Quinoa Pilaf

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This tasty Quinoa Pilaf 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!

Overhead image of Quinoa Pilaf in a large serving bowl.

Quinoa Pilaf

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!

Process shots-- images of the veggies and quinoa being sautรฉed; chicken stock, chickpeas, and dried tart cherries being added; and everything being simmered and reduced.

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’sยฎ 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.

Shortcut ideas

  • Rotisserie chicken. 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!
  • Dairyfree: 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.

Overhead image of Quinoa Pilaf with the sauce over top ready to be served.

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 chicken stock, 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:

More ways to use quinoa

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Quinoa Pilaf

5 from 2 votes
This tasty Quinoa Pilaf 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!
Print Recipe

Quinoa Pilaf

5 from 2 votes
This tasty Quinoa Pilaf 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!
Course Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword quinoa pilaf
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings (6-8 if this is served as a side)
Chelsea Lords
Calories 780kcal
Cost $6.72


Quinoa Pilaf

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion (~1 medium onion)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced carrot (~2-3 medium carrots)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (~2-3 cloves)
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH: curry powder, paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: fine sea salt, ground cumin
  • 1 and 2/3rds cup good quality chicken stock (we like Swanson)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries, optional (See Note 1)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup honey roasted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1 and 1/2 cup diced rotisserie chicken

Herb Infusion

  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed flat-leaf Italian parsley


  • QUINOA PILAF: 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.
  • QUINOA PILAF 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.
  • HERB INFUSION: 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!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Currants, raisins, or coarsely chopped dates can be used instead of dried cherries. If you'd like the dried fruit to be soft, add with chicken stock, but if you'd prefer them to retain their chewy texture, add them into the pilaf when adding in the almonds.ย 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 780kcal | Carbohydrates: 84g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 509mg | Potassium: 911mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 10855IU | Vitamin C: 56mg | Calcium: 141mg | Iron: 6mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

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  1. We love quinoa over here! It’s so quick and easy to make! I was so happy to see that Costco carries a giant bag of organic quinoa now. This sounds tasty and I love how healthy it is.

  2. One pot dinner dishes are everything! I love how this recipe is so customizable and you can easily add shrimp or chicken into the mix – great dish!

    1. Thanks so much Jessica! I love thrift shopping and always find my props at a goodwill or salvation army ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Totally just saw this on instagram Chelsea! Quinoa is just so versatile….kind of my favorite side item right now! Great replacement for rice. I like that you added a bunch of veggies to it…great way to sneak them in! So healthy for you. Thanks for the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a wonderful day!

      1. Good morning! For this one pot quinoa & veggie recipe, does the quinoa cook with the one pot dish, or does it need to already be cooked separately before being put into the pot?


  4. I think you might have created the perfect dinner! Healthy, easy, delicious, adaptable – this is seriously perfect! Yum!

  5. I could use all the one-pot quick dinners I can get at this point! This looks delicious Chelsea! And I love that photo of the onions – it’s gorgeous!

  6. Giiiiiirl, your quinoa/veggie pictures are drool-worthy. So so pretty. Love how simple and delicious this is! And the flexibility is awesome. Mmmm, I want this like right about now! Love this, pretty lady!

  7. Yum, I’ve never tried the tri-colored quinoa either – looks so fun and colorful in this dish! One-pot quick dinners are always a good thing and I love all the veggies in here – looks delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I’m loving this dish, Chelsea! I love quinoa and it’s packed with so many fresh veggies and chicken. I would eat this any day of the week. Pinning!

  9. I am such a big fan of one pot meals and this one looks delicious! I love how you can have a well balanced meal ready quick on a busy night with a recipe like this! I can’t wait to give it a try.

  10. This dish is so delicious I made it two nights in a row!! I’ve gone from never having used quinoa to loving it in one super easy meal. I definitely think that this is going to be my go-to easy meal in the future. Thank you so much!

  11. My husband has asked me to start cooking with black beans and I love the look of this recipe (we eat quinoa All. The. Time) but at what point do I add black beans? With the quinoa, at the end, or…? Thanks!!

    1. If you are talking about black beans from a can, I would probably stir them in near the end (drained and rinsed) when you add in the chicken. Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I saw the recipe yesterday and I went to the store to get some ingredients. Without really looking, I picked up a box of Success 10 minute Boil In Bag Quinoa. I am wondering if this will work.

    1. I’m so sorry to not be of more help but I’ve never tried boil in bag quinoa so I’m really not sure how it would work! I think it might just be done sooner; so check it more frequently.

  13. I saw this recipe last night and I went to the store this morning to get some ingredients. I got a box called Success 10 Minute Boil in Bag Quinoa instead of regular Quinoa. Can I still use the Boil in Bag? I am eager to try this recipe. I like one pot recipes.

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