Our One-Pot Quinoa Pilaf Gets a Summer Update

July  2, 2018

I used to think that pilafs always started with rice and then Food52-er deensiebat set me straight. A pilaf can start with any grain and, if you’re crafty enough, can turn into a one-pot meal along the way. Behold one of the most beloved recipes on our site:

Deena uploaded the recipe on New Year’s Day 2010 and, in the years since, it’s been favorited over 12,000 times. It’s as nourishing and hearty as it is easy and quick.

Basically, you bring some salty water to a boil, add quinoa, cover, and let simmer away. Partway through cooking, you add some chopped kale to steam. When both are done, they get tossed with lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil, pine nuts, and goat cheese.

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I wanted to summer-fy this.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

So I swapped out the kale for sweet corn and tiny tomatoes. Also, the goat cheese for feta, which is less melty and brighter and brinier, like diving into the ocean. The pine nuts made way for sunflower seeds. And I added some fresh mint for, well, freshness, and red pepper flakes for a little kick to keep you on your toes.

The result has the same spirit as the original, just wearing a different outfit—a swimsuit, if you will. It’s as perfect for a quickie weeknight dinner as it is for a pool party or backyard BBQ. And, lucky us, any leftovers make for the very best picnic side.

Have you made the famous quinoa pilaf before? Tell us how you'd play around with the recipe in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

Rather than zesting the lemon, I remove the seeds, cut up the lemon and run through the food processor - pith, peel, and all. Zest is good, but the whole lemon, including the juice, makes this pilaf even better. I make this pilaf with baby spinach rather than kale sometimes as well. Love this pilaf!