This delicious and healthy one-pot Instant Pot kale and quinoa pilaf is a fantastic vegetarian meal bursting with gorgeous flavors and textures. Cooked in a tasty broth and served with freshly chopped parsley, goat’s feta cheese and toasted almonds, this dish will quickly become your favourite. It’s gluten-free and vegan-friendly (see notes below).
This quinoa pilaf is super tasty, nutritious and easy to make. The whole dish is filled with healthy ingredients and is high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals while being low-calorie and satiating. You can serve it as is or with a side salad or extra vegetables. Quinoa, nuts and feta provide plenty of protein but you can also serve this with something extra on the side.
What is a pilaf?
If you’re not familiar with pilaf (or pilau in the UK), you might find it quite similar to dishes like risotto (but not creamy!), biryani rice or Mexican rice. This dish is popular in many regions and the recipe usually involves cooking rice or wheat grains in stock or broth together with spices, vegetables, meat (optional) and other ingredients. The cooking method allows the rice or another grain to absorb the stock completely, resulting in fluffy, separated grains infused with the flavor of the broth and whatever else you add.
For our recipe, we decided to make a quinoa pilaf and added plenty of leafy kale to extra nutrients. Cooking kale and quinoa in one pot works out perfectly in the Instant Pot. It only takes 1-2 minutes of pressure cooking time, plus a few minutes to pressurize and to release the pressure. Let’s break it down.
HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT QUINOA PILAF
You can use any color quinoa but make sure you buy fair-trade sourced brands. Rinse the quinoa under cold water and allow to sit in a sieve for a few minutes while you prepare the kale.
The kale works well in this recipe because it needs a similar cooking time to quinoa. You can use regular kale, Lacinato kale (also known as cavolo nero), Swiss chard or other chard, or collard greens. If you don’t have any hardy leafy greens on hand, feel free to add a few florets of broccoli or halved Brussels sprouts.
Our other cooking ingredients include onions and carrots, which we will saute for a couple of minutes to release the sweetness; plus, a handful of chopped raisins, garlic, lemon zest, cumin powder and vegetable stock cube (or powder). These will flavour our cooking broth and consequently the quinoa.
Here is a quick pic of the steps but you will find the full list of ingredients, instructions and nutritional breakdown in the recipe card below.
PILAF FINISHING TOUCHES
Every good pilaf comes with gorgeous toppings and they’re not just there to look good. In our case, chopped parsley brings that lovely freshness and aroma, the feta cheese adds a little saltiness and the almonds (ideally toasted!) will add the crunch and delicious nuttiness.
For a vegan version, omit the cheese or replace it with something salty like olives or sun-dried tomatoes. You can also use some plant-based cheese instead.
Parsley can be swapped with mint, basil or cilantro. Almonds can be replaced with any other nuts or seeds. Toasting them will really enhance their flavor. See how below the recipe.
MORE DELICIOUS VEGETARIAN INSTANT POT RECIPES
- Ultimate Instant Pot Vegetable Stew
- Instant Pot Quinoa With Broccoli & Cheese
- Instant Pot Thai Red Lentil Soup
- Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Chickpeas
- Instant Pot Pasta With Ricotta, Spinach & Lemon
Healthy and delicious Instant Pot kale and quinoa pilaf cooked together in one pot and topped with chopped parsley, toaste almonds and feta cheese. For a vegan version, omit the feta cheese and replace with something salty like olives or sun-dried tomatoes. You can also add some dairy-free cheese of choice. Serve with salad or a side of veggies.
1.5 cup dried quinoa
3–4 oz. / 100-120 g kale leaves (stems removed and torn into smaller pieces)
1/2 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small carrot, diced into small cubes
1–2 tablespoons raisins, roughly diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 vegetable stock cube (or 1.5 teaspoons powder, see notes)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (or paprika)
1+2/3 cup water
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (we used goat’s feta, omit for vegan version)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup toasted almonds (see notes)
Juice of 1/3 lemon (optional)
- Rinse the quinoa under cold water and leave the sieve to strain. Prepare the kale and set aside.
- Tun the Instant Pot and turn the Sautee function key. Add the olive oil, onions and carrots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
- Once you have sauteed the onions and carrots, add the quinoa, garlic, lemon zest, raisins, vegetable stock cube (crush it with your hands) and cumin powder (you can also use other spices or herbs). Add the water and stir through well. Cancel the Saute function.
- Note: A typical ratio of quinoa to water is 1:1 but we’re adding just a little bit more water as we have other ingredients. This will also prevent that pesky burning error message.
- Add the kale pieces on top of the quinoa in the broth, no need to stir through at this stage. Pop the lid on top, close it, making sure the top valve is pointing to Sealing. Press Manual/Pressure Cook button and adjust the time to 2 minutes. The Instant Pot will take 4-5 minutes to build up the pressure before the time will begin.
- Once 2 minutes are up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes. Then, let off the rest of the steam manually by using the quick release method (simply point the top valve to Venting).
- Open the lid and stir the quinoa with the kale. Transfer to a platter or a large bowl and top with chopped parsley, feta cheese and toasted almonds. We drizzled it with a little lemon juice as well, but that’s optional. Serve with a salad and enjoy!
Vegetable stock cube: If you don’t have a vegetable stock cube, use ready-made vegetable stock instead of water (1.75 cups) and add a little extra salt.
Toasted almonds: You can use blanched (skinless) almonds or regular ones. You can buy already toasted nuts, in which case you will simply need to chop them roughly with a knife. To toast the nuts, place them on a flat oven tray and pop under a hot grill for 3-5 minutes, stirring halfway, until golden brown. Keep an eye on them to prevent unexpected burning.