What to CookGrains

A Quinoa Bake That Lets You Change Almost Every Ingredient

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If you played host last week, your stash of leftovers is likely nearing its end: The novelty of turkey-and-stuffing sandwiches morning, noon, and night has long passed. Not a lick of cranberry sauce remains to salvage the last of the turkey.

You’ve likely found yourself cooking again, and you may even be gearing up for more guests (‘tis the season!). But what to cook now?

I have a thought: a quinoa bake.

Baked Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash & Gruyère
Baked Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash & Gruyère

If this genre is new to you, as it was to me just a week ago before I made it, it will quickly feel familiar: It’s a casserole made with quinoa. As you can imagine (and confirm with a quick Pinterest search), the variations are limited only by your imagination. From feta to gouda, ground turkey to chorizo, boiled broccoli to roasted onions, cumin to oregano, the ingredients, seasonings, and combinations can all be tailored to your liking.

You can use Gruyère, like I did, or consider another good melting cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, fontina, or gouda. A mix of cheeses could work well, too, like adding a small amount of Parmesan or blue cheese.

And in this quinoa bake, even the quinoa is optional. Other grains could be used in its place, like freekeh, bulgur, steel cut oats, or wheat berries. The key is to make sure whatever grain you use is fully-cooked before assembling the casserole. 

Then, you just need some sort of flavorful liquid to keep it moist and bind everything together. An egg-and-milk custard or a béchamel will make for a richer dish. Use milk, stock, or tomato sauce to keep things lighter.

All this is optional, but highly encouraged. Photos by Alexandra Stafford

Quinoa bakes are often assembled in layers: first cooked quinoa (mixed with any meat, vegetables, and seasonings), next grated or cubed cheese, and lastly a breadcrumb topping. Everything is fully cooked when the dish enters the oven—the final baking serves simply to melt the cheese, allow the flavors to meld, and crisp the topping. One cup of dried quinoa, which yields about three cups cooked, will fill a 9x13-inch pan and, when mixed with various vegetables and cheeses, comfortably feed six people.

There's lots of layers beneath that crispy top.
There's lots of layers beneath that crispy top. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

For this particular casserole, roasted onions and butternut squash meet Gruyère cheese and a mix of sage, rosemary, and thyme, half of which seasons the breadcrumb topping. Without any meat, it tastes hearty, thanks to quinoa’s high protein content. The whole thing tastes like Thanksgiving without the turkey—but, at this point, no one’s missing it.

Baked Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash & Gruyère

Baked Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash & Gruyère

Alexandra Stafford Alexandra Stafford
Serves 6
  • 1 cup quinoa (I like red for visual appeal)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided plus more for greasing
  • 4 cups 1/2-inch cubes butternut squash (about), 1.25 lbs. post peeling
  • 2 cups diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced herbs, any combination of thyme, sage, and rosemary
  • 1 cup milk, any milk fat you like (I use whole)
  • 4 ounces grated Gruyère cheese (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 1/2 English muffins pulsed in the food processor)
Go to Recipe

Alexandra Staffordd is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.

What would you put into a quinoa casserole? Let us know in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Breakfast, Make Ahead