Photos by Lindsey Johnson
Not so many years ago, quinoa was a mystery to me. A box a hippie friend of my parents gave me when I was 13 (in the hopes I would maintain a balanced diet) sat in the pantry for a few years before I tossed it. So, it’s completely nutty and a bit romantic to think about how inseparable quinoa and I are now.
When I say inseparable, I mean I put it in everything! Looking for food inspiration? Pick out an old recipe and find a way to sub quinoa for something. Burgers? Yup. Salads? Of course. Dare I say, baked goods? Quinoa will make them better!
Subbing quinoa for rice is sort of a no-brainer. You can usually get away with making a direct swap, and the result is a new, improved and more nutritious dish. This, however, was my first time making the quinoa switch in fried rice. Until now, I’ve sat by and watched dubiously as other bloggers made claims that quinoa is capable of obtaining the savory flavor and crisp texture of my old Chinese-buffet favorite. Turns out, they weren’t lying. Fried quinoa is amazing.
This version of fried quinoa “rice” has another twist: While you may be familiar with Cuban rice and beans, fried Cuban rice and beans are another story. This recipe, an adaptation of a Cuban Fried Rice recipe from Better Homes & Gardens, is more of a fusion-type dish involving Cuban flavors and Chinese technique, hence the beans and pineapple. You’ll typically find pork in Cuban fried rice, hence the smoky tempeh, which perfects the flavor and texture of this dish. Think fried rice, only better.
Smoky tempeh takes the place of pork, and quinoa replaces the rice in this adaptation of Better Homes and Gardens' Cuban Fried Rice.
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (8-ounce) package of tempeh, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium pineapple, cored, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 green onions, sliced
- Whisk the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and liquid smoke together in a small bowl.
- Add the tempeh cubes and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your quinoa. Stir the cubes once or twice during marinating to keep them well-coated.
- Rinse the quinoa well under cold running water, then transfer it to a small saucepan with vegetable broth over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer until the broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the quinoa to sit for another 5 minutes, covered.
- Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh cubes; reserve excess marinade.
- Cook the tempeh, flipping occasionally, until lightly browned and crispy on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the tempeh from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Return the skillet to the stovetop.
- Arrange the pineapple slices in the skillet and cook until tender and browned, about three minutes on each side. (You may have to cook them in batches depending on the size of your skillet.) Remove from the skillet and transfer to a plate, then return the skillet to the stovetop.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, along with the onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeño. Sauté until the onion and pepper just begin to soften a bit, about 3 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and add the quinoa and reserved marinade to skillet. Cook the quinoa, tossing frequently with a spatula, until it becomes slightly translucent and begins to crisp up, 3-5 minutes.
- Add beans and cooked tempeh to skillet and cook for another minute to incorporate, tossing frequently.
- Divide pineapple slices among plates and spoon quinoa mixture over pineapple slices. Top with green onions.
As is the case with fried rice, this works great with leftover quinoa. You'll need about 3 cups.