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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?
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
- 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.