Lemon-Herb Quinoa

  • By Jackie Sun
  • July 19, 2015

Lemon-Herb Quinoa | Side Dish #recipe via @CookSmarts

Side dishes should never be overlooked. True, it’s hard to remember they are there when you have a piece of juicy roasted chicken or some flavorful curried tofu and veggies in front of you. But if those trusty sides weren’t there, you’ll probably really miss them.

While eating roast chicken or curried tofu on its own is tasty, they aren’t the same without some tender roasted potatoes, a crisp salad, or even a simple bowl of plain, steamed rice served alongside.

We know how it is, though. Side dishes mean you have to wash more dishes; you need to time it correctly, so that it comes out hot with the main dish. . .

But then again, you could just cook some plain rice, quinoa, or couscous. It only requires a saucepan or a rice cooker. . .

But it’s so boring!

Lemon-Herb Quinoa | Side Dish #recipe via @CookSmarts

Luckily, we have good news for you. We know how to fix all your side dish worries with our recipe this week. We’re going to keep the dishes to a minimum. It’s going to be quick and easy to make. And best of all, it’s packed with flavor.

We take basic quinoa and then take it up quite a few notches by applying a couple of simple, but very important, flavoring techniques: 1) Add fresh herbs. 2) Add citrus.

That’s it. It’s hard to believe that something simple and fresh is all you need to turn blah food into wow food, but you’ll be amazed at what a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs and a squeeze of citrus juice could do.

That’s why this simple, but flavorful Lemon-Herb Quinoa side dish is so delicious. Plain quinoa gets dressed up with fresh parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice, which take the dish to a whole ‘nother level.

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa and Lemon-Herb Quinoa | #mealplan via @CookSmarts

Fresh herbs on their own hold a lot of flavor that you can’t get from anything else, and different herbs have different tastes. [Learn more about fresh herbs with our Guide to Flavoring with Fresh Herbs.]

Citrus, similarly, punches up the flavor with a bright, fresh acidity that salt doesn’t have. Of course, add salt to taste as well, but a squeeze of lemon juice can really brighten up a dish and take it one step further.

Give it a test! Try a bite without any herbs or citrus juice first, then try a bite with. You’ll notice a huge difference in flavor.

Lastly – this is very optional, but as cheese lovers, it’s kind of a must in our book – add cheese! Yes, we love cheese, and we think cheese makes everything wonderful. This quinoa dish is no exception. Add some creamy, tangy goat cheese, and you’ve got a flavorful side dish that not only will complement any of your amazing main dishes, but also – maybe – just might steal the show.

For More Smarts:

Make Once, Eat Twice: Instead of cooking only one meal’s worth of quinoa, cook double the amount for no added effort and time. You can use the extra quinoa to make a completely different meal for the week, like in this Veggie & Quinoa Saute or use it bulk up a salad like this Mediterranean Baby Spinach Salad.

Prepping Smarts:

Herbs are such an important part of this dish, you won’t want to skip them! Brush up on your herb prep knowledge with our videos on how to chop and store herbs here:


How to Chop Cilantro or Parsley

Learn how to chop parsley using the 'pivot-and-fan' chopping technique with this short video.


How to Store Herbs

Learn how to store herbs so that they'll stay fresher longer and last you for many recipes.

Equipment Smarts:

This side dish doesn’t take up much room on the stove. All you need is a handy and inexpensive saucepan, and you’ll have a quick and tasty side in no time.

For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’


1 4

Lemon-Herb Quinoa

Liven up a simple side dish with fresh herbs, lemon juice, and goat cheese, which add flavor and a refreshing lightness to basic quinoa.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 15 min

Total time: 25 min

Serves: 4


  • Lemon juice - 2 Tbsp
  • Parsley - 1/4 cup, chopped
  • Cilantro - 1/4 cup, chopped
  • Goat cheese - 5 oz, crumbled
  • Quinoa, dry - 3/4 cup
  • Chicken stock (or water) - 1 1/2 cups
  • Olive oil - 1 Tbsp



  1. Lemons / Parsley / Cilantro / Goat Cheese – Prep as directed.


  1. Quinoa – Run quinoa in a strainer under cool water for ~2 minutes. Heat in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Add water or stock. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Cook until liquid is absorbed, ~15 minutes. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
  2. Toss quinoa with lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, goat cheese and olive oil. Season with some salt and pepper.
  3. Enjoy alongside your favorite entree

Get our Meal Plans

The convenience of meal kits without the waste


Try our award winning meal plan service for free

Share the love!

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How can we help you in the kitchen?

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.

Skip to content