Pesto Quinoa

This pesto quinoa is rich, satisfying, and so easy to make. It’s the next best thing to eating a bowl of pesto pasta, and it’s perfect if you’re trying to reduce your pasta consumption and up your intake of more nutrient dense grains.

Quinoa is rich in magnesium, high in plant-based protein and fiber, and contains all nine essential amino acids, so it’s a pretty nutritious grain to include in a clean eating diet. It also happens to be gluten-free, vegan, and oil-free.

Serve this pesto quinoa for a nutritious vegan lunch or dinner alongside a simple salad like this sweet kale salad or a vegan soup such as this vegan cauliflower soup. Or eat it on its own as it’s actually quite filling.

Quinoa in a bowl.

Main Ingredients

Quinoa is pretty quick and easy to prepare. My preferred method of cooking quinoa is to rinse it well, then boil it in a generous amount of water, similar to how you’d cook pasta. Once the quinoa is tender but not mushy, I drain it and allow it to cool.

This recipe calls for baby spinach but you can substitute any other green you prefer. Arugula or kale are good alternatives.

I opted to use walnuts in this recipe but pine nuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, or even hazelnuts would be delicious alternatives. Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but they tend to be quite expensive so feel free to use whichever variety of nut you prefer.

Classic pesto recipes call for plenty of fresh basil, but I enjoy using alternative herbs in my pesto from time to time. So feel free to substitute whichever fresh herb you prefer such as parsley or mint. Just be sure to keep the basic proportions of greens/herbs/nuts the same and feel free to experiment with whatever substitutions are preferable, convenient, or seasonal.

If you’re feeling hungry and craving a more substantial meal that will keep you fuller for longer, you can add some extra fat to this recipe by substituting extra virgin olive oil (or whatever type of oil you prefer) instead of the water in this recipe. I do that sometimes when I’m craving a richer, heartier meal. When I want to keep things light, water works just as well and allows the pesto to blend up smoothly.

More Vegan Recipes To Try

If you’re looking for a vegetable side dish to serve alongside this quinoa, try this delicious oven baked okra. It’s so easy to make and perfect if you’re craving okra.

Or to take this pesto quinoa to the next level for a dinner party or other special occasion, top it with one of these rich and decadent gluten-free stuffed portobello mushrooms.

Pesto quinoa in a white bowl with a few sun dried tomatoes on top.
4.28 from 11 votes
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Pesto Quinoa

This pesto quinoa is a healthy and easy plant-based meal.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 270kcal


  • Blender or food processor


  • 2 cups raw baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or substitute your preferred nut or seed)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • Optional: garnish with sun dried tomatoes


  • Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.
  • Add the spinach, basil, lemon juice, water, walnuts, garlic, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Mix the quinoa with the pesto sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Makes 4 servings of pesto quinoa.


  • You can substitute whatever greens, nuts/seeds, or fresh herbs you prefer. Just keep the proportions of greens to herbs to nuts/seeds the same as what I’ve specified in the recipe.


Calories: 270kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 313mg | Potassium: 405mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1723IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 3mg