I’m going to be real with you for just a second. I love Trader Joe’s.
I mean, yes, I enjoy grocery shopping in general; however, there is no store I adore going to more than TJs. The atmosphere. The products. The employees. My inner foodie loves it all.
I always look forward to my weekly TJ’s fix, and I’m totally not ashamed to say that I go to Trader Joe’s every single week. Sometimes twice a week. There’s just so much to love! Gluten free rolled oats, organic peanut butter, dirt-cheap apples/pears/kale/carrots, amazing salsas/dips/hummus, raw nuts, dried fruit… Yeeeeeah, I
think know I have a bit of an gigantic addiction.
I was thrilled when I spotted Pesto & Quinoa on the shelves of my local store just a few weeks ago. Pesto? One of my favorite foods. Hands-down. Quinoa? Not a huge fan of the texture, but I can definitely get behind its nutritional benefits and protein content. Especially when pesto is involved.
But TJs…what’s with the small jar? This teeny tiny 10-oz. jar cannot satisfy my pesto cravings, nor my hungry stomach. While I understand that this Pesto & Quinoa is supposed to be served as a sauce or dip rather than an actual meal, something as wonderful as pesto should be served as a full-on entree.
So I summoned the powers of my great Italian ancestors to bring you my big-person version of Pesto & Quinoa. And my version is not only gluten free, but vegan, too! And guys…you are gonna love it. Packed with sweet basil, aromatic garlic, and earthy walnuts, this vegan and gluten free Pesto & Quinoa is a fresh and simple summertime meal.
To get this Pesto & Quinoa train a-rollin’, we’ll need quinoa. Quinoa is one of those “superfoods” everyone seems to be obsessed with these days…but it’s for good reason! Quinoa is a complete protein, which edges this pseudo-grain out over other grainy offerings. Quinoa comes in a variety of colors – red, black, and white-; however, I’m partial to the softness of the white. Quinoa also gives this particular dish a wonderful nutty flavor that pairs with the pesto so perfectly. Heck-to-the-yes, quinoa. I think I’m warming up to you.
Technically, you can use any store-bought pesto here, but I just love the thought of making my own from scratch. Being able to control what ingredients goes into my pesto allows me to be as creative as I wish! This time around, I stuck to a more traditional pesto sauce (with a little vegan flare): basil, olive oil, walnuts, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. Because I wanted to try and veganize TJ’s Pesto & Quinoa, nutritional yeast was the best option to impart a small dosage of cheesy flavor in my sauce.
To make the pesto more sauce-like, I added a bit of vegetable stock to the mix. The vegetable stock thins this pesto sauce without adding additional fat by way of olive oil. Fat isn’t bad in any sense of the word; however, for two servings of Pesto & Quinoa, I thought that nearly 1/4 cup of olive oil might be a tad bit excessive. Feel free to substitute with olive oil for a richer Pesto & Quinoa. I’m sure that this dish would be that much better!
This Pesto & Quinoa is abundant in flavor and simplicity. In just 20 short minutes, you and this Pesto & Quinoa can be united in a herby and garlicky embrace. And boy, it sure is a beautiful place to be.
Pesto & Quinoa
|Prep:||Yield: serves 2||Total:|
This Pesto & Quinoa is vegan, gluten free, and packed with protein and big flavors! Perfect for a lazy summer meal!
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup water or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable stock
- 1 tsp. minced garlic (about two cloves)
- salt + pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup walnuts, plus more for topping
- red pepper flakes, for topping
- Make the Quinoa: Add quinoa and water/vegetable stock to a small pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, then set aside.
- Make the Pesto: While the quinoa is cooking, add basil, olive oil, nutritional yeast/cheese, stock, and garlic to a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste, season with salt + pepper if needed, then blend again to combine. Add walnuts and pulse until small bits remain (I like a little crunch in my pesto, but you can blend until smooth, too).
- Assemble the Pesto & Quinoa: Pour pesto into the quinoa pot and mix until combined. Season with additional salt + pepper if needed. Top with red pepper flakes, walnuts, and/or cheese if desired.
Stay classy, Internet friends!
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