Cuban Fried Quinoa with Black Beans and Smoky Tempeh

Cuban Fried Quinoa

Cuban Fried Quinoa with Black Beans & Smoky TempehPhotos 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!

Cuban Fried Quinoa
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.

This post was originally published on July 23, 2014.

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Cuban Fried Quinoa with Black Beans and Smoky Tempeh

Prep Time

40 minutes

Cook Time

30 minutes

Total Time

1 hour 10 minutes


4 servings


For the Smoky Tempeh

  • 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

For the Fried Quinoa

  • 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


Prepare the tempeh:

  1. Whisk the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and liquid smoke together in a small bowl.
  2. 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.

Prepare the quinoa:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Make your Cuban Fried Quinoa:

  1. Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh cubes; reserve excess marinade.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Add beans and cooked tempeh to skillet and cook for another minute to incorporate, tossing frequently.
  7. 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.


I’ve found that people seem to love tempeh or hate it. It’s got more texture than tofu and a distinct flavor. I loved it the first time I tried it. You should definitely give it a try, and then at least you’ll know 🙂

Made this for dinner tonight. I found the Liquid Smoke at Whole Foods and you could definitely taste it. The whole thing was delicious!

I made this and was blown away. It is so good! I forgot to get bell peppers and left out jalapenos because my partner can’t handle spice. I mistakenly got pineapple chunks instead of slices, so I stirred them in when I took everything off the heat and it incorporated nicely.

That’s awesome! I’m so glad it worked out for you, even without the peppers – my boyfriend isn’t into spicy food so I have to leave the hot peppers out of lots of my dishes as well. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

Quinoa and I didn’t become best buddies until college and now we’re basically inseparable! I love the idea of subbing it in for rice wherever possible…and these smoky delicious cuban rice, beans, and tempeh sound hellagood.

That seems to be the way it goes for lots of people…quinoa can be a little scary at first, until you try it and realize how awesome it is. After that it’s you and quinoa, together forever <3

I can’t wait to make this. I love tempeh but only use it in ruben sandwiches. I read some where that if you boil tempeh in water for 10-15 minutes it takes some of the bitterness away that might turn some people off.

Thank you! I’ve heard boiling takes away some of the bitterness – I’ve never tried it, but I have tried steaming it for a few minutes and that works as well. Hope you enjoy this! 🙂

Great recipe! I made this tonight with some “fakin bacon” variety of smoky flavor packaged tempeh and it allowed me to skip the marinade step. It turned out really well and I only wish I had doubled the recipe as we don’t have much in the way of leftovers!

This was crazy good. Unbelievable! The fried pineapple just makes it. Be sure to make enough of the marinade to add to the fried quinoa. Will make this over and over again.

It should! I’ve made tofu with a similar marinade and it works great, especially if you bake it. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

So happy to of found this delicious recipe. I made it as is except I used less oil and fried up some plantains too. Thanks!

Thank you! I think so, but you might actually be better off baking the tofu if you do that. After marinating it just put it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop it in the oven at around 400° for 30-40 minutes, flipping it halfway through.

Made this tonight. Great recipe, and the pineapple is what takes it over the top. I refuse to wrestle with a fresh pineapple, so I used frozen chunks. I thawed them and just cooked them as instructed in recipe and they turned out great. I used a whole bag and the ratio of pineapple to quinoa/beans seems to be right. Definitely will make again!

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