One-Pot Wonders

One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf

March  4, 2021
33 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
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

Watch This Recipe
One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kristin
  • Jennifer M
    Jennifer M
  • jpriddy
  • KakiSue
  • tota

444 Reviews

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.
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.
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?
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