Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf

Quinoa pilaf recipe with mushrooms, scallions and bell peppers
Quinoa pilaf with mushrooms, scallions and bell peppers.

New Queen on the Block

In between bouts of rain and nostalgia (I prickle using the word nostalgia, to be honest; it smacks of sentimentality, not a trait I cultivate or suffer gladly, but I'll get to that later) I've been craving quinoa like there's no tomorrow, as if I'm living in my own post-apocalyptic genre movie, foraging for nuts and berries on a desert highway in my fashionably shredded mud spattered get-up complete with goggles and chain link bracelets, wishing I had the taut burnished thighs of Tina Turner instead of my own wobbly, pale set of limbs.

Yeah. I'm talking voracious.

I don't know how I used to survive 
without this spectacular Wonder "Grain".

Honestly. How did I cope? This ancient "faux grain" is so much lighter and friendlier to digest than that old hippie stand-by brown rice. It's far more elegant and Helen Mirren queenly than earthy-crunchy Isabel Lucas bo-ho. It has more finesse. More history and character. Not to mention, more nutrition (quinoa is a complete vegan protein, don't forget- unlike most other cereal grains whose nubby chewy aminos need to commingle with complementary legumes or seeds or nuts to be of any real use to us in the vegetarian protein scheme of things). It's also got some calcium. Which can't hurt.

But back to that nostalgia thing.

It has occurred to me- this very week- that I lack the sentimentality gene. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a lively romp down memory lane now and again, just like any crow-footed mid-life goddess with a lively past and a healthy sense of curiosity. It's amusing- even illuminating- to look back down the road once in awhile. To catch the rear view. To shuffle through old photographs, to listen to a song that evokes the summer of '69. That night in the back seat at the drive-in. Peter Fonda on the big screen. The bolt of first love.

But I am not wistful or gauzy eyed, thinking about the past. I don't romanticize it. Though I had an awfully good time of it- I admit I embraced my freedom with gusto.

What is astonishing to me, hitting me upside the head in a virtual shakabuku, is how good my taste in men was, way back then. At the tender age of 15. I made some pretty fine choices way back when. Though my complicated childhood made it inevitable I would feel undeserving and soon enough gravitate to the familiar territory of exploitation. The roots of self-sabotage are sown in the shadow of the family altar. Just when the individuating soul is awakening, the unconscious rumbles from its slumber of innocence and stirs up the familial ghosts to hook its ugly claim on fate. It whispers, You think you got out free and clear, eh?

Some never pry themselves free. Some simply give in to momentum. Some accept less, willingly, and swell with stoic pride. Some find religion and pray to angels. Some choose work. And some replace love with sentiment. The pale excuse for love. The embroidery of nostalgia and its rose-tinted ribbons, investing in a picture that looks pretty to strangers. It is not perfect, but it looks good.

But that's not love.

Love isn't mediagenic. It's messy and complicated and often the timing sucksMoonstruck. Love asks us to get dirty. To risk authenticity, not sugar-coat its opposite. Love doesn't depend upon perfection. Or what the neighbors think. Love seeds itself in the broken places. It prefers the company of weeds above roses. And love doesn't require being polite, being correct, being right, being the best. Love asks us to hurt. To stretch beyond what is bearable. To feel scared. To lose control. To be ridiculous.

It took me twenty-five years to find it again. That deep, true love. And this time I grabbed it.

And after sixteen years, I hold it tight, still. 

Delicious quinoa pilaf is easy to make
Quinoa pilaf makes a perfect vegan side dish.

Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf Recipe

You can use either broth or water to cook this quinoa recipe, but for a hearty, flavor-rich quinoa pilaf, use your favorite broth.


Make your quinoa the easy way (how to here- using a rice cooker.)

You'll need roughly 2 1/2 - 3 cups cooked quinoa. 

As the quinoa cooks, gather and cut up your vegetables.


Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small to medium yellow bell pepper, diced fine
1 small to medium green bell pepper, diced fine
2 cups sliced mushrooms
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Greek Seasoning (mint, lemon, basil, oregano mix)
2 scallions (spring onions) sliced- white and light green sections
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste


Toasted pine nuts, for serving


Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve. Drain. Place in rice cooker or pot with two cups fresh water. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed. 

When the quinoa is almost done, heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, yellow and green pepper; and stir over medium heat until slightly softened. Add in the mushrooms. Season with sea salt, and ground pepper, to taste. Add the Greek seasoning. Stir and cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Scoop the cooked quinoa out of the rice cooker and add it into the mushroom- pepper mixture. Add in the sliced scallions. Stir to combine. Squeeze fresh lemon juice all over the quinoa and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat the quinoa.

Taste test and add more salt or seasoning if it needs it.

Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, if desired.

Serve immediately; or allow it to cool, then cover and refrigerate it to eat as a salad.

Note on chilling this quinoa: Before serving this quinoa cold, taste test again and adjust seasonings; chilling often dulls the flavors in these kinds of salads. I usually allow quinoa salad a few minutes out of the fridge before serving; letting it to come to room temperature helps the flavors. If making ahead as a salad, I'd use water instead of broth- personal preference.

Cook time: 30 min

Yield: Serves 4
 Quinoa Pilaf Recipe

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  1. Oh, Karina- what a lovely dish, perfect for late winter! I will make this Monday, as part of my batch cooking for the week!

    I have wondered why I have gone so long without quinoa. I grew up in a rice eating household, and I have found that quinoa to have a rich, yet lighter flavor.

    Try quinoa cooked with coconut milk, a touch or salt and brown sugar, then topped with cinnamon and fruit (preferably mangos or blueberries). Loveliness.

  2. I too love quinoa! It just makes you feel good when you eat it!

  3. Can I have some?

  4. I have been hungry for a quinoa pilaf and this one looks wonderful. thanks

  5. I made a quinoa salad a few days ago, as well. Maybe Santa Monica inspires such things. :) Mine was Indian-inspired with curry spices, mango chutney, green onions, raisins, shredded carrots, and tuna.

    Except . . . mine wasn't quinoa at all, now that I think about it. It was made with gf brown rice couscous. They are pretty interchangeable.

  6. Can you believe that in all my 32 years I have never eaten quinoa until last week! I have fallen in love with it! It has so much more flavor, texture & plain goodness thatn rice. Mmm, mmm......Thanks Karina.

  7. What beautiful pictures. Your site is such an inspiration...both the recipes and the photographs...visually willing me to healthiness. Love your blog!

  8. At first I was going to post a flippant comment about my glee at seeing an Isabel Lucas reference, not because I find her particularly amazing, but because I used to watch Home and Away when she was on it.

    But then I kept reading, and your talk about love prickled in my throat and I was momentarily speechless. As a 22-year-old who has never let herself get near that kind of emotional closeness, something in your words connected with what I feel like I've known but been too scared to face.

    That sounds a bit trite, but it's the best way I can express it. So thank you.

    (And the quinoa looks delicious.)

  9. I love quinoa. I just bought a whole bunch of it, hoping to convert the rest of the household. (so far, no dice) This sounds so perfect, so earthy, with the mushrooms. Yum.

  10. This looks delicious. I can't wait to try it! I'm always looking for good quinoa recipes. Thanks!

  11. This is perfect -- I'll be making this for dinner tonight! Thanks!

  12. What a wonderful post - I think you might be sentimental after all. The quinoa mushroom dish looks so filling and warming. Quinoa is also one of my favorite grains. I was lucky that my mum discovered it many years ago, so I haven't had to live too much of my life without it.

  13. Hi Karina! This looks so yummy. We love mushrooms in my household. What kind do you suggest for this recipe?

    Thank you for all the delicious inspiration you provide!

  14. Your salad looks lovely, quinoa and mushroom very nice combination.

  15. I haven't made quinoa or even tasted it before. Last year I bought some with the intention of making it and never did. I'm going to look for it in my pantry and try this enticing recipe of yours. Thanks! ;-)


  16. looks delicious!
    i haven't thought of mixing mushrooms and quinoa.
    i always used to do with couscous...but now that i've got gluten free couscous is out of the picture.
    i will definitely try this!

  17. I am glad that love came to you and that it is still precious and I am also glad you shared this wonderful recipe with us.

  18. Anonymous09:37

    I made this last night for dinner, and it was so delicious! It's going to be added to my rotation as an easy meal to make after work. Loved it!

  19. I don't know how I ever survived without quinoa either! It really has been a lifesaver since going gluten-free. Great recipe!

  20. That was touching Karina.

    This pilaf looks heavenly as well.

  21. Gorgeous writing, Karina. Thank you!

  22. Karina- Your blog has been so helpful in my recovery and new GF Life. I just finished making this and paired it with homemade walnut parsley pesto (cheese-less of course). It was so good, I literally just ate three bowls.

    Many, many thanks,


  23. Anonymous10:33

    Thanks for the recipe! I made the pilaf with button and portobello mushrooms and it was fantastic. And the tip to make the quinoa in the rice cooker is brilliant - so easy and perfect!

  24. It was delicious.

  25. Oh Karina...I fear you are just as sentimental as the rest (some of us) although I prefer to think of it as romanticizing! Love quinoa stuffed in Poblano peppers! love your blog

  26. Just made this dish and it is absolutely DELICIOUS!!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  27. Anonymous10:57


    This recipe looks and sounds fantastic -- I can't wait to make it for Thanksgiving this year!

    My question is:
    I'd like to prepare it ahead but serve it warm. Do you have a recommended method for re-heating this dish? Or a "cook-thru this step" suggestion?

    Thank you! And thank you for your beautiful site :)


  28. Thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments. xox

    Stephie, I don't see why you couldn't make this ahead and warm it before serving. You could put it in a ceramic casserole dish, covered, and reheat it in the oven (I'd check it half way through to see if it needed any extra moisture- a drizzle of good olive oil). Or reheat it in a microwave.

    xox Karina

  29. I made this for dinner tonight with a 4-bean salad. Very delicious, filling and nutritious. Thanks Karina!

  30. Just made this dish tonight. Wonderful flavor! Mushrooms are a staple in my house. And now I have something new to do with them. Thanks so much!

  31. Keely22:50

    I gotta say that we didn't follow this recipe exactly since we just used what we had on hand. We didn't have any bell pepper so instead we added some sauteed chopped onion. We also didn't have any Greek seasoning so we stirred in some fresh basil along with the parsley and scallion at the end. This was amazing!

    I'm sure that the original recipe would have been better, but it sure is a great jumping off point for other similar ingredients. I think that the optional pine nuts would have been a wonderful addition.

    This is sure to be a weekly staple in our home now, in one version or another.

  32. yummm! I just made this (approximately) and loved it! It's a great recipe for throwing in what veggies and herbs are on hand. Thanks for sharing the recipe, it made me happy!

  33. Anonymous08:27

    Hi Karina, thanks for sharing such a lovely-sounding recipe.
    I am going to cook your mushroom pilaf for a family gathering, but I have never cooked Quinoa before, so might have to experiment first (as it sounds like lots of people have trouble getting it right!).
    You say this recipe needs 2.5 - 3 cups cooked Quinoa, but how much do you start out with? (does it expand?)
    Also, my rice cooker only has automatic settings - the quick cook setting takes around 30 minutes. Is this too long? And if I double the quantity of Quinoa, do I need to extend the cooking time?
    Sorry for all the questions, but I am a Quinoa newbie, and really want to get it right!
    Thanks from Aus!

  34. Anonymous14:07

    Thanks so much for this post. I was looking for a recipe that had both quinoa and mushrooms and found both the recipe and the words that i needed to hear right now in my life! Very serendipitous!!!

  35. What's the break down on the Greek Seasoning or is it just a free for all?

  36. Shannon, Various brands of Greek seasoning vary slightly. Use the herbs you like, to taste. (I always recommend seasoning to taste.)

  37. I love this recipe and blog...I posted it on my community foodie blog. Hope you can come check it out http://www.facebook.com/thefrenchiefoodie

  38. But you know quinoa is not a grain, right? Grains are seeds from the grass family, and quinoa is the seed from the beet family.

  39. So wait.. quinoa has been the object of your affection for the past 16 years? Sorry, I'm a little dense. Anyway, thank-you for this recipe! I found some unopened packages of quinoa in my cupboard, and wanted to make something tasty with them. Your is the first I came by that looks really good