Love fried rice? This Quinoa Fried Rice is incredibly easy to make and packs in a little more nutrition than the typical fried rice. You can use leftover quinoa and any vegetables you want!
This post was originally published in August 2013, but has been updated with new photos in 2021.
If you're going to sit here and tell me you don't like fried rice, you can just stop right now. Because I do not believe you. Rice is rice and it's a carbohydrate and I get that it can be a little bit boring at times and not worth the calories, but when you fry it up, it is anything but.
I have a fried rice "problem" (in that I love it so much!) and recently decided to try making it with quinoa. It was a major win! I didn't add any meat or tofu to this one, but packed it with veggies instead.
Technically, this should be called Fried Quinoa. But then everyone would be sitting here saying "Le sigh. There goes Susie again, frying things things that have no business being fried." And I guess you'd kind of be right.
But it's not like I went all state fair on this and deep fried quinoa in a thick batter. No. I fried it like I would rice. Quinoa Fried Rice. Think of it like Chicken Fried Steak if you will. Kind of. Though I have to admit, that name has always made me cringe a little bit.
Why Make Quinoa Fried Rice?
If you love fried rice, but want to make it a bit healthier, quinoa fried rice is the perfect option! I also think it's a great way to introduce someone to quinoa, especially if they're a little bit apprehensive.
What's so great about quinoa? Well, it's packed with protein (it has 8 grams per cup compared to white rice's 4 grams and brown rice's 5 grams) and it's a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids (source).
Quinoa also has fewer carbohydrates than rice and more micronutrients (source). While I, of course, enjoy rice (both white and brown!) in certain dishes, I try to substitute with quinoa when I can.
And this fried "rice" is the perfect dish to use quinoa in!
One of the great things about fried rice is that you can utilize any ingredients you happen to have in your fridge. My quinoa fried rice is a pretty basic recipe, but feel free to add any vegetables you have on hand! Here's what I use:
- Cooked quinoa (see below to determine which color to use)
- Canola oil
- Red bell pepper, diced
- Green bell pepper, diced
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Vinegar
- Sesame Oil (if you don't have this, it's no big deal)
White or Red Quinoa?
White quinoa is definitely the more common quinoa, but you may see red quinoa at your grocery store and wonder what the difference is. There's actually no big difference, so simply use whichever you can find or whichever you think is more visually appealing.
If you can find black quinoa, that's an option, too (though I haven't seen it too many places). Some say black quinoa is a bit sweeter than other varieties.
I used a mix of red and white quinoa for this fried rice. You can often buy quinoa mixes, as well.
How to Cook Quinoa
This recipe calls for quinoa that's already been cooked. In fact, like many fried rice recipes, this is a great way to utilize leftover quinoa that you may have in your fridge. You can also feel free to cook the quinoa the day before (or even a couple days before) and keep in your fridge until you're ready to use.
If you didn't plan ahead and need to make this quinoa fried rice NOW, simply cook your quinoa, spread it on a sheet pan, and chill it for at least 30 minutes. The key is to get the moisture out and let the quinoa dry out a bit.
If you've never cooked quinoa before, the package it comes on should have instructions It's also recommended to rinse quinoa before cooking, especially if it hasn't been done prior.
As a basic rule of thumb, add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water with a pinch of salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover, and cook until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Use a fork to fluff it up.
One cup dry quinoa will make a little more than 3 cups cooked. For this recipe, you need about 4 cups cooked, so I recommend using about 1 ¼ cup dry and 2 ½ cups water. However, if you only use 3 cups of quinoa for this recipe, it will be fine and will just have extra egg-iness and vegetables.
How to Make Quinoa Fried Rice
Once you have your quinoa cooked, turning it into fried rice is easy!
Add canola oil to a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Add diced peppers and carrots and cook for 4 minutes.
Add garlic and half the scallions and cook for another 2 minutes. Peppers and carrots should be tender, but still brightly colored.
Add quinoa to skillet, tossing to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.
Push quinoa to the side of the wok and pour lightly beaten eggs into cleared space. Allow egg to sit for about 30 seconds before stirring to scramble a bit. Then toss it into the quinoa mixture.
Mix in the peas and add in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Toss to combine and cook for about 2 minutes. If you don't have sesame oil, it's OK, but I like the added dimension of flavor it adds to the dish.
Also, the soy sauce really adds a ton of pizzazz. Serve the quinoa in bowls and top with the remaining scallions, too!
Alterations to Quinoa Fried Rice
Like I mentioned, you can use any vegetables you want for this quinoa fried rice. You are also more than welcome to add meat or another form of extra protein. Here are a few ingredients I think would be delicious:
- Ground beef or pork
- Chicken breast
- Snow peas
And this is officially a new dinner favorite! I hate to say that this didn't even taste like quinoa, because I absolutely love quinoa, but you actually couldn't really tell it was quinoa. It tasted like fried rice!
Which I'm counting as a good thing. Because maybe it will help you get your fried rice kick in a little bit of a healthier way. But seriously, the frying and the addition of soy sauce definitely disguises some of the quinoa's nutty flavor.
Picky kids or other family members who won't go near quinoa? Try this on them!
This is the kind of meal I want to make at least once a month. And then have enough leftovers to bring to work for lunch for at least a couple days after that. It's quick, easy, and versatile as you can add in pretty much anything you want.
More Quinoa Recipes
If you're a fan of the superfood grain and are looking for more ways to incorporate it into your cooking, I have lots of fun quinoa ideas! Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Everyday Kale and Quinoa Salad
- Jalapeño Parmesan Quinoa Tater Tots
- Peanut Butter Chia Quinoa Granola
- Lemony Kale, Quinoa, and Fig Salad
- Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Quinoa and Feta
- Sriracha Quinoa Cakes
- Cinnamon and Blackberry Breakfast Quinoa
- Beef Green Chile Quinoa Skillet (from A Meal in Mind)
- Caprese Chicken Quinoa Bake (from Erin Lives Whole)
Do you ever substitute certain ingredients in a recipe for a healthier one?
Easy Quinoa Fried Rice
- 4 cups cooked quinoa (color of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- ¾ cup chopped carrots
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
- 6 scallions, chopped
- ¾ cup peas (thawed if frozen)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Add canola oil to a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Add diced peppers and carrots and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add garlic and half the scallions and cook for another 2 minutes. Peppers and carrots should be tender, but still brightly colored.
- Add quinoa to skillet, tossing to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Push quinoa to the side of the wok and pour lightly beaten eggs into cleared space. Allow egg to sit for about 30 seconds before stirring to scramble. Then toss egg into the quinoa mixture.
- Mix in the peas and add in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Toss to combine and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Serve quinoa fried rice in bowls top with remaining scallions.