Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf

This easy quinoa pilaf is flavored with curry, cardamom, and turmeric. The almonds, currants, carrots, and kale bring color, flavor, crunch, and plenty of nutrients to call this a meal in itself! Try serving it with a mixed green salad using the Fig-Balsamic Vinaigrette. I bet this recipe would also be great as a stuffing for winter squash…acorn, buttercup, or delicata would be perfect to hold this pilaf.

The other week I created this recipe with what we had on hand at the moment. It was one of those nights where we fed the kids early, put them to bed, and then whipped up something for ourselves. It is a rarity that Tom and I get an uninterrupted meal. I mean come on, it’s nice to have a break from quinoa all over the floor for just one night, isn’t it?

I made it again today to take note of amounts and timing so I could share it with you. We had it for dinner this evening with bowls of creamy hubbard squash soup.

Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf

This recipe can be made ahead of time and then reheated in a pan. To reheat add a few tablespoons of water to the pan before adding the pilaf. Sauté until warmed. For variation, try replacing the currants with chopped dried apricots and the quinoa for cooked brown basmati rice. You will need to cook 2 cups of quinoa for this recipe. For directions on how to cook a pot of quinoa, refer to this post. It works best if your quinoa is completely cooled before using it in this recipe.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: six

2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 cup raw almonds, chopped
½ cup currants
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon Herbamare
4 cups chopped kale
4 to 5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1 small lemon, juiced

Heat a large 11 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. If you don’t have a skillet that size then use a wide pot. Add olive oil. Then add the chopped onions. Sauté onions for 4 to 5 minutes.

Then add the sliced carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes more. Keep the heat at a medium temp to allow the onions to cook but not brown. Adjust temperature accordingly.

Add the almonds, currants, spices, and salt and sauté 5 minutes more. Add the kale. Note: it is best if your kale is still dripping wet from rinsing when adding it to the pot. The extra water will help it to cook. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until kale is tender.

Then add cooked quinoa and stir together over low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pilaf seems dry. An extra tablespoon of oil will also help prevent the quinoa from sticking to the pan.

Remove from heat and add the juice of the lemon. Stir together, taste, and adjust salt and seasonings if needed. I also like to add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper at this point. Source: www.NourishingMeals.com 

Elimination Diet Modification for Phase 2 (no nuts, nightshades [cayenne pepper in curry], or citrus):
-Replace almonds with either pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
-Replace curry powder with a mix of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper.
-Omit lemon juice.

Other delicious gluten-free whole grain recipes:
Quinoa with Warm Cinnamon Apples
Rice, Kale, and Garbanzo SaladSpiced Chicken and Rice Stew
Healing Quinoa and Cabbage Soup
Nori Rolls with Sticky Brown Rice

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Hi Ali,
    I love the flavors in this dish - thanks so much for the tasting last night (and the recipe)!

  2. I am just drooling here! I am speechless! I need a napkin...

  3. Yay! Another way to use all this baked pumpkin I have on hand. And with fun spices!

  4. Ali, I really like your idea to use this as stuffing for winter squash. Do you suggest baking the squash first and then filling it or what is the best method? I think this would be a great dish for Thanksgiving!


  5. That is such a beautiful recipe and photo. I'm so glad that you and Tom got in some couple time. ;-)

    I just learned about some new squashes and will be doing some experimenting in this area. :-)


  6. Wonderful flavours! This looks delicious =D.

  7. Pam - Thanks, it is good! :)

    talkinglikerain - Glad you liked it, I always appreciate taste testers! :)

    Kelly - Too funny! :)

    cook4seasons - Yes, fun with spices is a good way to put it. :)

    Kim - Yes cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then bake. Make the pilaf while the sqaush is baking. When they are done you can arrange them on a platter and fill with the pilaf. Serve warm. Great idea for Thanksgiving! Enjoy! :)

    Shirley - Thank you, the kids and I have been out collecting fall leaves. I thought it would be fun to put a few of them in the photo. :)

    Lauren - Thanks! :)

  8. I'm going to try this with millet. Sounds very good!

  9. Ohhh more new flavors to taste. I currently addicted to Quinoa so I can't wait to try it. I just finished making your Quinoa Zucchini Bread from your cookbook. This is the second time I've made it.The first time with just brown rice flour. What a difference with Quinoa. My husband woofed it down. (last time he picked at). These squares are great for a snack at work. I not sure how long they are going to last this time. I want to try your pumpkin cookies this weekend but I am not telling my kids what in it! I also love the Quinoa and Black bean salad.Which my husband also loves. You know I am beginning to dream about cooking too. Thanks Ali for helping me stay so motivated.

  10. Jenn - Millet sounds like it would be great, I'll have to try that sometime. :)

    Michele - Glad to hear you have been enjoying the zucchini bread so much. It is a great snack. :) Thanks for the sweet comment! :)

  11. I made this recipe with my 12 yo granddaughter this afternoon. We both thought it was very tasty and plan to use it as a squash stuffing for our Thanksgiving table. I looked for yellow carrots and my co-op but couldn't find them. It sure makes for a beautiful presentation in your photo.

  12. I just came across this recipe (recommended by a friend) and can't wait to try it out! I have almost all of the ingredients on hand and was wondering about a couple of substitutions to save a trip to the store. What about using raisins instead of currants or apricots? I also have spinach in the fridge from the garden that needs to be used - can I use that instead of kale? In general, can leafy greens be substituted in recipes? We grow spinach and chard in our garden and it would be great to use them in recipes that call for other greens as well.

    Also, is this good eaten at room temperature, or is it better reheated if making in advance?

    I'm thinking of baking some chicken breasts with a little bit of spice on them (maybe garam masala?) and adding some diced or sliced chicken to the pilaf and serving to guests coming over this weekend.

  13. Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I have made this many times, always modifying the recipe to whatever needs to be used up in the house; swiss chard, "loose corn" (scraped off the cob, whatever the real name is, heehee!), and garlic scapes have all made appearances in our pilaf! It is really a versatile recipe, and a great introduction to vegetarian/vegan cooking! And yes, I personally like it cold the day after, too! This blog is a regular source of inspiration for me, thank you!

  14. Loved this! Made it tonight and I'm already looking forward to the left overs for lunch tomorrow.

  15. Delicious! I chopped up a butternut squash, roasted it and added it to the pilaf at the end of the cooking time.

  16. Hey Ali,

    Made this tonight and it was a huge success. I made adjustments for phase 1 of the elimination diet and it was fantastic. I added celery, ginger and raisins. Fast, easy, and delicious.


  17. I just made this last night, but substituted the currants for chopped dried cherries. It was YUMMY!!! I was so excited to have it again for lunch today. Thanks for all the great recipes, you guys have inspired my family to eat healthier, keep 'em coming :)

  18. Made this again last night. Didn't have almonds or currants. Instead substituted dried cherries that my wife really enjoyed.

  19. This is a regular dish for my family. So so great!

  20. Hi Alissa, did you have a coconut quinoa recipe on your blog a few years ago? I'm pretty sure this is the blog and I'm trying to hunt down that recipe as it was DELISH!


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Thanks and Happy Cooking! ~Ali :)