One-Pot Wonders

One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf

March  4, 2021
55 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

I initially developed this combination by combining sauteed kale with leftover quinoa, but have come up with a from-scratch method to cook both elements together perfectly. It satisfies the eternal resolution to eat healthy, teaming complete-protein quinoa with antioxidant-rich kale. And it's one-pot easy, making it a simple way to incorporate healthy eating into a worknight rotation. —deensiebat

Test Kitchen Notes

"Deensiebat's pilaf breathes new life into a familiar classic. Both the quinoa and the hearty strips of lacinato kale (you can use chard or standard kale) crunch lightly between your teeth, and Meyer lemon juice and zest keep the quinoa from being bland. Fresh goat cheese and walnut oil just barely coat the warm pilaf, giving it a creamy, tangy finish, and toasted pine nuts lend some crunch. We love the technique of layering the quinoa and the kale and cooking it all in one pot." –A&M

"Kale and Quinoa Pilaf, you saucy minx. You arrive all buttoned up, announcing yourself like a Very Healthy Recipe, and then you show your true colors: salty feta, lush pine nuts, and a quick tang of vinegar to keep everything in line.

If there were a Food52 Hall of Fame, Kale and Quinoa Pilaf might be the Michael Jordan. Or at least the Wayne Gretzky. Make it in one pot, laud its healthiness, add enough fat and salt to make it satisfying, and then revisit your leftovers with joy the next day at work. Take pride in your lunch. Bring a real fork to the office. You're worth it." –Marian Bull

"Community member deensiebat, who goes by Deena Prichep, added a recipe for a One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf to our site about 8 years ago—almost to the day. Since then, it has become one of our community's most trusted—and most favorited—recipes. It's a light and airy tumble of some of our favorite ingredients: A citrusy dressing whirls around kale, quinoa, pine nuts, and goat cheese, and the whole thing comes together to form a refreshing but filling weeknight dinner that you can assemble in minutes.

Prichep uploaded it on New Year's Day and we think she may have been up to something. The dish cuts through the slog of holiday snackage and welcomes a new year with a bright, tangy punch. In its years on the site, this recipe has climbed the ranks of popularity. It has garnered over 12,000 likes and upwards of 400 comments, making it a contender for one of our sites most popular recipes.

Prichep's recipe has left an indelible impact not just on our site's archive, but also in the lives of our users. One community member shared an especially glowing review: 'This recipe completely changed the way I eat. I've made it probably 100 times, but more than that it inspired me to start cooking for myself at home, completely transforming my diet and my bank account. I long since memorized the recipe but dug it up to say a huge thank you!... Forgot to add–it's endlessly adaptable. Any steamed grain + any green + any vinegar/oil combination.'" –Valerio Farris

—The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf
  • 2 cups salted water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed and chopped into 1" lengths
  • 1 meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil (you can substitute olive oil if you desire), pine nuts, and goat cheese.
  3. Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed—the water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kristin
  • Jennifer M
    Jennifer M
  • jpriddy
  • Lisa

455 Reviews

Susan January 11, 2024
I also made it with chicken broth instead of water and also used regular lemon and olive oil. Our guests loved it and it makes alot so great for leftovers.
MJO May 22, 2023
I cooked the quinoa for one minute in my Instant Pot. Once pressure came down I opened it and stirred in the kale and scallions and put the top back on. I used smoked olive oil instead of walnut oil. When ready to serve I put goat cheese and toasted pine nuts on top. Very delicious!
RCatsville April 29, 2023
This recipe would be much improved with salted chicken broth as the base vs salted water. Toast pine nuts with Ras El Hanout seasoning blend (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) or another Moroccan-inspired blend and set spices and nuts aside (not combined with liquid ingredients). Sautee 1 clove of garlic with the chopped white scallion bits and then add the chicken stock base to the sauteed ingredients, then quinoa, etc. Top with the lemon juice, cheese, and pine nuts at the end. Garnish with the chopped green scallion bits.
RCatsville April 29, 2023
Mince garlic, then sautee... not noted!
Lisa April 11, 2024
i like your additions, as i've been to Morocco and have fond memories of the food there. agree with the salted broth, i'd use pistachios instead of pine nuts for personal preference. i think feta cheese would also be good if one isn't partial to goat cheese! and obviously - garlic. *in everything* !
Michelle March 18, 2023
I’ve been making this for years and love it. I have substituted walnuts for pine nuts, regular lemon for Meyer lemon, olive oil for walnut oil, and feta for goat cheese- all of those work out well.
Lisa K. February 28, 2023
I make this all the time. It is great, simple, and works for quick lunch or dinner. I always use all of the lemon juice.
commonsensediet January 24, 2023
This is a great recipe and it's perfect for lunch or dinner. Kale and quinoa are star ingredients and are very nutritious. You can also add some extra lean protein like salmon, cottage cheese or turkey if your active lifestyle demands a protein boost. Or if you're an athlete, try supplementing with a protein powder:
curt312 October 24, 2021
This recipe is really delicious. I was able to cook Kale and Quinoa in Instant Pot with veggie broth. (pressure cook for 3min, and let rest for 10min) then add to other ingredients in a separate bowl. Does not need much salt. Lemon juice does a good job at seasoning.
Kristin January 13, 2021
This was a perfect accompaniment to a main protein - meatballs in this case - with its lightness and varied flavors. Love that it can be riffed on plus anything with lemon! I skipped the nuts but added more olive oil, used some goat cheese plus some fresh mozzarella which melted nicely, plus added a bit of crushed red pepper for more heat. Delicious one-pot dishes like this hold special powers! This one's a keeper!
Kristin January 13, 2021
This was a perfect accompaniment to a main protein - meatballs in this case - with its lightness and varied flavors. Love that it can be riffed on plus anything with lemon! I skipped the nuts but added more olive oil, used some goat cheese plus some fresh mozzarella which melted nicely, plus added a bit of crushed red pepper for more heat. Delicious one-pot dishes like this hold special powers! This one's a keeper!
Jennifer M. January 10, 2021
I don’t know why this is so delicious but it is. The perfect combination of flavors. I used toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts and just a little shaved Romano instead of goat cheese. Roasted walnut oil is amazing. Wow. This recipes goes in the favorite pile.
Deborah S. October 8, 2020
Absolutely delicious! I used some finely diced red onion instead of scallions but otherwise followed the recipe exactly! This is a keeper!
Jc April 19, 2020
Riffed on this for lunch today.
In the quarantined make do atmosphere beet greens and radish leaves stood in for kale. Farmers Cheese stood in for goat cheese. Raw cashews, toasted, for pine nuts; and sunflower oil...
Skipped the scallions. Added abit of aleppo peppet,chopped cucumber and rasish to the salad bowl. Other than that,followed the revipe to the letter. 😇
Good stuff
jpriddy December 27, 2019
For vegans, use oven-roasted halved little tomatoes and something else for a bit of zing—extra pepper and green onion, red pepper flakes, cumin? Cucumber? Fine-sliced fennel?

I frequently cook several grains together with an Asian spice mix: rice, garbanzo beans, quinoa, pre-soaked beans, lentils.

And since I have nut allergies in my family, smoked salmon works instead for a great flavor.
Lisa April 11, 2024
thanks for the tip regarding the beans! makes a more well rounded dish
Pamela October 21, 2019
This is the MOST delicious. I don't even eat cheese, but just the quinoa, kale, pinenuts, and lemon zest and juice add up to a bounty of deliciousness that even my reluctant husband can't get enough of.
verborgenheit October 14, 2019
This is really good- thank you! I think it might be best to rinse the quinoa before cooking to get rid of saponins which can coat it and cause a bitter taste as well as gastric irritation
jpriddy December 27, 2019
Thank you. I was looking for that recommendation. Always wash quinoa before cooking and rice too for other reasons.
Lisa April 11, 2024
i purchase Kirkland quinoa and have never needed to rinse it. other brands most definitely could benefit from it though.
Judy J. August 4, 2019
Easy and delicious! I only had cranberry goat cheese on hand and that worked well too. I will be making this again!
Bethesda K. April 20, 2019
Can't count how many times I've made this wonderful dish. Perfect for the Jewish family members & vegetarians at each year's family Easter celebration. Perfect for taking to outdoor concerts. and the leftovers are so delicious!
megumphrey March 11, 2019
432 reviews! You all are my people!

After 1 billion times on stovetop, I tried in the Instantpot, with 2c quinoa, 1.5c water, and 2 chopped bunches of kale piled on top (gotta double, am I right?). 1 min manual high pressure, 10 min natural release. It came out great! Honestly don’t know if it’s that much of a time saver, but it was fun to play.

With so many comments, I couldn’t tell if anyone else had given it a go - if so, at least the idea will be bumped up!
Van D. February 11, 2019
I love this as a base recipe, and make it all the time. Definitely go heavy on the lemon to add more flavor, and/or add more spices to taste. Another great trick to add flavor is to cook the quinoa in chicken stock vs water. This will add more depth of flavor to the overall dish.
amy P. August 9, 2018
Wished for more flavor...or maybe it was just the sub of curly kale, or putting the goat cheese into hot quinoa?