One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

January 1, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Food52 Review: 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&MThe Editors

Serves: 2-4
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min


  • 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
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (433) Questions (15)

433 Reviews

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?
Julie C. July 27, 2018
Love this recipe. I use a regular lemon & onion, toasted slivered almonds, gruyere for the cheese and extra virgin olive oil it's so delicious.
Katie B. June 8, 2018
Made it with parmesan cheese and walnuts, added some fresh parsley and red chili flakes. I could eat the entire bowl in one sitting!
Sherri S. May 24, 2018
Thank you, another healthy and great way to use Kale. I don't always have quinoa, so used mixed grains, and substituted feta and added chick peas.
KakiSue May 3, 2018
This was easy and delicious- I’m eating the leftovers cold for lunch 🍴 and it has such a beautifully tangy flavor. Yum! Thx!
erin April 10, 2018
Being no great fans of either kale or quinoa, I was surprised by how much we enjoyed this. The approach is quick, easy and endlessly adaptable: I sautéed some onion, red bell peppper, cherry tomatoes and garlic before adding the quinoa, and stirred in fresh parsley, mint and black olives at the end.
tota January 10, 2018
this is the best recipe! Made it yet again 2 nights ago, with feta rather than goat cheese, and it reminded me of how healthy, easy and yummy this is. A definite winner in our household!
Tyler E. January 10, 2018
Regarding the substitution notes... hard to imagine that just 8 years ago one would not be able to find lacinato kale at any supermarket
Thuc N. January 9, 2018
WOW! Simple yet delicious! I didn’t have goat cheese and pine nuts on hands so I used Feta crumble cheese and it was good!
Sandra B. January 8, 2018
I just made this, doubling the recipe but otherwise as written. Delicious! Could add even more kale. Thank you!
Mary December 28, 2017
Wow! Just looking at the pictures and realized that I’ve been juicing lemons backwards for years....! Or have I been...? How do others who use the yellow lemon press juicer to squeeze their lemons? I thought you inverted them, flesh towards the straining end - no seeds and better force by enlisting the pressure from the peel.
ellen December 30, 2017
I'd always done it the way you describe until a few months ago when I saw an article about cutting a tiny bit off both ends of the lemon to expose the flesh (*easiest to do this step before cutting it in half) & then placing the lemon half in the juicer like their photo suggests. It definitely yields the most juice!
Gabrielle April 2, 2018
I do it both ways to get out as much juice as possible!
K. A. December 20, 2017
I went to make this recipe last night but realised that I only had a bag of Quinoa and brown rice and a bunch of beet greens.Well it turned out delicious. It took a bit longed to cook but the result was a very substantial meal. I also used beet greens with the stems removed. The goat's cheese melted through the rice was wonderful.
Regine December 1, 2017
Wow. I have such a bad memory. It looks like I did try this recipe some time ago and I liked it. I can't believe I did not remember. I am going to make it again.
Regine December 1, 2017
Hmmm..I have to confess this dish does not look appealing to me. But after seeing all these great comments, particularly JK, I am going to give this dish a try. However, since I really dislike goat cheese, I will replace it with either feta, or a milder cheese like Queso Fresco. Looking forward to making it and hoping it really transforms, like JK, my diet. Thanks.
Kim W. December 1, 2017
I agree with JK, this recipe is so adaptable! You’ll love it, and it’s so easy that it will fit into your rotation of go-to meals :)
JK December 1, 2017
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!
JK December 1, 2017
Forgot to add - it's endlessly adaptable. Any steamed grain + any green + any vinegar/oil combination.
karen September 12, 2017
I have to laugh at myself and others who comment that the recipe wasn't so great but then report that they changed out most of the ingredients. ;)
Kim W. August 29, 2017
Just made this, so good, quick and easy! Add a poached egg, too good! Looking forward to playing around with all the tasty possibilities!
erin August 27, 2017
I really enjoyed this, I think next time I'll use Feta