Heather’s Quinoa

A one-skillet quinoa recipe - quinoa, corn, chopped kale and pan-toasted tofu tossed with a big dollop of pesto and finished off with a few roasted cherry tomatoes.

Heather’s Quinoa

This quinoa recipe is an odd bird of sorts, but it was so well received that I thought I'd share it with you. Heather, my sister was on her way over for lunch. Wanting to avoid a trip to the store, I committed myself to throwing lunch together using whatever I had on hand.
Big plate of quinoa with tomatoes, pesto, and pepitas
Now, I rarely combine tofu with Italian-style sauces, but this (and a few other questionable culinary moves) came into play as I reached for ingredients from both fridge and freezer. Working toward a nutritious, somewhat balanced, in-the-realm-of-healthy main course here's where I ended up. In a sentence - a skillet of quinoa, corn, chopped lacinato kale and pan-toasted tofu tossed with a big dollop of pesto and finished off with a few roasted cherry tomatoes.

Roasted cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet
I've cooked this many times in the years since, and it's a great late-summer recipe that comes together quickly, especially if you keep a few of the components on hand. For example, I like to keep big jars of roasted tomatoes at the ready. Toasted pepitas are often in a bowl on the counter. And at some point during any given week there is leftover quinoa.
pepitas toasted on a baking sheet

Heather's Quinoa: Variations

There are infinite ways to switch this up. If I have paneer cheese on hand, I like to swap that in for the tofu. You brown the paneer in a skillet, the same way you would tofu, and it gets nice and sizzly. So good.

And while you can certainly swap in a wide range of grains here - rice, millet, etc. - I love it with quinoa. You see it pictured here with tri-color quinoa, but I often make it with the white variety. Th recipe calls for three cups of cooked quinoa, if you're not sure how to make it, here's a page with my preferred method of how to cook quinoa.

Pepitas are my go to for crunch. Seconds choice is toasted cashews (chopped  just a bit).

Big plate of quinoa with tomatoes, pesto, and pepitas
If you want to make this even more substantial, you can add in a couple hard boiled eggs, sliced into quarters, around the perimeter. 
Big plate of quinoa with tomatoes, pesto, and pepitas

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did. The first time I made this was in 2008, and we still make it regularly. Especially when it is peak pesto season and cherry tomatoes are abundant. 

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Heather's Quinoa

5 from 4 votes

If you don't have the time or inclination make roasted cherry tomatoes, substitute some chopped, moist, sun-dried tomatoes. Also, a delicious alternative to the tofu in this recipe is paneer cheese which can stand up to the heat without losing its form. Vegans can leave out the Parmesan in the pesto and make it more of a basil-nut drizzle - still tasty, and a good fit for this recipe.

  • a splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa* (or brown rice, or other grain)
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, spinach or other hearty green, finely chopped
  • 2 cups extra-firm tofu, browned in a skillet a bit
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
  1. In a big skillet or pot heat the olive oil and salt over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallot and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the quinoa and corn and cook until hot and sizzling. Stir in the kale and then the tofu, cooking until tofu is heated through.

  2. Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the pesto and pumpkin seeds. Mix well so the pesto is spread throughout. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Turn everything out onto a platter and top with the cherry tomatoes.


Serves 4 - 6.

*Rinse about 2 cups quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and 3 1/3 cups water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
52 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Recipe Rating


Sweet jesus this was just what I was looking for you are such a mind reader


I bet paneer or even halloumi would be awesome in this. I love that you used pumpkin seeds where so many tend to use pine nuts. I love them, but they are all too often a go-to nut in these types of dishes.


I have some cherry tomatoes on my table begging me to make this.


Quinoa is so delicious, that only a pat of butter is needed, but treat it as if it were fried rice, and it is sublime. We are wondering if it could be ground into flour for gluten free Communion Bread to be mixed with butter and water, patted out, cut into tiny squares, and baked. Any ideas?

Nicky Smith

It does look good. I don't know where to buy tofu in this country (the supermarkets don't seem to sell it), and only quite like it anyway, so I'd probably substitute feta cheese, which I love in a dish like this (have you ever tried couscous mixed with cubed feta and roasted butternut squash? To die for, especially with a fresh tomato sauce on the top!).

Mrs Redboots

that looks awesome!


Sounds and looks so good!

Gina's Public Diary

I love these kinds of recipes where you can change the ingredients with whatever you have around. I want to try it with barley or wild rice.

Fit Bottomed Girls

I just wanted to say, your site has helped me so much with my goal of eating veggies on a regular basis. (Me and my hubby love brussel sprouts now! Who would have thought!) And I just recently decided to incorporate whole grains, so you're going to help with that too! Thanks Heidi!


Thanks for a really satisfying quinoa recipe.


This is SO what I got in my CSA box this week. Can't wait to add it to quinoa (a family fave/staple). Yum!


That picture is beautiful and the dish sounds yummy-very creative!


Paneer would be a great substitute for the tofu. Such a yummy sounding and rustic looking meal.


I just roasted up a bunch of orange and red cherry tomatoes, so plan to try this recipe pronto. I also just made Nikki's cookies this morning and can't... stop... eating them! Thanks for posting it, Heidi. I wrote up my experience making them on my site.


This looks delish. I love quinoa. Thank you for the recipe and the fabulous pictures. I think I'm going to sneek this in the hospital to my sister in law who just had a baby.....I can't subject to that nasty hospital food! The vegetarian menu is awful!


yum! what perfect timing! i was trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight and just happened upon your new post! i made a few adjustments, based on what was in my fridge (brown rice, not quinoa; spinach, not kale) -- it was delish! thanks for such a good treat.


This week's lunch, I think. Thank you!


Hello Heidi, In my eyes there is nothing odd or questionable about this recipe - in fact the dish sounds (and looks) fab and exciting! I love the way tofu can pair with everything and anything, on its own and not as a substitute for something else. p.s. Love the plate!


How creative, that looks delish!

Aissa Galoso

We are having your roast tomato soup for dinner tonight Heidi and this would be great for a busy Monday night. Thanks again Heidi and hope your sister has a great journey. With this sort of food I should think that she would want to rush back actually.


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