth
For the Vegetables
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
- 2 cups chopped asparagus - 1"-1 ½" pieces, woody bottom of the stems removed
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
For the Finished Quinoa Pilaf
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- To cook in the Instant Pot: Combine the quinoa and 1 ½ cups of broth in your Instant Pot. Cook for 5 minutes on high pressure, then release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes before doing a quick release.
- To cook on the stovetop: Combine the quinoa and 2 cups of broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Your quinoa is ready when all of the water is absorbed.
- While the quinoa cooks, heat your oil on medium high in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, onion, and mushroom and cook, stirring, until the onions turn translucent and the mushrooms soften, 5-7 minutes. You can add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan, if things start to stick (see notes).
- Add the asparagus, thyme, and sage, and cook until the asparagus turns bright green, 3-5 minutes (see note).
- Toss the quinoa and veggies together in a large serving bowl with the lemon juice, and eat up!
- Instant Pot optional
Frequently asked questions
I'm sure you've heard of rice pilaf, but you can also make pilaf using other grains, like bulgur. This recipe uses quinoa, which is actually a seed but cooks up like a grain.
Pilaf is a pretty broad term for flavorful rice or other grains cooked in broth with spices.
You can do either! It's lovely warm as a side dish or as a cold, quinoa salad.
You don't have to have to, but you should. Sometimes, quinoa can be bitter, and rinsing helps prevent that.
Rinsing before cooking definitely helps, as does toasting in a little bit of oil, if you have time. Cooking quinoa with broth and adding lots of flavorful herbs also makes it taste delicious!