(Vegan) Quinoa Pilaf

Hallelujah, the cold has gone!

I’m for realz, it has been brutally frigid the past couple days, but thank goodness it’s finally warming up a bit.  I’m all for getting to wear my rarely-used winter gear, but it was starting to get ridiculous.  It was 17 degrees on our covered porch yesterday morning!

And what’d’ya know: we forgot to turn our automatic sprinkler system off, and – just our luck – it went off in the middle of the polar vortex.  It made for some pretty ice, at least!

Cabbage in the Polar Vortex | Oysters & Pearls
The cabbage actually held up okay against it, thank goodness.  The rest of the lettuces… not so much.

The cedar tree by the bird bath in the backyard was covered in ice ornaments, too.  It’s a beauty that we don’t normally see here in Bainbridge, so at least it was a nice change in scenery!Frozen Cedar Tree, January 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Frozen Cedar Tree in Bainbridge, Georgia during the Polar Vortex of 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Frozen Cedar Tree and Bird Bath | Oysters & PearlsWhat’s that in the background, behind the frozen-solid bird bath?

Wallace in the SoWeGa Polar Vortex | Oysters & Pearls
Don’t worry, Wallace and Harold followed me out to snap some pictures, but we all went back inside as quickly as possible.

Moving on to the title of this post…

Today’s post perfectly and accidentally coincided with my favorite gluten-free and vegetarian gals’ birthdays!  Happiest of Birthdays to my mother-in-law, Nancy, and future sister-in-law, Sloane!

Now, despite it being their birthdays, when I think of quinoa, all that pops into my head is this Bud Light Commercial:

For the record: this quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) tastes nothing like a dirty old tree branch.  It tastes really, really good.  Wheat even ate the mushrooms.  The mushrooms!!  He hates mushrooms.  Supposedly.

Anyway, I posted a picture of my favorite quinoa dish on Instagram the other night and got lots of folks clamoring for the recipe.  Ask, and you shall receive!  I’ve been meaning to post it for a while, anyway, but Nancy and Sloane’s birthday is pretty perfect timing!

Vegan Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms | Oysters & Pearls

Way back when, I went vegetarian for a while, then vegan for a while.  More so as a cleanse and to expand my food repertoire than anything else.  And it definitely broadened my horizons!  One of the things that I’ve carried over to non-vegan life years later are quite a few recipes (including this one) from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
.  Even if you aren’t vegan, there are still some awesome, healthy, clean-eating recipes in this book that I make to this day.  Most especially, this one.

(^^ Affiliate links, btw!)

I’ve adapted this recipe over the years, and it’s really healthy, really tasty, and completely open for your own interpretation.

Quinoa Pilaf
vegan, gluten free
adapted from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
serves 4 to 6 as a side


– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 small yellow or vidalia onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 tablespoon ground coriander
– several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 tablespoon tomato paste
– 1 cup quinoa (any color will do)
– 1 package baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
– 2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth, if you’re not vegan)


In a smallish pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for about 7 or 8 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.  Add the tomato paste, coriander, cumin, pepper, and salt, and sauté for another minute or so.  Add the quinoa and sauté for a couple minutes, then add the mushrooms and broth.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to your lowest setting, cover, and cook for 18 more minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Rainbow Quinoa for Quinoa Pilau | Oysters & Pearls

Quinoa is pretty awesome.  It’s like a grain, but technically it’s a seed.  It’s gluten-free, and it’s a complete protein, which means it’s a perfect balance of all 9 amino acids that are essential for human nutrition.  That’s basically unheard of in the plant world (it’s a meat thing).  It’s low calorie, high in fiber and iron, and has a texture reminiscent of bubbles, which is, personally, my favorite of its attributes.

I prefer to use rainbow quinoa, as shown in these pictures, because each color has slightly different qualities.  The white quinoa fluffs up a lot, while the black and red quinoa is crunchier and nuttier.  Plus, it’s rainbow quinoa.

Vegan Quinoa Pilau with Mushrooms adapted from Veganomicon | Oysters & Pearls

 I love to add mushrooms to this, but the original recipe called for one (drained) 15 ounce can of chickpeas.  You can really add any veggie you want – it will be good!

Delicious and Flavorful Quinoa Pilaf Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

I had gotten out of the habit of labeling any of my food into neat little categories like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.  I try to just think of it all as food!  I’m totally fine skipping out on meat for a week.  I hope that my diet is well-rounded enough that it doesn’t suffer no matter what I’m in the mood for.  However, as I mentioned earlier, my in-laws are gluten free (see this article on The Grain Brain Diet, or check out Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers
itself for an explanation <– that’s an affiliate link too!) and my future sister-in-law is a vegetarian, so recently it’s been on my mind more when I’m cooking or reading recipes lately.

Vegan Rainbow Quinoa Pilaf | Oysters & Pearls

Fortunately, this falls into the gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and delicious categories all very nicely.

Three cheers for clean, healthy eating and birthdays this new year!  :)

Until Next Time

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5 thoughts on “(Vegan) Quinoa Pilaf

  1. Christopher Stanton

    Thank you for this delicious recipe. As guest chef for my first time, I was hesitant to use an untested recipe, much less serve foods I had never prepared before (quinoa or nopales).

    My version of your recipe used fresh shiitake mushrooms and a mushroom broth to maximize its umami factor. The other variation involved using chopped carrot threads to create more of a pilaf.

    I’m happy to report that all of our guests simply raved about the dish, even the vegans present were amazed by its depth of flavor. Your spice blend of coriander and cumin, in combination with the tomato paste, really complimented the overall character of this recipe.

    The full menu was (in keeping with a California indigenous plant theme):

    Spicy Nopales with Heirloom Tomatoes
    European-Style Large Curd Scrambled Eggs
    Linguiça Breakfast Links
    Quinoa Pilaf with Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms

    Contributing chefs are requested to submit recipes for their meal services and I would like your permission to post this one (with attribution). Please feel free to email me about this. Again, thank you.

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      That sounds wonderful! I will have to add carrots next time I make it. You’re more than welcome to share it – this recipe makes quinoa lovers out of people who thought they hated it!


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