quinoa pilaf

Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf

A really healthy and filling spring dish with quinoa, asparagus, mushrooms, and a slightly sweet pea sauce.


Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf

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As luck would have it, the New York Times published a piece on quinoa just a few days ago and made it clear that while the grain is growing in popularity here in the states, the rising demand for it has made it impossible for Bolivians to purchase the grain that they’ve grown and eaten for hundreds of years.

I feel bad about this, but you guys should feel worse because hey: You voted for it!

No but seriously, I hope that either A) the quinoa trend will die down a bit and therefore the price will go down or B) the Bolivian government will find some way to subsidize the grain for their people so they can afford the grain they’ve lived on for so many years.

I have a feeling that B is more likely because, frankly, quinoa is really good and I expect that it’ll probably only increase in popularity as people catch on.

Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf

Serves 6.
Prep Time:
Total Time:

Just a moment please...

quinoa pilaf
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A really healthy and filling spring dish with quinoa, asparagus, mushrooms, and a slightly sweet pea sauce.


1 1/2 Cups quinoa, rinsed
1 Cup vegetable stock
2 Cups frozen peas, 1 Cup for sauce and 1 for dish
1 clove garlic
1/4 Cup fresh mint, chopped
4 Tablespoons butter
1 large leek, white part only diced
3/4 Cups shallot, diced (1-2 large shallots)
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms (or any mushroom)
1 14-ounce bunch of asparagus, cut into sections
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce (opt.)

Show Directions

1) To make sauce, blend the stock, half the peas, a handful of mint, and a clove of garlic.  Once it’s smooth, set it aside for later.

2) To make quinoa, add 1 1/2 Cups of rinsed quinoa to 2 1/2 Cups boiling water.  Cover and simmer for 15-17 minutes until quinoa is tender and cooked.

3) Dice leeks and shallots.  Slice mushrooms thinly and chop asparagus into pieces.

4) Add butter to a large skillet and once melted, add leeks and shallots.  Cook until veggies are soft, about 4-5 minutes.

5) Then add asparagus and mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so until mushrooms are tender and asparagus is tender, but still slightly crunchy.

6) Once veggies are done, fold in quinoa, pea sauce, whole peas, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir until pilaf is warmed through.

7) Serve with hot sauce!

Making the sauce

This dish has a very light pea-based sauce that gives the final dish a tiny bit of sweetness. It’s basically a really simple pea soup.

sauce stuff
Frozen peas. So sue me.

The sauce is pretty simple to make. Just add half of the peas, some vegetable stock, a good handful of mint, and a clove of garlic to a blender and blend it up until it’s smooth. Then just set it aside until later.

I used frozen peas for this dish and I think they work fine. No need to go through the trouble of shelling a bunch of peas for it.

Basically pea soup.


I would like to think I was a leader in the quinoa world. I’ve been eating it for many years now and I can say that it’s definitely gone up in price. Almost ridiculously so. I think a bag will run you $4-$5 these days which is more expensive than most grains on the market.

I used to be able to get it wholesale for about $1/pound I think, but I don’t mind paying more for it. It’s still one of the best grains out there in my opinion.

Sorry Bolivia…

The key to quinoa, and one that I’ve messed up a few times, is to make sure you don’t overcook it. If you do, it’ll turn really mushy and not good at all.

To cook 1 1/2 Cups of quinoa (what the recipe calls for), you’ll need about 2 1/2 Cups water. Bring it to a boil with a pinch of salt and then add the quinoa. Stir it and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes covered. That should be enough time for all the water to evaporate, but if there’s still any water, you can uncover the pot so it evaporates quickly.

You should end up with a really fluffy quinoa. The grains should still have some texture to them though.

Don’t overcook this stuff!

The Other Stuff

There’s some great flavors in this dish besides the quinoa. Also included is some leeks and shallots which are a great substitute for the standard onion flavor.

If you’ve never chopped up a leek before, don’t fret. Chop off the green leaves, then slice the white part down the center. Under cold water, rinse off the leek halves being sure to get in between the layers of leek. There’s tons of dirt in there that you need to wash out. Then you can just dice up the leek like normal.

shallot and leek
Good flavors.

Also, you’ll need some mushrooms and asparagus. I used shiitake mushrooms which have a nice spring lightness to them, but you could use any mushroom you want really.

Asparagus isn’t optional in my opinion for this dish. It really makes it.

spring veg
Good spring veg.

To start off the dish, add the butter to a large skillet. When it’s melted, add the shallots and leeks and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft. That’ll probably take 4-5 minutes.

This’ll smell good.

Then add in the mushrooms and asparagus and continue to cook, stirring every once in awhile. Cook it down until the mushrooms are soft and the asparagus is cooked but still slightly crunchy. Mine cooked about 5 minutes and the asparagus was perfect.

veg cooked
Again. Don’t overcook here…

Finally, fold in the quinoa, pea sauce, and whole peas. Stir this all together and once it is warmed through, it’s ready to serve. Season it with salt and pepper at this point. It’ll probably need a pinch of both.


Ok. I’ll be honest.

I liked this dish a lot. But I thought it needed something. That something was hot sauce.

hot sauce

Most things are better with hot sauce, but I thought this dish was a lot better with hot sauce.

Betsy liked it without though so do what you want.

But try it with hot sauce.

14 Responses to “Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf” Leave a comment

  1. Nick,
    I don't have to taste this dish to know that it is absolutely delicious! I've often wondered why more people don't use peas for color and flavor. And you just can't go wrong with leeks and shallots mixed with your grains. I'll be making this soon. Great post!
    My recent post Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce

  2. mmm, more ideas for quinoa. btw, like bolivia, quinoa has been eaten for hundreds of years here in ecuador too. it's still pretty cheap. The most common way I have been served quinoa here is just a handful thrown into a brothy veg soup a half hour before serving the soup. It gives it some nice texture and lots of nutrients. You can also get quinoa flour (idk, if you can get that up in the states, but you could just grind a few batches in your spice grinder) and make bread. I wonder if replacing some of your flour in the no knead bread with quinoa flour would work. I'd say its worth the risk… if successful, youre bread will be extra healthy. plus you could throw a few extra seeds in the batter (whole grain quinoa bread?). Anyway, just some food for thought (but make sure you thoroughly wash the quinua!!). Cheers.

      1. yea its pretty legit. i'm not sure if its specific soup recipes they put it in, but im sure a handful in any brothy soup would be fine.

  3. Yea! Another quinoa recipe. I commented once before. I live in Peru. I haven't checked the price of quinoa in a while for us. They actually use it like we use oatmeal for breakfast (power food). Peru is a major exporter of asparagus so I am excited that the dish calls for fresh asparagus. I can't wait to try this one. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Could you use Cous Cous in place of quinoa in recipes? That's still really cheap. I believe it does not have the same protein content, but it is still really good for you.

  5. I love the little parody at the end between you and Betsy – so the honeymoon is over.

    "Do what you want…….but try it with the hot sauce." ;)

    @Kate I've recently read articles that Quinoa has shot up in price and demand is outpacing immediate supply – so in response to Kate – Eat something else? – tell that to the poor indigenous in Peru whose other alternative might be hunger.

    Besides Quinoa is really so 2010. How about some experimenting with Teff, which is Gluten Free, and packed with nutrients.

  6. We first tried quinoa with your salad with sweet potatoes and we can never go back. We will be making this soon.

  7. Made it last night. Had everything but the mint – our local grocer was out…. I still liked it and this recipe makes a ton – so lots of leftovers for this week. Hot sauce – yes!

  8. Just made this, and it was even better than it looks in your pictures! I wasn't sure what to expect from the pea and mint sauce and it was awesome. The hot sauce was the perfect addition, thanks for the idea!

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