This tasty QuinoaPilaf is loaded with good-for-you ingredients! Quinoa, chicken, and chickpeas form the protein-packed base. We add lots of veggies and an incredible lemon-herb sauce to finish it off. Healthful, hearty, and so much flavor!
Low-carb recipes are consistently the most requested type of recipes and today I have a protein-packed, lower-carb, flavor-packed winning dish! Quinoa Pilaf has quickly become a personal favorite and luckily, it’s really easy to make. It uses only one pot and minimal prep, especially if you employ some of the short-cut ideas I’ll discuss below.
Quinoa Pilaf contains protein in 3 forms — chicken, chickpeas, and quinoa. A lot of people are surprised to discover that quinoa is loaded with protein — in 1 cup there are 8 grams! But unlike a lot of plant-based proteins, quinoa is actually a complete protein; it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make on their own.
It’s certainly a powerhouse ingredient, but beyond that, it’s got a delicious earthy, almost nutty flavor and an unforgettable texture. It’s the perfect base for this pilaf!
Quinoa Pilaf Tips
- The chicken stock makes a huge difference in this dish’s flavor. The better the stock, the better the pilaf will taste. My personal favorite is Swanson’s® chicken stock (not sponsored).
- Finely dice the carrot and onion. The more finely diced, the better they incorporate into the dish, and the better the end texture is.
- Let the quinoa stand after being cooked. While it may be tempting to rush the quinoa once it’s cooked, it does need time to stand and steam. This results in a better (fluffier) texture.
Make sure to get flat-leaf Italian parsley, as opposed to curly for this recipe. Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor and curly parsley is used more commonly as a garnish.
- Rotisseriechicken. For the fastest possible prep time, I recommend getting rotisserie chicken meat that has already been pulled from the bones and shredded. It’s usually found in the deli area of most grocery stores.
- Buy pre-chopped produce. To save on prep time, purchase pre-diced onion and/or pre-diced carrots from the produce section of your store. Alternatively, many stores have frozen diced onions or frozen diced carrots that can be used in this pilaf. You can also save time by using jarred minced garlic.
- Make the herb infusion ahead of time. If you’re going to be pressed on time, blend up the sauce that tops this pilaf up to a day in advance. Transfer the mixture to a Mason jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Be sure to shake or stir to re-combine everything before drizzling over the Quinoa Pilaf.
Quinoa Pilaf Variation Ideas
- Make it vegetarian: Replace the chicken stock with vegetarian stock and omit the chicken. For an additional protein boost, stir in some frozen peas.
- Make it vegan: Use the same changes above and this is also vegan!
- Dairy–free: Quinoa Pilaf is naturally dairy-free.
- Change out the beans: If you aren’t a fan of chickpeas, feel free to leave them out. After the Quinoa Pilaf is cooked, you can stir in some (drained and rinsed) white/cannellini beans instead.
- Swap the herbs: For a fun flavor variation replace the Italian parsley with cilantro or fresh mint.
Quinoa Pilaf FAQs
1What is a pilaf?
A pilaf is typically a rice dish that involves cooking the grain in stock or broth, adding spices and other ingredients such as vegetables or meat. For this recipe, we’re replacing the rice with quinoa for a lower-carb, higher-protein alternative.
2What can I add to quinoa for flavor?
- Cooking quinoa in chickenstock, as opposed to water, infuses it with incredible flavor.
- Seasonings: Curry powder, paprika, and cumin add so much flavor to the quinoa.
- Aromatics: The onion, garlic, and carrot add a lot of flavor to the quinoa.
- Salt: One of the biggest mistakes with making quinoa is not seasoning it. Just like pasta or rice, quinoa needs salt!
3What does quinoa taste like?
Quinoa has a sweet, almost nutty flavor. It should never taste bitter, but if it does, it’s because quinoa has a bitter saponin coating that needs to be rinsed off before cooking. Either purchase pre-rinsed quinoa or rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve under cool water.
4What does Quinoa Pilaf go with?
Because this quinoa is cooked in a seasoned broth, with chickpeas, a plethora of veggies, and chicken, it’s definitely hearty enough to be a meal by itself. It can also be a great side dish. If serving this pilaf as a side dish, I’d recommend leaving out the chicken and serving it with one of the following meals:
- Yellow Chicken Curry
- Curry Chicken Salad
More ways to use quinoa
- Thai Quinoa Saladwith a sweet peanut dressing
- Quinoa Chiliwith sweet potatoes
- Quinoa Fried Ricewith veggies and soft-scrambled eggs
- Chicken Quinoa Bowlwith a mango black bean salsa
- Crockpot Quinoa Tacoseasiest prep recipe!
- 2tablespoonsolive oil
- 1cupfinely diced yellow onion(~1 medium onion)
- 3/4cupfinely diced carrot(~2-3 medium carrots)
- 1 and 1/2teaspoonsfinely minced garlic(~2-3 cloves)
- 1cupwhite quinoa
- 1/4teaspoon EACH: curry powder, paprika
- 1/2teaspoon EACH:fine sea salt, ground cumin
- 1 and 2/3rdscupgood quality chicken stock (we like Swanson)
- 1/3cupcoarsely chopped dried cherries,optional (See Note 1)
- 1can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans),drained and rinsed
- 1/3cuphoney roasted almonds
- 3tablespoonsfinely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 1 and 1/2cupdiced rotisserie chicken
- 2 and 1/2tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4cupfreshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2cuptightly packed flat-leaf Italian parsley
QUINOAPILAF: Heat the olive oil in a medium non-stick pot (that has a fitted lid) over medium-low heat. Add the diced onions and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook for 1 more minute. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
QUINOAPILAF CONT.: Pour in the chicken stock, chickpeas, and optional dried cherries. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot with a lid, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed and quinoa has «popped», about 18-25 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes to steam.
CHICKEN AND ALMONDS: Meanwhile, prepare the remaining additions. Fluff quinoa with a fork and stir in the chicken to heat through. Add in the almonds and parsley and mix to combine.
HERBINFUSION: Meanwhile, prepare the herb infusion by adding the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, parsley, and salt/pepper to taste (I add 1/4 teaspoon each) to a small blender or food processor. Blend until the parsley is broken down and all ingredients are incorporated. Drizzle the herb infusion over everything and gently toss to combine. Enjoy!
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