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Quinoa and Kale Pilaf with Caramalized Balsamic Onions and Peppers

quinoaIs there anything more versatile than quinoa? It’s healthy, filling, relatively affordable, and super-easy to make. In comparison to it’s grain counterparts such as wheat, quinoa is a richer source of protein, healthy fats, and a number of nutrients, most notably manganese and calcium. Best of all, it’s tasty with a wonderful nutty texture that makes it a great base for all sorts of recipes. This makes quinoa a great staple for any diet, especially those following a gluten-free or grain-free lifestyle.

I am always looking for new creative ways to incorporate produce for vegetarian meals as part of my commitment to Meatless Mondays. Quinoa has helped me get by on more than one occasion, and I thought I’d reach for this ingredient on my pantry for this week’s recipe.

This Quinoa and Kale Pilaf recipe has the added benefit of kale, a cruciferous vegetable, along with red peppers and onions to help boost the nutritional profile of the dish and to add some lovely color (an absolute must for me!) and flavor. The best thing about this dish is that it can really be molded to fit any kind of produce you have on hand. Spring vegetables like zucchini and asparagus will soon be in season and both would be delicious additions,  much like this recipe with spinach and asparagus.

For more Meatless Monday recipes, please visit Food4ThoughtNYC!



1 cup of red and white quinoa, rinsed

2 cups of salted water

1 bunch of curly kale, stems removed (lacinato works well too)

1/2 large red onion, sliced thinly

1/2 medium red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1/4 cup of goat cheese

1/4 cup of raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

1 1/2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp and 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp Zatar with toasted sesame seeds (can use oregano instead)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper



Bring the salted water to a boil in a medium-sized pot or dutch oven. Prepare quinoa by rinsing thoroughly under cold water. Add to boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes.


While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all of your vegetables. Chop the red onion and red pepper into thin slices and set aside. Rinse kale well under water and remove all stems. Cut kale into 1-inch pieces and set aside. Give almonds a rough chop and also set aside.


Place a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add 1tbsp of olive oil, and add onions and pepper once hot. Saute 1-2 minutes over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir frequently and allow the onions and peppers to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes. If the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a couple teaspoons of water and continue to stir. Turn off and remove from the heat once it turns a dark brown color.


While onions are caramelizing, check the quinoa to see if it’s absorbed all of the water. If so, add the kale over the top and cover for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the kale to steam for an additional 5 minutes.


Add the chopped almonds, goat cheese, caramelized onions and peppers, and zatar to a serving bowl. Once the quinoa and kale is fully cooked, spoon the pilaf into the serving bowl and mix everything together well. The heat from the quinoa will also help melt the goat cheese making it easier to incorporate throughout the dish. Pour the remaining olive oil over the top, and add salt and pepper to taste.


Garnish with parsley if you’d like. You can eat this hot or cold and it should keep well in a tightly-sealed container for approximately a week.


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