As an ode to all the gorgeous and colorful produce in spring, I bring you my absolute favorite Pesto Quinoa Bowl. This quinoa lunch bowl combines the best Vegan Basil Pesto with crisp spring veggies including asparagus, corn, mushrooms, and arugula. Not only is this quinoa bowl incredibly flavorful, but it is also full of nutritious greens too!
*Recipe originally shared on May 2018 and updated March 2020*
It truly amazes me I haven't brought more vegetarian quinoa recipes to the blog because I am truly IN LOVE with quinoa. Between this dish, my Black Bean Quinoa Burgers, and my Quinoa Stuffed Delicata Squash, there is no shortage of meals with quinoa in this house!
Not only is quinoa high in protein (8.14 grams in just 1 cup), but it also contains a good amount of nutrients lacking in most modern American diets including fiber (5 grams), iron(2.76 mg), and magnesium (118 mg). Technically, quinoa is actually a seed, but it acts a lot like a grain when cooked. This also means that quinoa is naturally gluten-free!
How to make quinoa pesto bowls
There are three steps involved in making this recipe: Cooking the quinoa, roasting the vegetables, and making the pesto. Luckily, this can all be done at the same time in under 40 minutes for an easy weeknight dinner. Plus, it happens to store great as leftovers for lunch!
Roast the vegetables
One of the crucial parts of this quinoa veggie bowl is roasting the seasonal vegetables! For this recipe, I chose mushrooms, asparagus, and canned corn (freshly cooked corn can also be used).
The key to roasting the perfect tray of vegetables comes down to four main principles:
- One: DO NOT overcrowd the pan. Vegetables release water when they cook and it will be impossible for that water to evaporate if you have an overcrowded pan. An overcrowded pan leads to soggy steamed veggies and not crispy baked veggies. If you choose to double this recipe, use two large pans to roast the veggies. For reference, I use my Nordic Ware Aluminum baking trays to roast all my veggies (they're the best!)
- Two: Use the right amount of oil. Not too much that your vegetables are drowning in oil and not too little that each vegetable isn't coated. For this recipe, that means using anywhere from 1-2 Tbsp of oil.
- Three: Make sure the vegetables are DRY. This is a common mistake I see people make, but make sure you wipe off any rinsed veggies before adding them to a pan. The main reason? We don't need any extra moisture in the mix as it makes it hard for the vegetables to actually get coated in oil & spices and to get crispy.
- Four: Cooking at a high heat. Unlike baking recipes where most ovens call for a temperature of 350F, vegetables roast best at 400F.
As you can see from the pictures below, roasted vegetables lose a lot of their water and volume after being roasted.
Cook the quinoa until fluffy
While the veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa until it is fluffy. Here are my tips & tricks to cook the perfect quinoa every time:
- Always make sure to rinse quinoa. It contains a natural coating called saponin which can give it a bitter flavor. Honestly, most boxed quinoas are pre-rinsed, so if that's the case you can skip this step. However, if you're not sure it's always best to give quinoa a quick rinse in a mesh strainer!
- Cook quinoa in a 1:2 ratio. For every cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of vegetable broth.
- Choose vegetable broth over water. It makes quinoa more flavorful from the get-go! Water will work, but vegetable broth is better.
- Add salt at the end. Salt affects quinoas absorption of water so I like to season my quinoa with salt at the end of the cooking process.
Make the vegan pesto sauce
This pesto bowl recipe uses my Easy Vegan Pesto recipe. If you need step-by-step instructions or substitution ideas, head to that post! Otherwise, follow the pesto recipe as it is written in the recipe card below.
P.S- I also use Trader Joe's Vegan Kale pesto in this recipe whenever I don't have the ingredients to make homemade pesto on hand. It works just as well in this recipe!
Assemble the quinoa grain bowl
Now that the veggies are roasted, the pesto is blended, and the quinoa is fluffed, it's time to put it all together into one epic vegan quinoa bowl recipe!
I like to add the pesto directly to the quinoa and mix it in. Then, I add about 1 cup of arugula to each bowl, top it with 1 cup of pesto quinoa, and add about 1-1.5 cups of roasted veggies on top. Easy peasy!
If you're looking for additional toppings, this pesto bowl also goes great with crispy chickpeas as a topping. Plus, I love to add some fresh basil to truly dress up this quinoa bowl.
Also, if you have any leftover pesto, you can save it in the fridge to make this Vegan Artichoke Pesto Pizza next!
FAQ & Tips:
Option one is to store the pesto quinoa and veggies in a single container and reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop before eating. Skip the arugula for this step as it will wilt if heated. The other option is to add to the arugula and eat the leftovers as a cold pesto quinoa salad for lunch.
Honestly, either option is great and both will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
As long as you don't add in the arugula, these quinoa bowls are also freezer-friendly!
They can be stored in the freezer in a closed container for up to 1 month for easy meal prep. Just let it thaw overnight in the fridge or for a few hours on the counter at room temperature before eating.
I truly hope you love this easy & fresh Spring Quinoa Pesto Bowl. It is truly one of my go vegan weeknight dinners and I love doubling the recipe so I have lunch for the entire week. Enjoy this fabulous veggie-filled recipe!
More vegetarian dinner & lunch ideas you will love:
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Spring Pesto Quinoa Bowl
Quinoa & Veggies
- 1 ½ cups dried quinoa
- 2 ¼ cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups chopped asparagus cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 cup canned corn about 7-8 oz of 14 oz can
- 3 cups button mushrooms sliced thin
- 1-2 Tablespoons oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- salt and petter to taste
- 3-4 cups fresh arugula or spinach
- ½ cup raw cashews soaked 30 minutes in hot water
- 1 clove garlic or ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ cup basil tightly packed
- 1 cup loosely packed greens spinach and arugula are best, but you can also use kale
- 3 Tablespoons water more for thinner sauce
- salt & pepper to taste
- Please note, if you are making the vegan pesto you must soak the cashews so they blend well. If you have a very good blender you can skip this step, otherwise soak the cashews in hot water for 30 minutes to soften.
Cook the quinoa & vegetables:
- Preheat your oven to 400F & chop the veggies.
- Next, add the quinoa and veggie broth to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the quinoa until all the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. You will know your quinoa is done when you see the white ring( the germ) curling around the outside of the quinoa seeds. Once cooked, remove from the heat and set aside.
- While the quinoa is cooking, season and cook your veggies. Add the asparagus, corn, and mushroom to a sheet pan. Make sure not to overcrowd the sheet pan and use a second pan if needed. Next, season with the oil, garlic powder, red chili pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Mix to coat the veggies and bake for 20-25 minutes until beginning to brown and crisp. Remove and set aside.
Make the vegan pesto:
- To finish, make the vegan pesto. First, add the soaked cashews, garlic, pine nuts, and nutritional yeast to a blender and blend for 30 seconds to break up the hard ingredients first.
- Next, add in the olive oil and lemon juice and blend until a smooth mixture is formed.
- Then, add in the basil and greens and blend until a thick paste forms. As a final step, add in the 3 Tbsp water to thin out the sauce. Add more water for a thicker sauce and less for a thinner sauce. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and blend again until smooth.
Plating the bowls:
- Add the pesto to the large pot containing the cooked quinoa. Mix together until quinoa is entirely coated.
- Fill each bowl with 1 cup arugula, 1 cup pesto quinoa, and top with 1 cup roasted veggies and fresh basil. Enjoy!
- You can store the bowl as leftovers with the pesto quinoa and veggies in a single container and reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop before eating. Skip the arugula for this step as it will wilt if heated. They will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days
- The other option is to add to the arugula and eat the leftovers as a cold pesto quinoa salad for lunch. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- This pesto bowl recipe uses my Easy Vegan Pesto recipe. If you need step-by-step instructions or substitution ideas, head to that post!