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The Kitchn: Smoky quinoa taco bowls are the ultimate high-protein, veggie-packed lunch

Grace Elkus, on

With the rare exception of pizza (I prefer plain cheese), I’m all about the toppings. Give me all the candy at the frozen yogurt shop, load up my bagel with every veggie in the store, and top my pancakes with every berry in sight, please.

Of course, my favorite way to eat all the toppings is in a big chopped salad or a hearty grain bowl (this will come as no surprise if you’ve been following along with my series, Tonight We Veg). Lately I’ve been all about taco bowls, which boast crunch and creaminess with every bite and can be filled to the brim with as many mix-ins as possible.

To create a vegetarian version, I swapped the ground beef for nutty, protein-packed quinoa, which is cooked with aromatics and chipotle in adobo sauce to give it a rich and smoky flavor. When it’s done cooking, you’ll stir in black beans and a few handfuls of spinach, which will begin to wilt in the residual heat.

Once you’ve made the base, the rest is completely customizable. In fact, you could lay out all the toppings and create build-your-own-dinner bowls, or cook the quinoa on Sunday and add new toppings each day for lunch. I like to bulk up the protein by topping mine with a fried egg, complete with crispy, lacy edges and a runny yolk that dresses the quinoa. But if you’re taking lunch to go, you could prep hard- or soft-boiled eggs in advance.

Some type of salsa is a must (I prefer fresh pico de gallo, which gives you diced tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño without having to do to all the work), as is creamy avocado. For an extra cooling effect, I drizzle on a limey yogurt sauce, which is an impossibly easy mixture of yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, and salt.

Crumbled tortilla chips would be welcomed, as would hot sauce. If you’re looking for more of a salad vibe, go ahead and add crunchy chopped romaine. And did I mention cheese? Feta or queso fresco would be divine.


Smoky Quinoa Taco Bowls with Fried Eggs

Serves 4 to 6

1 medium shallot

4 cloves garlic


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