Get in My Belly: Quinoa Mac and Cheese

At first I thought that Pinterest wouldn’t be of use to me, contrary dino that I am, until I realized how awful I was about organizing food posts that I like. Lots of times I’ll see something on The Kitchn or elsewhere, think, “Yeah, I should make that sometime,” and then close the tab and promptly forget I ever saw it. So, turns out that pinning things down is useful, after all. This quinoa mac and cheese recipe is one of the dishes I found while perusing friends’ pins. While the word-nerd in me finds it strange to keep the “mac” in the title, what with the lack of macaroni, the mixture that goes along with the quinoa is much like what one would make for a noodle dish.

cheesy quinoa with broccoli
Behold! An expanse of cheese!

The original recipe can be found here, but here’s how I made it:


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained (fine mesh strainers are your friend)
  • Veggies of your choice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • Panko bread crumbs for topping
  • Optional toppings- salsa, hot sauce (sriracha!), sour cream, scallions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 13 x 9 inch dish with cooking spray. Do this first so you don’t forget.
  2. Cook quinoa according to package instructions OR if you’re using quinoa from the bulk bin like me, that’s 3 cups of boiling water for 1 1/2 cups quinoa, then set to simmer (like you would with rice) for around 20 minutes. The water should be very nearly absorbed when it’s done.
  3. Lightly saute any veggies you would like in this dish. I used a large head of broccoli and added the garlic powder to the broccoli while it cooked. This step probably took about 10 minutes, if that, and I did it while the quinoa did its thing.
  4. Whisk together eggs, milk, and other spices in a large bowl. Fold in quinoa mixture and cheese. Stir very well. I didn’t do this (my bowl was a little small) and I don’t think the cheese spread out as evenly as it could have.
  5. Transfer to prepared baking dish and top with panko crumbs and bake 30-35 minutes.

Result? It was really good, but because I used sharp cheddar and it wasn’t quite as thoroughly mixed as it could have been, I felt like it wasn’t cheesy enough. It’s certainly not a creamy cheese sauce, and if you are looking for that, I’m sure there are variations you could try with a bechamel-type sauce with the cheese melted into it. I’ve made more traditional macaroni and cheese that way and it worked out. The broccoli and sriracha were excellent additions, and I can also see using bell peppers and onions as well, but I wasn’t willing to chop tons of veggies when I made it.

This is a good starter recipe that’s open to tinkering, and I suppose as long as you don’t have to watch your cheese intake and you use skim milk (I did), it’s reasonably healthy. It does mess up three separate pans making it this way, but I’m definitely glad I tried it.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

15 replies on “Get in My Belly: Quinoa Mac and Cheese”

Plain, it IS kind of uninteresting, yes. Definitely seems like one of those foods that it’s all in how you use it. I’ve put it in black bean chili before too and it was great. (I think I might have talked about that chili in a previous post on here, but now I don’t remember.)

That’s somewhat true for me too. I probably only look at the “news stream” (or whatever they call it for seeing everyone else’s pins) once a day, but I’m definitely pinning a lot of food stuff, and when I do look at the other pins, it’s a lot of cool art things. And cats. ;)

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