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Lemon Quinoa is made with toasted quinoa and fresh lemon juice for an extra flavorful dish. This vegan, gluten-free recipe is perfect for Buddha bowls or salads.
This vegan, gluten-free recipe only takes 30 minutes to make and is great for meal prepping.
Use lemony quinoa as a base for bowls or warm salads to add your favorite toppings like roasted veggies or tofu.
Or you can enjoy this plant-based protein all on its own as a delicious side dish.
To infuse this dish with the most flavor, the recipe starts by popping quinoa before boiling it and adding lemon.
You will need these simple ingredients to make toasty lemon quinoa:
- Quinoa is toasted and then boiled for a super flavorful dish.
- Water or vegetable broth is used when cooking the quinoa.
- Fresh Lemon Juice and lemon zest add a nice flavor that complements the toasty quinoa.
- Salt enhances the overall flavors.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Before getting into how to make the best lemony quinoa, here are a few things to know that will be important in this recipe.
Saponins & Rinsing Quinoa
Quinoa has a naturally occurring bitter coating called saponin. It has a detergent-like quality and will foam up when you rinse quinoa through a fine mesh sieve.
Most store-bought brands have removed the saponins from quinoa through various processes. Still, some people may prefer to rinse their quinoa to remove any residue that may be left over.
Saponins aside, this recipe instructs rinsing or moistening the quinoa seeds before cooking. This is helpful when popping or toasting the quinoa, a technique used to infuse the dish with a nutty flavor.
Rinsing or moistening quinoa with a 4:1 quinoa to water ratio prevents the quinoa from burning as it toasts.
Furthermore, some say that soaking or rinsing quinoa can lower its phytic acid content, making it easier to digest.
Popped quinoa is different from puffed quinoa. You can pop quinoa at home on your stovetop with raw quinoa seeds, whereas puffed quinoa involves a mechanical process.
For the best flavor, pop your quinoa before boiling it! This extra step is optional, but it adds to the depth of flavor.
Check out how to pop quinoa for more tips on the toasting process, plus additional ideas for how to use popped quinoa!
Moisten the Quinoa Seeds
Rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag to thoroughly saturate all the seeds. Drain off excess water, but don’t let the quinoa completely dry out.
Alternatively, moisten quinoa with a 4:1 ratio of quinoa to water (or soak quinoa overnight, completely submerging it in water.)
Pop the Quinoa
Add the saturated quinoa to a medium saucepan preheated to medium-high heat.
The quinoa will not be in a single layer, so it will take longer to toast than popping quinoa in a skillet.
Let it cook for about 15 minutes. After 5 minutes, most of the water should have evaporated, drying out the quinoa.
By 10 to 15 minutes, the quinoa should smell nutty and make popping sounds. Let this continue until most of the quinoa has popped, stirring occasionally. It’s okay if some of it doesn’t get popped.
Cook the Quinoa
Add water and salt and mix. Bring the quinoa to a boil.
Lower the heat and place a lid on the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes. Avoid lifting the lid to ensure the perfect, fluffy quinoa.
After 15 minutes, check to see if all the water is absorbed, and fluff the quinoa with a spoon or fork.
Mix in lemon juice and lemon zest. Serve with fresh herbs and additional lemon slices to squeeze in even more lemon juice, if desired.
Use this lemon quinoa recipe as a blank canvas to add your favorite toppings! Here are a few ideas for how to customize your lemon quinoa with additional flavor:
- Lemon Herb - Add a few of your favorite herbs like fresh parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, cilantro, or dill.
- Spicy Citrus - Add red pepper flakes, cayenne powder, or chili lime seasoning.
- Garlic Lemon - Add garlic powder or roasted garlic.
- Cilantro Lime - Swap the lemon juice for lime and add chopped cilantro at the end.
- Cranberry Orange - Swap the lemon for orange juice and zest, and add some cranberries for a sweet touch.
- Maple Dijon - Swap the lemon juice with a drizzle of maple Dijon vinaigrette for a sweet and zesty kick.
- Nutty Crunch - Add pine nuts, slivered almonds, or walnuts.
Ways to Serve Lemon Quinoa
Lemon quinoa is the perfect side dish but can easily be made into a satisfying main dish. Here are some ideas for how to serve this plant-based protein:
- Quinoa Kale Salad - Add lemon quinoa to a kale apple salad for an even heartier meal.
- Meditteranean Bowl - Add chickpeas, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, red bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, parsley, a dollop of hummus, and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Burrito Bowl - Add black beans, corn, tomatoes, mango salsa and avocado. Or make burritos using homemade vegan flour tortillas or chickpea flour tortillas.
- With Braised Beans - Add rosemary garlic white beans on top; the combination of the lemon flavor with the garlic and rosemary creates a perfect, satisfying meal.
- Harvest Bowl - Add roasted carrots and apples, mixed greens, and maple Dijon vinaigrette.
- Lemon quinoa pilaf - Sauté onions, garlic, and vegetables in a pan and add cooked lemon quinoa.
- Stuffed vegetables - Use in stuffed acorn squash instead of wild rice. Or stuff peppers or tomatoes with it!
This recipe is great for meal prep ahead of a busy week!
Once cooled to room temperature, store leftover quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Serve the quinoa cold or reheat it in the microwave in 30-second intervals.
For longer storage, freeze lemon quinoa in an airtight, freezer-safe container for 1 to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave.
Lemon Quinoa Recipe with Toasted Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon sea salt omit if using broth
- 2-4 tablespoons lemon juice and zest to garnish
- Rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag to thoroughly saturate all the seeds. Drain off excess water, but don’t let the quinoa completely dry out.
- Heat a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add quinoa, still saturated, to the pot.
- Add the saturated quinoa to a medium-sized pot preheated to medium-high heat.
- Let cook for about 15 minutes. After 5 minutes, most of the water should have evaporated, drying out the quinoa.
- By 10 to 15 minutes, the quinoa should smell nutty and make popping sounds. Let this continue until most of the quinoa has popped, stirring occasionally.
- Add water and salt and mix. Bring the quinoa to a boil.
- Lower the heat and place a lid on the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes.
- Check quinoa to see if all the water is absorbed, and fluff it with a spoon or fork.
- Mix in lemon juice and zest. Serve with additional lemon slices to squeeze in even more lemon juice, if desired.