Basil Pesto Quinoa with walnuts

Fun Fact: Quinoa is considered to be one of the few  plant-based complete proteins.

What is a complete protein you ask? A complete protein is a source of protein that contains all of the 9 essential amino acids required by our diet. Complete proteins are most abundant in animal proteins like meats, poultry, eggs, etc., and are less abundant in plant-based sources, which is what makes quinoa so special. 

While many plant-based foods certainly DO contain protein, more often than not plant-based proteins will lack 1 or more of the essential amino acids required by our diet. For this reason, vegetarians or vegans may strategically pair complementary foods together in order to create a complete protein. For example, beans or rice on their own are considered to be incomplete protein sources because each of them lacks 1 different essential amino acid; but if you pair them together, you are create a complete protein food.

Keep in mind, pairing complementary foods to create complete proteins every day may not be necessary as a vegetarian — as long as you are consuming a variety of protein sources of food throughout the day which contain the 9 essential amino acids, you will be getting what you need. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to include this super-grain in your diet to ensure that you are getting all of the pieces to the puzzle in one delicious meal! I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. 

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  • 1 cup of fresh basil pesto (<– click the link for directions if you are making it from scratch) 
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa, chilled
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (seeds removed) 
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • Iodized salt, to taste


  1. Prepare the quinoa according to the directions on the package. After the quinoa is ready, transfer it into a separate container, and let it chill for 4-6 hours. 
    *Hint – The quinoa will chill faster if you spread it out into a thin layer on a baking sheet, or a dinner plate. The thinner the layer, the better for quick chilling. 

  2. While waiting for the quinoa to chill, you can get the rest of your ingredients ready. It won’t take very much time to chop your veggies, or to prepare the basil pesto (even if you are making it from scratch).  -I prepared all of my ingredients ahead of time, and refrigerated them in small containers while I waited for the quinoa to finish chilling.

  3. Once the quinoa is ready, the rest of the recipe goes very quickly. Transfer the chilled quinoa into a large bowl. Stir in the basil pesto completely before adding the other ingredients. Once the pesto has been thoroughly mixed, stir in the onions and tomatoes.

  4. Garnish the dish by sprinkling chopped walnuts over the top of the bowl, and serve. 


Nutrition Facts per 2/3 cup serving 

(Recipe yields about 9 servings)