Chenopod Cooking: Spicy Coconut Kale Quinoa

When it comes to side dishes, I’m a creature of habit. I’m obsessed with dark, leafy greens like kale and chard. I’m also really into quinoa lately. Fun fact, ES friends: did you know quinoa isn’t a grain? It’s a “chenopod” (What is that? Real talk: I’m not sure.) Apparently, it’s more closely related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweed. Maybe tumbleweed will be the next hot food trend! You heard it here first.

Anyway, since I use quinoa so much in my cooking, I need to find ways to keep it interesting. One of my favorite methods is to cook it in coconut milk rather than water or broth, which gives it a slightly creamier texture. To balance out the sweetness of the coconut, I add lots of salt and spices. This is a very adaptable base; you can mix in whatever herbs and vegetables you desire.

Spicy Coconut Kale Quinoa


1c red quinoa, rinsed
1 can lite coconut milk
Red pepper flakes
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Sea salt flakes (or your choice of nice salt)
Kale, washed, de-stemmed, and ripped into salad-sized pieces
Your favorite spicy nuts, coarsely chopped—I used cayenne-roasted almonds

Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Dump in the quinoa and let it boil for a few minutes, then bring it down to a simmer and cover with its lid. Let the quinoa simmer until it has absorbed all the liquid, probably about a half hour. Once the quinoa is fully cooked, fluff it with a fork, toss in the kale, and stir it in the hot quinoa until it’s wilted. Add red pepper flakes, cilantro, and sea salt to taste (I like a lot of all three, so it’s spicy, salty, and slightly sweet from the coconut!) Garnish with nuts.

This is now my favorite thing to serve with any Indian or Asian inspired dish… In this case, I used it as a bed for chicken in garlic curry yogurt sauce, alongside a heap of yet more steamed kale. Screw tumbleweeds, quinoa forever!

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  • Libbie August 15, 2012  

    I’m making this tonight.

  • Libbie August 24, 2012  

    Okay, so I didn’t have enough quinoa when I got home that day, so I made this last night. It was so good — I made it with turmeric, paprika, mint, and basil.

  • Emily August 24, 2012  

    @Libbie Aha! Sounds delicious! I love adding paprika to almost anything. I made a version of this with garlic & yellow curry powder a few nights ago. I think I have a quinoa addiction.

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