Quinoa Mac and Cheese

5 from 2 votes
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Creamy and hearty quinoa mac and cheese is a delicious twist on a classic mac. Made with quinoa instead of noodles, plenty of cheese, and flavorful add-ins, this is the ultimate comfort food.

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quinoa mac and cheese in a dish topped with jalapenos and bacon

Here at Fit Foodie, we love mac and cheese. There’s nothing better than a big bowl of warm, cheesy noodles, especially on chilly days. Our quinoa mac and cheese recipe is a twist on classic mac and cheese recipe and features quinoa instead of noodles.

This quinoa mac and cheese comes together in about an hour on the stovetop with a from-scratch cheese sauce, cooked quinoa, and fresh kale. When testing this recipe, we loved the flavor punch that jalapeños and bacon added, but these are totally optional. It’s just as cheesy, creamy, and comforting as classic mac!

“Big fan! I love that at least if I’m eating an indulgent and cheesy meal, that it sneaks some healthy quinoa and kale in there. Great for a snowy day.” – Elizabeth

What You Need for Quinoa Mac and Cheese

There are 3 parts to homemade quinoa mac and cheese. You’ll need:

Quinoa

Rinsed, uncooked quinoa is the base of this recipe. Combine it with chicken broth (or veggie broth) and cook on the stovetop until all of the broth has absorbed.

Cheese Sauce

The creamy, cheesy sauce comes together with sautéed onion and jalapeños, garlic, flour, milk, plain Greek yogurt, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Add-Ins

Mix chopped fresh kale into the quinoa mac and cheese and we love adding a little chopped cooked bacon to each bowl before serving.

jalapeños, onions and garlic sautéing in a dutch oven

Quinoa Mac and Cheese Variations

Follow our recipe as written or try any of these swaps:

Cheese: Instead of cheddar cheese, use your favorite kind of shredded cheese.

Greens: Use spinach instead of kale.

Spiciness: The spiciness is up to you! Remove the seeds from the jalapeños for mild spice or keep some of the seeds in with the peppers for more spice. For no heat, simply omit the jalapeños from the recipe (or use a can of diced green chiles for flavor without much spice).

Vegetarian: Replace the chicken broth with the same amount of vegetable broth and omit the bacon topping.

Gluten Free: Use a 1:1 GF flour blend in place of the white whole wheat flour.

spice level

Jalapeños can greatly vary in spice level. Just because you bought a super spicy jalapeño from the grocery store last time doesn’t mean the next one you buy will as spicy. When in doubt, set some of the seeds aside when you cut your jalapeños. Once the mac and cheese is ready, taste it. If it needs a little extra kick, mix in the seeds.

ingredients for jalapeno bacon quinoa mac and cheese, ready to be made in your kitchen

FAQ

Do you need to rinse the quinoa first?

For best results, we recommend rinsing the quinoa before using in this recipe.

Is this quinoa mac and cheese gluten free?

No, but it easily can be! Simply replace the white whole wheat flour with a 1:1 GF flour blend.

cheese sauce with fresh kale added in, ready to be mixed together for quinoa mac and cheese
cheese sauce with wiled kale for quinoa mac and cheese

Storage

Quinoa mac and cheese is a great recipe to make on the weekend and enjoy as leftovers all week long. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. We don’t recommend freezing quinoa mac and cheese – we find that recipes with a lot of dairy tend to become grainy when frozen, thawed, and reheated.

Reheating Quinoa Mac and Cheese

The quinoa will continue to absorb moisture even after it’s cooked, so the key is to add a little moisture (a splash of milk works great) and to reheat slowly on a low temperature. This prevents the cheese and yogurt from breaking down and changing texture.

For best results, reheat quinoa mac and cheese in the oven. Mix in 1 tablespoon of milk at a time to the leftover quinoa until it thins out a bit. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish, cover with foil, and heat for 10-20 minutes at 350°F, or until warmed through.

quinoa mac and cheese in a dutch oven, ready to be served

Serving Suggestions

Creamy quinoa mac and cheese is delicious as a standalone meal or paired with a veggie and protein of choice. We love enjoying this quinoa mac with a side of roasted broccoli or garlic glazed carrots and grilled chicken or slow roasted pork shoulder.

5 from 2 votes

Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Homemade quinoa mac and cheese is a wholesome twist on classic mac. It combines all of the flavors we love about mac and cheese with quinoa instead of noodles for a hearty, comforting meal.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 6
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Ingredients 

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced jalapeño peppers, seeded (about 2 small or 1 large jalapeño)*
  • 1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 cups chopped kale, packed
  • diced cooked bacon, for serving*

Instructions 

Make the Quinoa

  • Combine the uncooked quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until all of the broth has absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the Cheese Sauce

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium/high heat. When the olive oil is fragrant, add the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are translucent. Add in the minced jalapeños and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
    A pan with onions and green peppers in it.
  • To the pot with the jalapeños set on medium/high heat, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour until a paste forms. Whisk in the milk and continue to heat over medium/high heat until thickened. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Once the milk is thick, add in the Greek yogurt and whisk. Add in 1/2 cup of cheese at a time and whisk until all of the cheese is melted. Mix in the salt and pepper.

Make the Quinoa Mac and Cheese

  • Once the cheese sauce is smooth, mix in the kale. Continue to stir over medium heat until the kale has wilted.
    A pan with kale and a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the cooked quinoa.
    A red pan with a spoon and spinach in it.
  • Serve immediately topped with cooked bacon.
    quinoa mac and cheese

Tips & Notes

  • Storage: Store leftover quinoa mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. We don’t recommend freezing quinoa mac and cheese – we find that recipes with a lot of dairy tend to become grainy when frozen, thawed, and reheated. 
  • Jalapeños: Customize the spiciness of this quinoa mac and cheese to your liking. For a non-spicy version, omit the peppers completely. For a mildly spicy version, use a can of diced green chiles instead of the jalapeños. For a spicer version, add a few jalapeño seeds to the recipe along with the peppers.
  • Bacon: Totally optional! Feel free to omit completely.
  • Recipe Update: This recipe was updated on January 26, 2021. For the original recipe CLICK HERE.

Nutrition

Calories: 521 kcal, Carbohydrates: 38 g, Protein: 7 g, Fat: 27 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Emily Richter

Emily is Fit Foodie Finds' editor-in-chief. She has a master's degree in strategic communication, and a passion for food. She is an incredible at-home cook making her writing an important part of the content creation process.

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Ann
November 18, 2014 3:57 pm

Of course I’ve voted for you! (Are we bestest friends now?? :-D)
This dish sounds delicious. It’s nothing I would make myself, the ingredients are just not my staples and I don’t make bakes often, or at all. Enough reasons to actually make this one time!

November 18, 2014 12:57 pm

I feel like we have the same food style… cheese, bacon, healthy comforting yummmmo

November 18, 2014 3:13 pm

WI WI WI WINNNNING! One day we shall meet in real life and cook our butts off 😀

November 19, 2014 4:18 pm
Reply to  Lee Funke

An IRL cooking showdown would be ahhhhmazing… one day.

November 18, 2014 12:50 pm

You do wonderful things with quinoa!! Another bake to add to the list. I just need to sub the cheese some non dairy ish. Boo sensitivities. Keep em coming girl:D good luck in your competition!

November 18, 2014 3:14 pm

Thanks lady! I was lactose intolerant growing up…severely. I grew out of it after puberty and there’s been no stopping me ever since with the cheese 😀 What’s your fav non-dairy cheese?

November 19, 2014 3:58 pm
Reply to  Lee Funke

I really don’t have a favorite at this point since I recently discovered this like 8 months ago…I just avoided it. I don’t like a lot of the ones on the market with all the preservatives. Any suggestions or any faves growing up?

November 20, 2014 6:14 am

Yuck!!! I actually don’t think I’ve ever purchased any dairy free cheese. I’m no help 😀

November 18, 2014 10:20 am

Ummm… this looks delicious lady!! Even though you’re my competition, I’m pinning this recipe right now. 🙂 xoxo

November 18, 2014 10:59 am
Reply to  Brittany

You’re the absolute BEST 😀

November 18, 2014 8:57 am

Wow! Does this ever sound so delicious. Quinoa, bacon & cheese. What could be better.

November 18, 2014 11:00 am

Surrrrriously!

November 18, 2014 8:14 am

OMG. I died and went to food heaven. Cheese + bacon + jalapeno = love.

November 18, 2014 11:00 am

Yah, this recipe is my boyfriend 😉

November 18, 2014 8:11 am

I have been dying to make mac and cheese with quinoa! And this looks ah-mazing. Plus the hubs would be all over the jalapeño and bacon. Winning!

November 18, 2014 11:00 am

Put meat in it and it’s an instant win for the significant other 😉

November 18, 2014 7:43 am

This looks like some amazing, warm, winter comfort food. I need to make it this weekend to warm up from the snow!!

November 18, 2014 11:01 am

Boooo snow 🙁 I just got home from abroad and there was no snow when I left…now it’s everywhere! #sigh

November 18, 2014 6:31 am

I love the idea of using quinoa instead of macaroni! This dish sounds so delicious 🙂

November 18, 2014 6:29 am

Wow, this looks amazing! I love anything with bacon and jalapeños, so definitely going to try this out!

November 18, 2014 6:52 am

It really is a perfect flavor combination 😀

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