‘Easy Being Green’ Broccoli Pesto Quinoa

For a long time, a container of quinoa sat collecting dust in my kitchen cabinet.

I bought it because I’d heard – many times – about how easy and extremely healthy it is (full of fiber, protein, and antioxidants).

It made my pantry look all modern and healthy, sitting there … unopened.

The thing was, I wasn’t sure: 1) how to cook it and 2) how to season it so it tasted delicious instead of bland.

I finally decided to dive in and try it when I thought: why not mix pesto in?

I tried adding a broccoli and lemon pesto.

And I found that quinoa has a satisfying, nutty texture that’s complemented perfectly by a creamy pesto made of broccoli, onion, lemon, and pine nuts.

It was really, really tasty. And really, really easy.

I’m now quinoa’s biggest fan. Does Quinoa have a Facebook page?  I would ‘Like’ it for sure.

Here’s everything you need to get started.

This recipe is simple and ready in 30 minutes!

Begin by toasting some pine nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Check on these delicate little guys often – they will burn on you in an instant!

Meanwhile, quickly chop some garlic and onion.

Don’t worry about dicing everything perfectly – it will all be pureed into pesto later!

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the onion has softened.

Grab a head of broccoli and cut off the rough stalk.

Then chop the head into florets and add to the pan.

Season well with salt and pepper.

When the broccoli has softened, throw everything into a food processor and puree.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice and add to the food pro.

Add half of the toasted pine nuts.

Add some extra virgin olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pulse until everything is pureed.

Now, time for the quinoa!

Quinoa deserves its rep as one of the healthiest grain alternatives.  It’s full of magnesium (prevents heart disease and wards off headaches), filling protein, and cancer-preventing fiber.

Plus it’s so easy:  Store it in the pantry and cook up only the amount you need, just like pasta or rice.  It takes about 15 minutes to cook in some boiling water on the stove top.  And that’s all there is to it!

Begin by rinsing the quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer.

Heat some chicken broth in the saucepan you cooked the veggies in.

Reusing the saucepan = less dishes to wash later!  (Math genius, at your service.) (I do what I can.)

Vegetarian/Vegan Alternative: substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

When the broth starts boiling, ladle out half a cup and set aside.

Add the quinoa.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium low.

You’ll know it’s ready when you see the little grains open up and unravel.

Add a bit of that broth you reserved to the pesto.  How much you add will depend upon how thick you like your pesto.  I add just a couple of tablespoons because I like really thick pesto.

Then stir the pesto into the pan with the quinoa.

Stir in the remaining pine nuts.

And done!

I love the color of this dish.

It’s a pretty, spring-like, pale green.

Here’s how I’d describe the taste: lots of velvety richness from the broccoli and lemon pesto.  With a delicious, savory crunch from the toasted pine nuts.

I asked my Meat-And-Potatoes-Guy (i.e. husband, Chris) for his review.

He said “If someone told me 10 years ago I’d be eating broccoli pesto and quinoa for dinner, I would have laughed out loud. To say the least.”

And then “This is really good! I’m getting seconds!”

Here is the complete recipe:

Broccoli Pesto Quinoa

Total Time:  35 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings 

1/2 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound broccoli, rinsed
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup quinoa
Salt and freshly grated pepper



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Arrange the pine nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Toast in the oven for about 6-9 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.  Watch carefully – they burn quickly.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Saute garlic and onions until they soften, for about 3 minutes.  Remove the rough stalk from the broccoli and cut the head into florets.  Add to the saucepan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a food processor and pulse until pureed.  Add half of the pine nuts and the lemon juice.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and purée.  Heat the broth in the same saucepan over high heat.  When it begins to boil, ladle out 1/2 cup of the broth and set aside.  Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.  Add to the boiling broth, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Allow the quinoa to lightly simmer for about 15 minutes.  The quinoa is ready when the grains open and unravel.  Add the reserved broth to the pesto, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Add the pesto to the quinoa. Add the remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts.  Stir to combine and serve.

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  1. March 29, 2012 / 8:47 pm

    You do such a good job with your dishes and photos – always look “have to try this tomorrow” – never eaten anything like this before – so I put this on file .. Thansk a million!

      • March 30, 2012 / 9:22 pm

        Please, try it … and let me know. One of my favorite!

  2. March 29, 2012 / 11:12 pm

    If you have any leftovers, next day for lunch, put in a wholemeal flat bread/wrap with your favourite cheese and toast it…delicious!

  3. March 29, 2012 / 11:15 pm

    Next day for lunch, put it in a wholemeal pitta bread with your favourite cheese and toast it…Yum!

  4. March 30, 2012 / 1:08 am

    Mmm that looks really good – I love anything broccoli! But… what IS quinoa, really? Some kind of rice?

  5. March 30, 2012 / 1:14 am

    This is great idea for quinoa! I’ll have to try it, especially since I’ve never had broccoli pesto before.

    Funny enough, I also just posted a quinoa recipe, too! http://wp.me/p2drm6-4v

  6. March 30, 2012 / 1:24 am

    Great idea! I too have a bag of quinoa in the cabinet – now you’ve inspired me! 🙂

  7. March 30, 2012 / 5:34 am

    Very cool dish! I’ve never made homemade pesto and I love that you use broccholi for added vitamins (and great flavor too). It’s great to see such a wonderful and nutritious dish only takes roughly 35 minutes to make – I have no excuse, I have to make this pronto!

  8. March 30, 2012 / 5:23 pm

    I’ve heard such good things about quinoa but I still haven’t jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet. I have browsed through a few inviting recipes but I guess I’m too worried that I won’t like it. But wow, this pesto looks so amazing that I’ll definitely have to give it a try now!

    • March 30, 2012 / 6:47 pm

      If you like brown or wild rice, I think you’ll like quinoa. If you try it let me know how it turns out for you 🙂

  9. March 30, 2012 / 7:42 pm

    I love reading the fun new foodies on your blog! This pesto quinoa looks so delicious and healthy! It puts the fun back in Quinoa 🙂

  10. JimV
    March 31, 2012 / 2:06 am

    You’re not quinoa’s biggest fan…I am! But since you shared this great recipe, I’ll share my title with you. I’ve mostly been eating quinoa tacos, but I’m eager to try this. Thanks!

  11. March 31, 2012 / 2:52 am

    This quinoa is fabulous 😀
    What a wonderfully delicious recipe – and I wanted to say thank you for subscribing as well – I hope you enjoy it 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  12. March 31, 2012 / 9:05 pm

    I have never heard of Quinoa and wondered if you can buy it at a local grocery store. It certainly sounds like it has wonderful health benefits. I would like to try it. Thanks for again encouraging me to fix healthy foods that taste delicious.

    • April 1, 2012 / 6:35 pm

      Yes, it’s really worth trying if you can find it. Otherwise, I think brown rice would be an excellent substitute 🙂

  13. April 1, 2012 / 8:07 pm

    Love the broccoli pesto idea! I am a big quinoa fan and eat it at least once per week, but typically serve something over it (ie. a stir fry). I haven’t experimented very much with mixing things in and making it a dish in itself. Can’t wait to try this!

  14. April 1, 2012 / 8:39 pm

    I cannot believe I didn’t think of this!

    I love quinoa, but have only ever had it as a bland side-dish or in a restaurant where I couldn’t possibly figure out what they did to it to make it tasty. This would be amazing, even with a traditional basil pesto (I don’t like broccoli). Thanks for the great tip!

  15. Erin
    April 3, 2012 / 8:58 pm

    Like many other things, quinoa is also really easy to make in a rice cooker! I am eager to try your pesto dish since I am a fan of quinoa but don’t have that many recipes to use it with.

    • April 4, 2012 / 3:36 pm

      I would like to get a rice cooker. I also need to get a larger kitchen though, because I have no cabinet space left to store one! 🙂

  16. June 18, 2012 / 4:12 pm

    I absolutely love the pesto quinoa recipe! How clever you are! I’ve been just cooking up quinoa with a dab of “Bettern than Boullion” chicken base in the cooking liquid. And then, adding butter & some soy to the bowl of cooked quinoa. I’ve just made a batch of garlic scape pesto and will try that with your brocolli recipe! Many thanks.

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