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.

Main ingredients

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.

Quinoa in a green sauce with sundried tomatoes on top.

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. Or you can simply cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package.

This quinoa 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.


Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

More Vegan Recipes To Try

Quinoa in a green sauce with sundried tomatoes on top.
4.41 from 15 votes
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Pesto Quinoa

This pesto quinoa is a nutritious plant-based meal. It's filling, delicious, and easy to make.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 270kcal


  • Blender or food processor


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


  • 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.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.


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
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