Cilantro Lime Quinoa

This cilantro lime quinoa is nice and easy, goes great with most any Mexican or Asian inspired dish, and is healthy, too! Just a handful of simple ingredients and about 30 minutes is all you need. Quinoa is a nice variation on the traditional rice dish, and if you’ve never tried it before, this is a great place to start!

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Plate of quinoa, garnished with cilantro.

What makes Cilantro Lime Quinoa heart healthy?

Most of the heart health benefits of this recipe come from the quinoa itself. More known now than ever before, it’s still not as widely eaten as it should be! Quinoa isn’t actually a grain – it’s classified as a pseudo-grain, and is naturally gluten free. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium, which is an essential component of heart healthy eating. Quinoa is also high in phytonutrients (1), which are considered nonessential nutrients, but are shown to have strong anti inflammatory effects. It’s also known to contain one of the highest amounts of protein among the grains, as well as its high quality protein (2).

The cilantro, lime, and garlic are used in far lesser quantities, but they still add plenty of antioxidants to the dish. Herbs and spices often have a much higher concentrations of antioxidants (3), so use them often! The lime juice contributes plenty of flavor, and bumps up the vitamin C in our dish.

FAQs and Substitutions

Why do you have to rinse quinoa?

You’ll probably see that in the directions on some brands of quinoa. That’s because quinoa has a natural coating around the seed that is high in saponins – a protective substances that sometimes tastes bitter or soapy. Some claim it can also cause digestive upset and other problems. Others claims they can’t notice any difference in taste whether rinsed or not.
Many quinoa brands are pre-rinsed now, so you may not even need to worry about it. Read the labels on your quinoa to be sure. I usually buy Kirkland Signature brand quinoa from Costco, and it is pre-rinsed.

Do I need to sauté the quinoa and garlic first? Can’t I just toss it all in the pot with water and boil?

Absolutely you can cut the sauté step out! The purpose of that step is to toast the quinoa up a little and to bring out the flavor of the garlic more. If you cut that step, you don’t need the oil at all, and that will lower the calorie and fat totals a little. You can definitely save a little time that way. You’ll just start at step 3 with the quinoa, garlic, water, salt, and lime zest in your pot, and follow the directions as written from there!

Why are the lime juice and cilantro added after cooking? Can I put those in the pot at the beginning, too?

This is because the flavors of lime juice and fresh cilantro are delicate, and boiling them for 15 minutes in the quinoa will destroy their flavor. Best to add them at the end when you take the quinoa off the heat.

Can I use rice instead of quinoa?

Sure! Just follow the directions as written, substituting the rice one-to-one for quinoa. Read the rice package for the cook time – that’s the only change to the recipe you’ll need to make! Opt for brown, red, or black rice if you can.

Overhead picture of quinoa on a plate, with small bowls of limes slices and fresh cilantro above.

Some of my favorite things to eat Cilantro Lime Quinoa with are:

If you try this recipe, let me know in the comments!

Plate of quinoa, garnished with cilantro.
5 from 1 vote
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Cilantro Lime Quinoa

This cilantro lime quinoa is nice and easy, goes great with most any Mexican or Asian inspired dish, and is healthy, too!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Asian-Inspired, Mexican
Diet DiabeticDiet, GlutenFreeDiet, LowFatDiet, LowLactoseDiet, LowSaltDiet, VeganDiet, VegetarianDiet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 181 kcal
Author Laura Yautz

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cups Dry Quinoa (rinsed if necessary)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 cups Water
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 3 Tbsp Lime Juice (from about 2 limes)
  • ½ cup chopped Cilantro
  • (optional) ½ Jalapeno, seeded and finely minced

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When hot, pour in the dry quinoa, and toast for a few minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic, and saute for one more minute, until fragrant.
  3. Carefully pour in the water, and add the salt and lime zest.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed – about 15 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat off and allow to rest with the lid on for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid, add the lime juice and cilantro (and jalapeno if using), and fluff with a fork.
  7. Serve hot.
Plate of quinoa, garnished with cilantro. Text overlay: Cilantro Lime Quinoa.
Plate of quinoa, garnished with cilantro. Text overlay: Cilantro Lime Quinoa, low sodium.
Overhead picture of quinoa on a plate, with small bowls of limes slices and fresh cilantro above. Text overlay: Cilantro Lime Quinoa

2 thoughts on “Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • August 29, 2021 at 7:47 pm
    Permalink

    5 stars
    Just made this tonight. What a great side dish for grilled chicken breast! It is very flavorful and complimented the chicken very well.
    There is extra and I plan to make the Burrito Bowls tomorrow night.
    If you love cilantro, this recipe is for you!!!
    Very tasty!

    Reply
    • August 30, 2021 at 9:15 am
      Permalink

      Chicken is a great pairing for this recipe. Thanks so much! I’m glad you loved it, and I hope you like the burrito bowls tomorrow!

      Reply

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