Mexican Rice Inspired Quinoa

Mexican Quinoa dish (1).jpg

Growing up in a Hispanic household Mexican rice was always a staple side dish for just about every meal. My mom would serve it alongside enchiladas, tacos, sopes or really just about anything. There’s no doubt that it’s a tasty dish, but the thing about traditional Mexican rice is that it requires frying in oil. Although the browning of the rice helps to develop a delicious dish, it is not the most healthy method. While I definitely enjoy it from time to time,  I find myself turning to this recipe that I will be sharing with you today more often. I wholeheartedly believe that eating healthy should taste just as amazing as it makes you feel, so I attempt to recreate some of my favorite foods using healthier more nutrient-rich foods. Today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite ways to enjoy quinoa that mimics the flavors in Mexican rice.

Before I moved out on my own, I had never even heard of quinoa and much less knew what to do with it. That is until I first became interested in the field of nutrition. It was then that I learned that quinoa is a whole-grain that is similar to rice. However, unlike rice, quinoa contains a greater amount of protein per serving, a lower amount of carbohydrates per serving, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Not only does quinoa contain a greater amount of protein, but it also contains a higher quality of protein than most plant-based sources.

Did you know: Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that has all nine of the essential amino acids our body needs from food to build and repair muscle.

Most plant-based sources of protein are incomplete, meaning that they do not have all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies needs to make and rebuild muscle. For that reason, quinoa is one of those foods I recommend including in your diet as it contains 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup.  When cooked in a flavored broth like veggie or chicken broth, quinoa can be a delicious substitution for rice or any other grain as it absorbs any flavor you infuse into it.  This recipe is sure to become one of your favorites as it comes together in 20 minutes and is great to make in advance to keep in the fridge. You can add it to salads, serve alone as a side dish, or add to a burrito to get a healthy serving of protein, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber.


  • 1 cup quinoa soaked in water
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil/ olive oil
  • 2 cups low-sodium veggie or chicken broth
  • 4 oz of El Pato tomato sauce (about half a can)

**Be sure tosoak the quinoa to reduce some of the natural bitter taste.


  1. Cover the quinoa in water and allow to soak for about 5-10 minutes
  2. In the meantime, chop the onion and set aside.
  3. When the quinoa has puffed up a bit after soaking, drain the water and allow to drain in a strainer for another 5 minutes.
  4. To a saucepan on medium heat add 1 tbsp oil and add in the quinoa.
  5. Keep an eye on the quinoa and continue to cook until it is slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
  6. Once the quinoa is browned, add in the onion and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add the can of El Pato sauce and the broth and reduce heat to medium-low.
  8. Cover and allow to gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. It should gently simmer, if it is boiling rapidly the heat needs to be lowered.
  9. Once the quinoa is puffed and has completely absorbed the liquid the heat can be turned off. Allow to cool and fluff the quinoa with a fork & serve as you would mexican rice!

Note: If your quinoa is slightly mushy, let it sit for 20 minutes so that way it’s easier to fluff. Or if you’re low on time try microwaving it for 30 seconds to help evaporate some of the excess liquid.

Quick Lunch Idea: Mexican Quinoa Salad

Mexican quinoa salad

I know most of us don’t have time to create elaborate meals so I figured I would make it easy on you and show you an example lunch idea utilizing my Mexican Quinoa recipe. I pretty much pulled together anything I had in the fridge that I thought would compliment the slightly spicy but savory taste of the quinoa to make a fully loaded salad. I used a mixed salad greens mix that includes spinach as my base and added in my quinoa, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, and some beans for some extra protein and fiber. One of the best sources of fiber and iron are beans. Any type of beans would work in this as it truly comes down to preference because beans, in general, are packed with a variety of nutrients to help you feel full and satisfied. I used canned red kidney beans because it’s what I had on hand, but like I always say work with what you have. To top it off I just made a quick salsa using tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapenosalt, and pepper but of course, you could use a premade one.

Tip: Salsa is a great substitute for salad dressing as it is lower in calories but is loaded with flavor and some extra veggies.

Final Thoughts

I hope this recipe helped to show you just how easy it can be to create a healthy meal out of some of your favorite foods by making simple swaps. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean using fancy or complicated ingredients but instead trying to include a variety and abundance of foods that make you feel your best. It takes some time to get into the swing of things but I promise once you start, it gets easier to make the healthier choice. Should you have any specific questions, comments, or just feedback, in general, feel free to reach out to me at As always I wish you the best of luck and stay tuned for more recipes and nutrition info to come!

5 thoughts on “Mexican Rice Inspired Quinoa

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