If you’re a fan of buttery caramelized onions, you will adore this healthy Caramelized Onion Quinoa! Only 7 ingredients, and a really simple vegetarian and gluten free side dish or lunch recipe.
Raise your hand if you love caramelized onions (all hands raised..). ME TOO. This caramelized onion quinoa is one of my favorite ways to utilize them because it’s so simple, yet so flavorful at the same time.
If you’re thinking this recipe sounds right up your alley, you must also try my very popular caramelized onion spaghetti squash, which is a similar recipe that’s vegetarian and low carb, too.
One thing I adore about quinoa is its versatility. It can be used as breading for salmon like in my quinoa-crusted salmon recipe, or eaten for breakfast kind of like oatmeal. Or, it can be used as a base in a make-your-own bowl kind of recipe, or enjoyed as a side next to your favorite main dish.
Plus, quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving, making this recipe a meal all on its own!
- An easy 30-minute meal or side dish that’s vegetarian and gluten free
- Ideal for caramelized onion lovers!
- A unique way to utilize quinoa, plus the entire recipe is only 7 ingredients
Onion: I recommend using yellow onions or Spanish onions, as they tend to be naturally sweeter and will caramelize a bit better without having to add any sugar.
Butter + olive oil: Butter is a must for caramelized onion recipes! It’s what gives them their flavor. However, I prefer using a combination of butter + olive oil because I think the oil allows the onions to cook a little more quickly.
Spinach: Or sub your favorite kind of greens (kale would be delicious!).
Garlic: No substitution -- garlic adds even more flavor to this already flavorful recipe.
Cheese: I used shaved parmesan, but gouda or even fresh mozzarella would work too.
Step 1: Cook the quinoa. Start by cooking the quinoa in a saucepan as you normally would.
Step 2: Caramelize the onions. While the quinoa is cooking, caramelize the onions. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onions, drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil overtop, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the onions for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and add the additional 1 tablespoon of oil as needed.
Step 3: Add the spinach and garlic. Once the onions are caramelized, add the spinach and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the garlic is fragrant.
Step 4: Combine everything. Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet, along with the cheese, and give everything a good stir.
Tips and tricks
- Try to slice the onions as thin and similar in size as possible so they cook evenly.
- Cooking the onions on low heat will ensure they don’t brown too quickly. But, if they do seem to be browning, add more oil and turn the heat down as low as it can go.
- Need more tips on caramelizing onions? Simply Recipes wrote a detailed post on how to caramelize onions.
- Want to bulk this up? Try adding mushrooms, prosciutto or even cooked diced sweet potatoes to it.
Can this be made vegan?
Yes! Simply use vegan butter, and then use your favorite kind of vegan cheese.
What should I serve this with?
This quinoa would pair really well with my air fryer lamb chops, baked Mediterranean cod or my cream of mushroom pork chops.
How should this be stored?
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or, wait for it to cool completely, then transfer it to a freeze-safe bag for up to 2 months. To thaw, place the bag in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a skillet or the microwave.
More easy quinoa recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
Caramelized Onion Quinoa
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 yellow onions sliced
- 2 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1 ½ cups spinach packed
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated or shredded
- Combine the quinoa and water in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, place a lid on top, and cook the quinoa until it's soft.
- Meanwhile, caramelize the onions. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onions and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Reduce heat to low and cook until soft, 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onions seem to be browning, add 1 more tablespoon olive oil.
- Once the onions are soft and caramelized, add the spinach and garlic to the skillet and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted and garlic is fragrant.
- Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet, along with the cheese, and stir to combine. Enjoy!
NOTE: This post was originally published in January 2016. It was updated with new text and photos in September 2021.
It was delicious! I waited to add the spinach til the end so it was just wilted. But that's just me preferring spinach that way. Went great with some steamed shrimp.
This was amazing!! A keeper for sure! Thank you!!
Woohoo--so glad you liked it!
Can I do this without butter? I'm looking for low cholesterol dishes.
Yes--you can just use 4 tbsp olive oil instead of 2 olive oil and 2 butter.
This recipe is amazing!! So easy, but packed with tons of flavor! The only addition that I made to the recipe was topping the quinoa with grilled shrimp
That sounds delicious!! Thanks for the feedback 🙂
Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits says
YUM! I love the caramelized onions in this quinoa bowl! That entire bowl's for me, right?
Meg @ With Salt and Wit says
For once we didn't get hit by the blizzard! Thank goodness. After about 2 days of the cold weather, I am over it. Ha!
And caramelized onion and parmesan with quinoa? Ao dreamy!
Dinner with family this weekend and I know they all will love this! Thanks for sharing!
Rebecca @ NOURISHED. the blog says
Look at those caramelized onions! This is definitely my kind of quinoa!
We definitely pack our lunches ahead of time here. Mornings when lunch isn't already packed are just chaos and I instantly regret not doing it the night before.
Kelly @ Kelly Runs For Food says
Oooh yum! I love caramelized onions too. I'm also terrible about doing food prep on the weekends, so simple is my fave!
We got about 6 inches of snow in Williamsburg and I am hating every single inch lol. It needs to melt!
So did I! I just kept thinking how ready for summer I am haha
Shashi at RunninSrilankan says
I've had a long time love affair with caramelized onions but whyowhy have I never combined 'em with parmesan+quinoa??? Guess I needed you to show me! Erin this is plain wonderful!
We just got a dusting - but most offices closed between 12 and 2 here in Atlanta and then grocery stores looked like department stores do on Black Friday!
I've heard that about Atlanta! 2 inches is a lot of snow for you guys, which kind of makes me jealous.
Margaret @ Simple Fit Foodie says
This looks so great! Caramelized onions make everything better. Plus Parmesan.... YUM!
They really do!
Sam @ PancakeWarriors says
You know the way to my heart!! Caramelized onions - I could eat the whole pan!! love this awesome easy recipe!! Excuse me while I go make some onions at 10:30 am 🙂
I'm so glad you're as much of a caramelized onion fan as I am!
Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen says
We got SO MUCH SNOW. So my husband was gone for the weekend... and I had to start clearing out a path for him to pull into the driveway. But the snow plow came through and basically blocked the entrance, making the pile taller than me.Tthankfully our neighbors helped clear out enough for him to pull in, but there is literally no where to put the snow. I could barely back out of our driveway without hitting another snow pile, and I drive a little Kia soul! Crazy.
But this recipe looks delicious. You make caramelized onions look SO good.
Ahhh that's crazy! Pittsburgh wasn't nearly as bad BUT the snow plows did push the snow to the side and I couldn't get my car out (since I park on the street). FUN.
She Rocks Fitness says
Totally got hit by the snow storm and it was a blast...Thankfully we did not loose power...So it was a good day! The wind was howling and the island looked like a winter wonderland. YUMMY quinoa...This recipe looks great! Thanks for sharing! XOXO
Haha! Glad you enjoyed the snow 😀
i need a bucket of this. It;s calling my name. And i can have parmesan! YAY!
Yay!! I shall mail you a bucket right now.
rachel @ athletic avocado says
Caramelized onions are totally my jam too. I can eat them straight from the skillet no problem. I can already taste all of the cheesy and oniony goodness in this quinoa, thank you for sharing!
Same here! They make the whole house smell good.
Alysia at Slim Sanity says
Definitely no snow here! It's actually the warmest it's been in a month. I almost always prep lunches, usually a mix of a bunch of veggies, a carb and protein. 🙂
That's my kind of lunch! Jealous of your no snow, too!