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Big-Batch Meal Prep Plan: Quinoa Edition

Why stress when you can prep? Set yourself up for breakfast, lunch and dinner success with our quinoa meal prep plan. From how to cook quinoa to how to freeze it, to how to use it as the base for easy meals you’ll actually want to make, we’ve got you covered. Prep now, thank yourself later! It’s so easy.

The Deal with Meal Prep

If you think about it, meal prepping is just looking out for Future You: Future You hates meal planning and making grocery lists. Future You is going to come home from work one night too exhausted to even think about cooking something, and Future You is going to be REALLY TEMPTED to just forget the whole thing and spend a bunch of money on food someone else makes. Poor Future You!

So do your future self a solid and prep a bunch of meals in one fell swoop. After all, the only thing better than having one meal prepped ahead is having five meals prepped ahead. So make a big batch of quinoa, stock your kitchen with the grocery list we already made for you, and prepare to be prepared. It’s so much easier than you think!

Excited to get started? (WE ARE!) Let’s prep a whole bunch of quinoa.

What You'll Need

Food: 

  • Uncooked quinoa 
  • Water

Not Food:

  • Fine mesh sieve or colander
  • Large pot with lid
  • Fork for fluffing 
  • Food storage bags and/or containers
  • Permanent marker and/or masking tape, for labeling

How to Cook Quinoa

big-batch-meal-prep-quinoa_01a

One of our contributors already put together an in-depth tutorial on How to Cook Quinoa, so we’ll just go over a few of the key points:

  • The ratio of liquid to uncooked quinoa should be 2:1. So however much dry quinoa you measure out, measure twice that amount in water or broth before cooking.
  • Yes, you need to rinse your quinoa first. Add dry quinoa to fine mesh sieve or colander, and rinse it under running water before cooking. A few quinoa seeds might make their way into your sink, but that’s a small price to pay for fluffy quinoa with no bitter taste.
  • Combine quinoa and cooking liquid first, then bring it to a boil.
  • Once your quinoa is at a strong boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. One cup of dry quinoa will need about 15-20 minutes of simmering for water to absorb. 
  • When quinoa is ready, turn off the heat and uncover the pot, but keep it on the burner. Fluff quinoa with a fork every few minutes, stirring to help the quinoa cool and dry out just a bit. This is how you end up with quinoa that’s nice and fluffy.

For the full instructions, click here.

How to Store, Freeze + Defrost Cooked Quinoa

Quinoa prepped

TO STORE: Allow quinoa to cool completely before storing. Warm food gives off moisture, and putting warm quinoa in a sealed container would create trapped steam (a leading cause of freezer burn). Next, divide quinoa into storage bags or containers. We like to do this based on how much quinoa is commonly needed in recipes (2 cups, 3 cups, etc.) and label the containers accordingly.

Quart-size freezer bags are great for storing quinoa—just squeeze out excess air and lay bags flat to stack them for the most organized freezer you’ve ever seen. Plastic storage containers work, too; just try to choose containers similar in volume to the quantities of quinoa you’ll be storing, so there’s not a lot of extra air inside.

TO FREEZE: This step is optional—maybe you’ll use all your quinoa within a week or so of making it. If you’d like to stock your freezer for later, though, here’s how to do it.

Lay freezer bags flat on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. When frozen, remove bags from the cookie sheet and stack them for easy storage. If you’re using storage containers, proceed directly to the stacking part.

TO DEFROST: Like meat, soup, or any other food you’d cook and then freeze, the best way to defrost quinoa is to move it from the freezer to the fridge and let it defrost overnight. Heating cooked and frozen foods can change their texture. Letting quinoa defrost in the fridge will ensure the texture and flavor are as close as possible to what you’d get if you’d made the quinoa fresh.

5 Quinoa Meal-Prep Recipes

Now let’s get to the good stuff—what to make with all that quinoa! These are our five favorite breakfasts, lunches and dinners to make with your stockpile.

Recipe #1: Quinoa Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies

Quinoa Trail Mix Cookies

Grab 1 cup of cooked quinoa and make a batch of these sweet and filling breakfast cookies. (Chocolate for breakfast = a very good idea.)

Quinoa Trail Mix Cookies Ingredients

Meal Prep Bonus: These keep great in the fridge for grab-and-go breakfasts all week. You can even freeze the finished product! Place baked cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment and pop the whole pan in the freezer. Store frozen cookies in a sealed bag or container, defrost whenever you need a sweet snack or commute-friendly breakfast.


Recipe #2: Caprese Quinoa Bake

Caprese Quinoa Bake

A cheesy, bubbly pasta pake, minus the pasta! For extra flavor, cook your quinoa in chicken broth instead of water. And if you want a totally meatless meal, just swap out chicken broth for vegetable.

Caprese Quinoa Bake Ingredients

If you need us, we’ll just be right here, dreaming about those puddles of golden brown, melty mozzarella until it’s time for dinner.


Recipe #3: Honey-Sriracha Chicken Quinoa Bowl

Honey-Sriracha Chicken Quinoa Bowl

The only thing better than a five-ingredient dinner is a five-ingredient dinner you can prep ahead. These sweet and spicy protein-packed bowls start with 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

Honey Sriracha Chicken Quinoa Bowl Ingredients

If you haven’t tried cooking with coconut oil yet, this recipe is a great one to get you started. The coconut flavor is just right with sweet honey and spicy Sriracha. (And we do mean spicy—if you like your spice levels low, we strongly recommend reducing the 2/3 cup of Sriracha called for in the recipe to just 1/3 cup.)


Recipe #4: Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa Casserole

Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa Casserole

True story: when Team Tablespoon tested this recipe, we kept calling it “Cheesy Casserole” by mistake. Yes, there’s a superfood hiding in there (technically two, if you count the avocado!) but cheese is definitely the star of the show.

Cheesy Enchilada Quina Casserole Ingredients

Meal Prep Bonus: This recipe calls for 1 lb ground turkey, browned. Save even more prep time by cooking the turkey ahead of time and storing it in the fridge with the 3 cups cooked quinoa called for in this recipe. They can even go in the same container.


Recipe #5: Garden-Fresh Lemon Quinoa Salad

Garden-Fresh Lemon Quinoa Salad

Quite possibly the easiest, healthiest lunch you’ll ever make! This meatless meal is extra filling thanks to vegetarian protein in quinoa and white beans.

Garden-Fresh Lemon Quinoa Salad Ingredients

Meal Prep Bonus: Chop cucumber, bell pepper and tomatoes ahead of time so they’re prepped and ready to go when you make your salad.

Grocery List

Besides the quinoa you cooked ahead of time, here’s what you’ll need to make each recipe. (Note: We’re assuming you already have salt, pepper and olive oil in your pantry.)

Quinoa Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies

  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Eggs (recipe calls for 1 egg) 
  • Bisquick Heart Smart™ mix
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or sunflower seeds
  • Dried cranberries
  • M&M’s™ dark chocolate candies

Caprese Quinoa Bake

  • 1 carton (32 oz) Progresso™ chicken broth
  • Garlic salt (or 2 cloves fresh garlic)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 container (8 oz) mozzarella balls (ciliegine)

Honey-Sriracha Chicken Quinoa Bowl

  • Coconut oil
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Honey
  • Sriracha sauce 
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro

Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa Casserole

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans
  • 1 can (10 oz) Old El Paso™ enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz) Muir Glen™ organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 packet Old El Paso™ taco seasoning mix
  • Corn kernels (frozen or canned)
  • 4 cups shredded Mexican or pepper jack cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro

Garden-Fresh Lemon Quinoa Salad

  • 1 can (14 oz) white beans
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper 
  • 1-2 tomatoes (enough for 1/2 cup diced)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 lemons
  • Fresh garlic
  • White wine vinegar
  • Sugar

More Recipes to Make with Cooked Quinoa

Yes, there’s even more ways to transform cooked quinoa. Fill your freezer to the brim, and let no meal go unplanned ever again.

Knowledge is power! Let Tablespoon teach you how to cook.


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