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Cilantro Lime Quinoa

$2.62 Recipe/$0.66 Serving

Cilantro lime quinoa is a quick and easy healthy side dish that can be made on the stove or in the Instant Pot. This zesty lime cilantro quinoa pairs so well with Mexican food and so much more! You won’t believe how simple it is to make this flavorful side dish and is a great alternative to rice.

Wooden spoon in bowl filled with Mexican quinoa.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Easy to make – whether you make the quinoa in the pressure cooker or on the stove, there are not very many steps required to turn quinoa into cilantro lime quinoa! Making quinoa on the stove or in the Instant Pot takes about 20 minutes total, making it great for busy weeknight meals! Even better you can make the quinoa in advance and have this healthy cilantro lime quinoa ready in just 5 minutes!
  • So versatile – use this cilantro lime quinoa as a side dish for Mexican, Indian or Middle Eastern flavored meals or use it as the base for burrito bowls, grain bowls or salads! Using quinoa instead of rice is a great way to add more protein and fiber to any meal!
  • Healthy, simple ingredients – everything you need to make this Mexican quinoa recipe is found in your local grocery store! Quinoa can usually be found in the same aisle as the dried rice and can often also be found in the bulk bins at some natural grocery stores.
  • Great for meal prep, freezes well too! You can easily double or triple this recipe to use all week in dinners and lunches or freeze the leftovers for another time. This is a great way to use up extra cilantro if you bought it for another recipe and don’t have any clue what to do with it!
Ingredients to make cilantro lime rice.
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Ingredients

  • Quinoa + water – typically I pick up the white quinoa but you can use red or even the tricolored for this recipe. For the most part the different color grains are similar, however I find the white quinoa does the best in the instant pot and is easy to find in most grocery stores.
  • Lime juice – fresh lime juice is best in this recipe. If you really love lime flavor, you can even zest the lime before juicing it and adding that to the recipe as well.
  • Spices: Salt and garlic powder – These help to elevate the flavor. You could use fresh garlic, but I think it would overpower the rest of the ingredients.
  • Fresh cilantro – the fresh cilantro and lime juice are really the key to making this quinoa taste fresh, zippy and so flavorful! You can use the cilantro leaves and the thin top part of the stem (the stems are packed with flavor).

How to make cilantro lime quinoa

Check out the step by step instructions on how to make cilantro lime quinoa.

Start by preparing the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa well. I like to soak the quinoa in hot water and swish it around in the pot (or instant pot insert) to try to get as much of the soapy coating off as possible. Quinoa can be very bitter and taste like soap if you don’t rinse it well.

Once the quinoa has been rinsed well, add it to the pot or instant pot insert. Cover it with water and turn the stove on high or set the instant pot to high pressure 1 minute.

If you are using the stove, once boiling, turn the heat all the way to low, cover the pot (leave it slightly ajar) and let it simmer for 15 minutes. If you are using the instant pot, let it come to pressure, cook 1 minute then naturally release for 10 minutes before manually releasing the rest of the pressure.

While the quinoa is cooking, chop the cilantro. You can use both the leaves and the thin stems by the leaves, as those are also packed with flavor.

Once the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and add the lime juice, salt, garlic powder and cilantro. Be sure you add the cilantro last once the quinoa is off the heat.

Stir well and serve immediately or you can serve at room temperature or even cold.

steps on how to make cilantro lime rice, chopping cilantro and stirring in the quinoa.

Top tips

  • Be sure to rinse the quinoa well – quinoa is coated in a sour/soapy tasting coating call saponin that needs to be rinsed off. Even if quinoa says it was rinsed, I typically rinse it again just to be sure.
  • Easiest way to cook quinoa is in the instant pot – this way you don’t have to worry about the pot boiling over and it’s ready at the same time.
  • Make the quinoa even more flavorful by using vegetable broth or chicken broth instead of water.
  • Time saving tip: You can cook quinoa in advance and reheat on the stove in a large skillet over medium heat with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Once warm, add the rest of the ingredients. If you plan on making a large batch of quinoa during meal prep, know that 1 cup dry quinoa makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

Optional add-in ingredients

  • Spice: fresh or pickled jalapeno, crushed red pepper flakes, chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo
  • Protein: Add in rinsed black beans, chickpeas, shredded chicken, buffalo shrimp, or canned tuna or salmon
  • Veggies: Add in cauliflower rice (cooked), shredded zucchini, grilled corn (Trader Joe’s has frozen grilled corn you can use)
  • Creaminess: Add chunks of avocado right before serving.
Cilantro lime rice in a white bowl with a white napkin around the bowl.

What to serve with lime and cilantro quinoa

Cauliflower Lentil Tacos or Black Bean Tacos

Apricot Chickpea Curry

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

10 Minute Chicken Taco and Mexican Vegetables

Cajun Chicken and Veggie Lettuce Wraps

Base for a buddha bowl with Moroccan roasted cauliflower, chickpeas and top with tahini lime dressing

Base for burrito bowl with walnut taco meat, creamy vegan queso and your favorite salsa

Taco salad with Mexican shredded chicken and black beans.

Tips on cooking quinoa

Always be sure to rinse the quinoa before cooking.

If cooking on the stove, be sure to slightly vent the lid so that it’s less likely to boil over. I would still recommend staying close in case it does start to boil over. Some people recommend only using 1.5 cups of water on the stove but I find that often this can cause the quinoa to burn or be dry when cooking. The extra water allows you to vent the lid, as some of the water will cook off as steam.

If you are cooking quinoa in the instant pot, check out all my tips on how to make quinoa in the instant pot.

More quinoa recipes

Cilantro lime rice in a white skillet with a green handle.

Storing leftovers

  • Fridge: Store in the fridge for 5 days, in a well-sealed container.
  • Freezer: Freeze for up to 3 months. Depending on how you will be using the leftovers, you can freeze the leftover quinoa in ½, 1 or 2 cup servings using Soupercubes. Once frozen, you pop the frozen quinoa from the silicone molds and transfer them to a freezer safe bag. Be sure to label the bag with the name, date and use by date.
  • Reheat on the stove (medium low heat with 1-2 tablespoons of water) and a lid or in the microwave 1-2 minutes. If frozen, allow to defrost in the fridge or on the counter for 30 minutes before reheating.

Substitutions

  • Quinoa – you could make this with cooked rice or cauliflower rice as well!
  • Lime juice – if you are in a pinch you could also use lemon juice or red wine vinegar but that will change the flavor slightly.
  • Cilantro – if you hate cilantro or are out of cilantro, you could use a combination of flat leaf parsley and fresh mint for an equally delicious meal.
Cilantro lime rice in a white bowl with a white napkin around the bowl.

If you love this recipe, you should try

Instant Pot Yellow Rice

Green Cauliflower Rice

Vegan Shawarma

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Instant Pot Mexican Rice and Beans

★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating below!
Cilantro lime quinoa in a white bowl with limes around the bowl.

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

$2.62 Recipe/$0.66 Serving
Cilantro lime quinoa is a quick and easy side dish and pairs perfectly with Mexican inspired meals. This healthy side dish can be made on the stove or in the instant pot in about 20 minutes with just 5 ingredients.
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cilantro lime quinoa, how to make quinoa, lime cilantro quinoa, mexican quinoa
Prep Time: 1 min
Cook Time: 19 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, dry - $1.12
  • 1.5 cups water (2 cups for stovetop) - $0.00
  • 2 medium limes, juiced - $0.66
  • 3/4 tsp salt - $0.04
  • 1 tsp garlic powder - $0.10
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped - $0.70

Instructions

  • Start by rinsing the quinoa well.
  • Add the quinoa and water to the instant pot or the pot. (1.5 cups to instant pot, 2 cup to pot).
  • Set the instant pot to high pressure, cook 1 minute. For the stove, bring the quinoa and water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn down to low, put the lid on (slightly ajar to allow some steam to escape) and cook 15 minutes.
  • Once the instant pot has come to pressure and cooked 1 minute, allow to naturally release pressure 10 minutes then manually release.
  • Chop cilantro while waiting for quinoa to cook.
  • Fluff quinoa with a fork. Add the lime juice, salt, garlic powder and chopped cilantro. Stir well and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Notes

Top tips
  • Be sure to rinse the quinoa well – quinoa is coated in a sour/soapy tasting coating call saponin that needs to be rinsed off. Even if quinoa says it was rinsed, I typically rinse it again just to be sure.
  • Easiest way to cook quinoa is in the instant pot – this way you don’t have to worry about the pot boiling over and it’s ready at the same time.
  • Make the quinoa even more flavorful by using vegetable broth or chicken broth instead of water.
  • Time saving tip: You can cook quinoa in advance and reheat on the stove in a large skillet over medium heat with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Once warm, add the rest of the ingredients. If you plan on making a large batch of quinoa during meal prep, know that 1 cup dry quinoa makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
Storing leftovers
  • Fridge: Store in the fridge for 5 days, in a well-sealed container.
  • Freezer: Freeze for up to 3 months. Depending on how you will be using the leftovers, you can freeze the leftover quinoa in ½, 1 or 2 cup servings using Soupercubes. Once frozen, you pop the frozen quinoa from the silicone molds and transfer them to a freezer safe bag. Be sure to label the bag with the name, date and use by date.
  • Reheat on the stove (medium low heat with 1-2 tablespoons of water) and a lid or in the microwave 1-2 minutes. If frozen, allow to defrost in the fridge or on the counter for 30 minutes before reheating.
See how I calculate food cost.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
164
Fat
 
3
g
Carbohydrates
 
30
g
Fiber
 
4
g
Sugar
 
1
g
Protein
 
6
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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