Quinoa Vegetable Paella

by on January 26, 2007
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Quinoa Vegetable Paella
I love quinoa. Sure, it has a great nutritional profile, but what I like best about it is that it’s fast: it cooks in about a third of the time it takes to cook brown rice, which makes it possible to throw together a meal at the last minute and still enjoy a whole grain.

By now you probably know that quinoa is an excellent source of high quality protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids and is especially high in lysine, an amino acid that is scarce in most plant foods but is necessary for tissue growth and repair. What you might not have heard is that quinoa is full of all sorts of other nutrients. According to The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, it’s a rich source of calcium as well as magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous. And to top it off, it’s gluten-free, so those who are sensitive to gluten can enjoy it in its whole state or made into flour, pastas, or breads.

I’m glad that it’s so nutritious because it means I can get a healthy meal on the table quickly on nights when it’s gotten too late to get a pot of rice cooking. Though the grains are smaller, quinoa can be used in almost anything rice can. It can form the base for a stir-fry or a bean dish, it can be made into pilafs, and it’s especially good in grain salads. In the recipe below, I used it instead of white rice in a vegetable paella and discovered another way that my family loves quinoa.

Quinoa Vegetable Paella
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is one of those dishes that seem to improve overnight. Reheated leftovers make a great lunch. Spicy food lovers note that this is a subtle dish, not a spicy one.
Serves: 6
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and cut into quarters
  1. Put the quinoa into a large bowl. Cover with water and stir well to wash the grain. Pour off the water and then repeat the washing process. You may also put the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little water until soft. (I use my deep, 13-inch saute pan for this.) Add the quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, and cook covered for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, check to see if more broth is needed. If it looks dry, add the remaining vegetable broth. Place the zucchini on top of the quinoa and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until quinoa is done. Remove the cover, stir in the peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Arrange the artichoke hearts on the top and serve. Add salt at the table, if necessary.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 288 Fat: 3g Carbohydrates: 55g Sodium: 307mg Fiber: 10g Protein: 13g


Extra! Here are a few delicious-looking, vegan quinoa recipes from around the blogs:


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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jaime January 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Great recipe, but you can´t call this a Paella. It is another thing but not a Paella.


2 Jessica February 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Great recipe. I love Quinoa. This yields quite a lot, and was even better reheated.


3 lovemyfamily March 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Great recipe. Next time I'll only add 2 cups of broth and more if I need it cause it took a long time to cook off and never really did cook all the water off, but good enough. this does make a huge amount of food and I plan to freeze some if any is leftover from supper and lunch tomorrow.


4 Vegangal July 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Made this tonight and it was GORGEOUS!!! Added a little chilli, and I used turmeric instead of saffron. I also left out the artichoke hearts as there were none to hand. Otherwise, it was as the recipe called for.

Really delicious with a glass of Spanish red. Thank you for the recipe.


5 Azahara August 1, 2010 at 2:18 am

I needed a break from cooking, but my mom doesn’t know much about vegan dishes, so I translated this recipe for her and she cooked it for the family. Before it was done, my dad complained that a paella without seafood is not a paella, but he stopped whining once he tried it. We all loved it, and it’s true, it’s a subtle dish, but I like it like that. I also second you on the overnight improvement. As lovemyfamily notes, “this does make a huge amount of food,” so I had some reaheated leftovers and I’m also going to freeze a spare serving for my next no-cooking day.

Thanks for yet another great recipe, Susan!

P.S.: Instead of vegetable broth we used artichoke broth, which gave it a more paella-like flavor. Ours was homemade, but I guess you could always find it in some grocery stores in the U.S.


6 ~M August 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I really enjoy this recipe and have made it several times! I usually sub garbanzo beans for the kidney ones since I prepare a huge batch of them from scratch and freeze them. Instead of artichokes, which my husband and I don’t care for, we use mandarin oranges (the kind that come in juice, but we don’t use the juice). It’s delicious, and I’m glad to see that it freezes well!


7 valeItaly October 23, 2010 at 6:15 am

great recipe I will try ‘to make the Quinoa love it …. I eat them often …. nice description of the nutritional values in Italy and not’ widely used Peccatte! ciaoo


8 Anjali Shah November 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I made this recipe this weekend and it turned out great! I made a few modifications like adding lemon juice, salt, sliced toasted almonds, etc – but overall it was a really great recipe. Thanks for sharing!


9 Hayley December 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm

I made this last night for our Earthsave Whistler potluck. It was delicious! Thank you!


10 Megan January 10, 2011 at 7:40 am

Made this last night, and it was excellent. Our local vegan restaurant gem– Great Sage– makes a vegan paella, and I’d say this certainly rivals it! Looking forward to leftovers for lunch…


11 stephanie January 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm

made this tonight . . . so wonderful!!


12 Pamela February 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

This is a great dish!!!! I made it for my young sisters when they came up for a night and we all loved it! It says that it makes about 6 servings but it seems like I was able to get a lot more then that out of it. I still have leftovers and you are correct, it tastes even better overnight. The one little change I made was adding a bit of hot sauce, thank you for letting me know before hand that it was not going to be spicy.


13 kiki February 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

MMMM. I had no saffron, so I used turmeric instead. Turned out great. I also had no tomato on hand and it still tasted fine. I love the artichoke on top, it adds the perfect taste. It also makes a ton, fridging for leftovers.


14 MsLeading February 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm

This was lovely! I added a ton more vegetables to this (carrots, asparagus, yellow squash and capers), and it became a lovely clean-out-the-fridge meal. I also subbed adzuki beans for the kidneys out of preference, and added pressed, grilled tofu. Next time I’ll add the liquid from my artichokes to get even more tangy flavor, and I might consider simmering with kombu or something for that ocean-y essence.

Oddly, I encountered a number of people with the same reaction as the first commenter: “Without seafood, it can’t be paella!” I wholeheartedly reject the notion that the essence of the dish rests in the meat; besides, it’s called vegan or vegetable paella, so obviously there isn’t going to be any seafood. Using the name “paella” communicates the overall flavor and aesthetic experience of the dish, which is of course the point of naming foods at all. Just like the dairy industry fighting to preserve the meaning of “milk” as mammary excretion exclusively, name purists are missing the point (and being rather petty).

Anyway – great recipe, Susan! Thanks!


15 Happygirlie March 30, 2011 at 7:06 am

I JUST finished eating this and I can’t get over how delicious it is!!
It was one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever had!!
I followed the recipe exactly but cut the paprika in thin strips. Never knew how much I’d love cooking with saffron, this meal just made my day. So delicious. Thanks Susan! 😀


16 Boris June 30, 2011 at 12:34 am

I made this recipe yesterday and have enjoyed it both hot and as cold leftovers. Some posters have commented on this being a subtle dish and I would certainly second that; the flavours blend very well. I would perhaps have enjoyed it more had it had more of a wow effect but I think it’s a very good dish to serve to others. I’ve also noted an improvement overnight and would say that the recipe serves between 6 and 8 people. If I make this another time, I’d add some nuts and perhaps some exotic spice such as black cumin seeds.
Thanks for the recipe!


17 Cookie and Kate August 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Hi Susan! I found this recipe through Bon Appetit. So exciting that we were both featured! I love the idea of quinoa paella. I ate paella in Barcelon a few years ago, before I became a vegetarian. Now I can enjoy it at home!


18 SusanV August 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for letting me know about the Bon Appetit slideshow. I didn’t realize it had already gone live. Your quinoa tabbouleh looks delicious!


19 Michael Beyer August 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for the inspired recipe. I like the idea of seasoning the quinoa with saffron and smoked paprika.


20 Mia J October 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

This recipe is WONDERFUL. I’ve made it several times and can never get over how good it is every time. Thanks!!


21 Rachel S. April 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for the insirational recipe! I never had paella before I went vegan, and seeing it recently again on some cooking TV show made me a bit envious. I still wouldn’t have been inspired to try it myself if not for this recipe, and I definitely love the quinoa instead rice!

I only used 1 cup of quinoa, though, since 1) I knew my pan was a little smaller than the kind of pan you used and 2) I wanted to eat a higher ratio of vegetables to “grain.” I also scaled back the broth a bit to compensate, but otherwise used the same amount of everything, plus added some fresh green beans and a few kalamata olive halves. I also used fire-roasted diced tomatoes and frozen artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s, thawed in some water) instead of jarred. I appreciate your warning that the the flavor is mild: I did add a sprinkling of black pepper, a bit of curry powder, extra cayenne, and some chipotle powder (plus lemon juice to finish). I still found it a bit mild and tomat0-ey. I think next time I’ll double the cumin (or more) for a bit more punch.

Thanks so much for the inspiration, though! I’m happy to have found another graeat one-dish meal for quinoa that I probably never would thought of!


22 Elle April 27, 2012 at 6:08 pm

This is a tasty and nutritious recipe! It made a lot of food though!


23 Ashley September 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

My boyfriend made this for me tonight and it was wonderful!! 🙂


24 Laura September 26, 2012 at 12:47 am

Very new to being vegan and really appreciate this recipe. It is delicious, and gave me something new and exciting to eat! Making this new experience more tolerable!


25 Casey November 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Great base for using up my vegies. I threw in some mushrooms and spinach instead of the zucchini, left the saffron out (didn’t have any on hand) and used butter beans instead of red kidney. It was my dinner last night and will my lunch for the week. Yummy!


26 Hilary Merola December 9, 2012 at 7:57 am

I’m so excited to try this recipe. What I love is how versatile it seems to be.


27 Jeny January 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Here’s what I had in mind and please take this suggestion with warmest regards.


1. Rinse quinoa well.
2. Saute onion and garlic.
3. Add quinoa and saffron, cook for 2 minutes
4. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, tomoatoes, peppers, beans, and vegetable broth.
5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, cook for 15 minutes
6. Add vegetable broth as needed.
7. Place zucchini on top of quinoa
8. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until done.



28 Shellie January 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm

We had this for dinner tonight. What a great dish. The only change I made was added more cayenne. Thanks!


29 Susan Voisin January 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I’m so glad you liked it!


30 Summer January 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Very good. I am not a vegetarian or vegan, so I also made one large meatball (per serving) on top of the dish. It was delicious. Thanks for a great recipe idea!


31 Marcela May 4, 2013 at 9:35 am

I would love to try this dish but have no saffron handy. Any suggestions for a good substitution?



32 Lancashire Food July 21, 2013 at 5:00 am

That looks wonderful, might try for supper tonight 🙂


33 Robin January 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

Looks delicious. Thanks for the note about the subtltey (sp?) versus spicy. My carnivore husband is really trying to support me and enthusiastically will try anything (within reason). He seems to favor spicy. What would you recommend to turn up the heat on this recipe? (I know I can throw hot sauce on anything, but would like to stay in keeping with what you envisioned.) Thank you again!


34 Susan Voisin January 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

Some red pepper (cayenne) would turn up the heat without changing the overall flavor profile, but what would really be good is some hot smoked paprika, instead of the regular, if you have it. Hope you and your husband enjoy it!


35 Julie August 8, 2014 at 11:12 pm

This paella is soooo good! Made it for the first time tonight, mainly because we have lots of zucchini and I was looking for yet another way to use zucchini. We also love quinoa. I used canned white kidney beans as we don’t like red kidney beans, and our Costco has started selling large jars of artichoke hearts which I sliced up. Wonderful flavors, filling, pretty, and plenty of leftovers for the weekend and/or lunches next week. I can always count on your recipes Susan, thanks once again.


36 Rebecca Finch February 3, 2015 at 5:13 pm

I don’t know whether to laugh or get mad when I see the advertisements on your site for things like the Paleo Diet and Marie Callendar desserts. I half laugh because I cannot imagine that anyone reading this blog on a regular basis will go for their stuff, but I get mad when I think about people who are new to whole food plant based diets seeing those ads and being confused. I guess you have to do what you have to do to keep the site going and who is to say you should not make money for your twenty years of effort? Still, it’s a little disturbing.


37 Susan Voisin February 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Sorry about the ads. I try to keep non-vegan ones off, but the way ad networks work these days makes that impossible. And actually, I don’t make a cent off of most of them unless someone clicks them, so it’s not in my best interest to have ads that don’t fit my blog.

I might be able to do something about that Marie Callendar’s ad, though, so thanks for letting me know.


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