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Quinoa Chili

I have a new infatuation with the wonder-food that is quinoa.

Have you heard of it?  If you haven’t… it’s pronounced Keen-Wa.


How To Cook Plain Quinoa


Wanna know why I’m infatuated?  Because quinoa is an amazingly tasty grain that is also a fabulous source of protein. (And okay… if we wanna get specific, it’s not technically a grain. It’s a seed.  But it eats like a yummy, starchy grain!!  Yessir!)

Now, contrary to widespread belief, you can actually get all the protein your body needs quite easily if you stick to a primarily whole-foods, plant-based diet sufficient in calories.  (Here’s a great article expounding on that subject.)  But, I am a realist, and I know that many (ahem: most) of us have a hard time sticking to a diet of primarily unprocessed plant foods, as healthy as we know that is for us!  We regularly indulge in Oreos and fast-food burgers, knowing full well that those foods contribute a whole lotta yuck to our overall nutrition.  And I’m not here to pile on the guilt… I know that healthy eating is challenging.  Our culture makes it difficult, our emotional baggage can make it difficult… heck, our own dang taste buds can even make it difficult!  What I would like to do is encourage you to incorporate more plants and less junk in whatever ways you feasibly can.  The impact it can have on your health is remarkable!

And on that note, you can’t go wrong with quinoa.  It contains in abundance all of the essential amino acids needed to support your bodily functions, along with complex carbohydrates and healthy fat.  In my experience, I’ve noticed that when people attempt to limit/avoid meat in their diets (whether for health reasons or budget reasons) they tend to fall back on dairy products (including whey, eggs, and cheese) as their main source of protein.  But plant foods are truly remarkable, and the more you give them a starring role in your diet, the less you’ll need to worry about getting balanced nutrition.  Veggies are naturally well-designed to contain exactly the nutrients we need in the proper proportions.  Score!

Anyway, the even better news is that our star ingredient of the day, quinoa, is so not reserved for the vegans among us.  It is a delicious protein source that is incredibly versatile and affordable, no matter who you are.  That’s why I love it!  In today’s recipe, I used it in place of the meat in my classic healthy chili recipe.  For the same price I would’ve paid for 1 lb of ground beef at my local Kroger, I got a bag of organic red quinoa that is not even half gone!  So don’t let anyone tell you that healthy eating has to cost more.  I beg to differ.


Quinoa Chili!  |  prettyhungryblog.com


I was super excited to give quinoa a test run this month and it did not disappoint.  Even the man in my life loved this chili, and since most men consider chili to be sacred “Man-Territory” I considered that a major victory.  My guy was completely fine with my substituting ground beef with quinoa in this recipe… and so were our waistlines and our wallet!  Oh yeah… you know who else couldn’t get enough of this stuff?  My goofball baby.  She ate helping after helping after helping.  Piggy!  I am certain she got more than I did when all was said and done.


Baby Piggy


The sky is the limit with this recipe.  You can substitute quinoa for half the meat of the traditional recipe, or you can use all quinoa and make the chili totally vegan.  You can even use your own spice mix instead of the chili seasoning packet and make the chili gluten-free (a big deal for a growing number of families.)  I’ve included an alternative mix of spices below in the printable recipe in case you want to go gluten-free and not use the packet.

I’ve also included a separate printable containing quick & easy instructions for cooking plain quinoa so that you can add it to various dishes with guilt-free abandon.  It is not at all complicated, but still I thought a quick recipe would be nice for you to have so that you could refer to it anytime you need to.


Quinoa Chili  |  prettyhungryblog.com


Have I effectively conveyed that I think quinoa is God’s gift to mankind and that this chili is my gift to you?  I hope so.  I’ll be anxious to hear how you like it!



Gluten free and vegan never tasted this good!


Quinoa and Quinoa Chili
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
Quinoa is a power-packed food that is delicious served alone or added to soups, salads and cassreroles. This Quinoa Chili is a terrific savory option for those looking to decrease meat in their diet (although even carnivores will love it!)
Serves:: 4
  • Cooked Quinoa:
  • ½ C. dried quinoa (red quinoa works well in Quinoa Chili)
  • 1 C. water or broth
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Quinoa Chili:
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash, finely diced or pulsed in a food processor
  • 1 T. olive oil, canola oil, or drippings
  • 1 large can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • ¾ C. water, beer, or broth
  • 1 packet chili seasoning mix (*see below for gluten-free alternative)
  • 1 can pinto or chili beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1½ C. cooked quinoa
  • ¼ C. cooked corn (drained, if from a can)
  • fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, & sour cream or Greek yogurt (for serving)
  • *Gluten-Free Chili Spice Mix:
  • -2 tsp. chili powder
  • -1½ tsp. cumin
  • -1 tsp. garlic powder
  • -1 tsp. onion powder
  • -1/2 tsp. salt (+ a few pinches extra to add before serving, if needed)
  • -1/2 tsp. black or cayenne pepper (depending on your spice preference)
  • -1-2 T. lime juice (optional)
  1. Plain Quinoa:
  2. Using a fine mesh strainer, thoroughly rinse the dried quinoa to remove its bitter outer coating. In a small saucepan, bring quinoa, salt, and water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 14 minutes (stirring occasionally) until liquid is gone, quinoa is tender, and the spiral germ of each kernel is visible. Serve lightly sweetened for breakfast, or in a variety of savory dishes!
  3. Quinoa Chili:
  4. Heat the oil or dripping in a medium stockpot over medium/high heat and add the chopped onion. Sautee onion about 2 minutes, then add the minced garlic and sautee for 1 minute. Add in the finely diced zucchini or squash and allow it to cook with the onion and garlic about 2 minutes. Then add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water (or beer, or broth), seasoning mix, and cooked quinoa. Simmer 30 mins - 1 hr to allow chili to thicken a bit. Drain the beans (unless using chili beans) and add them to chili. A few minutes before serving, stir in the corn and adjust level of salt (if needed.) Serve with shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, and sour cream or Greek yogurt.




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16 Responses so far.

  1. ProteanMom says:

    I hadn’t thought of quinoa in chili – I’m excited to try it! Thanks for posting the recipe.

  2. huntfortheverybest says:

    i want to start eating more quinoa. chili is one of my favorites and this would be great with quinoa!

  3. Medha says:

    This quinoa chili bowl looks really tempting! Great idea to put quinoa in chillies – such a healthy and wholesome meal! Love your site – gorgeous pictures too.

  4. Janice says:

    Looks delicious. Definitely will try this :)

  5. Sarah says:

    i love quinoa! adding to chili is so good. i make a killer chicken quinoa chili… yum!

  6. Megan says:

    When does the quinoa get added to the chili?

  7. I love quinoa but my husband isn’t 100% convinced yet. I’m glad your little one needed no convincing!

  8. […] Have you jumped on the Quinoa Bandwagon yet?  This high-protein grain is tasty, affordable, and super healthy!  I can’t wait to try out […]

  9. […] just a love for delicious, healthy ingredients!)  What’s not to love about that?  Recently, I added it to chili in place of ground beef, and that was a big hit with my family and friends.  In fact, I’m making it again tonight […]

  10. […] we’re in.  I usually always have the ingredients on hand to make a pasta dish, or chili, or Quinoa Chili, or Wild Rice & Kale Casserole, or some sort of chicken vegetable […]

  11. […] let them try stuff!  (Even if it seems like an “odd” food for a kid.)  For instance, when I make chili for dinner, I spice it the way my husband likes it, with cayenne.  Elsa eats it just like we do, and has no […]

  12. Sophie says:

    See these links for some basic, factual, scientific information:




    I love your blog but you’re following old, factually incorrect information. All plant foods are compete proteins provided you get enough calories. Even if I only ate potatoes all day for my calories, I would still get all essential amino acids. Please see the charts on the second link for more info.

    • Carissa says:

      Very interesting! I’ll definitely look into those because most of what I read still supports the stance that certain plant foods or combinations are more complete sources of protein than others. I have to tell you, though, that I’m a little wary of diseaseproof.com… I’ve read a bit from that site and don’t necessarily agree with all of Dr. Fuhrman’s ideas. But I’ll definitely check it out!

    • Carissa says:

      VERY interesting reading!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share those links.