This cheesy quinoa is an easy and delicious side dish. Adding shredded cheddar cheese and spices turns tasteless quinoa into a recipe everyone loves. It’s creamy, cheesy and a healthier alternative to potatoes or rice.

Three bowls of cheesy zucchini quinoa on a table.
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Quinoa and I have gone through quite a relationship. When I started this site, it was all the rage as a gluten-free grain everyone was eating, and I jumped into that trend full steam ahead. During that time, I created recipes like this cheddar chicken quinoa bakequinoa cakes, and I even made quinoa granola.

Out of nowhere, however, it turned on me. This tiny little grain started giving me unfathomable stomach pains whenever I ate it, and I had to give it up for years. Weirdly, the same thing happened to my mom around the same time.

I wasn’t too bothered by this, considering quinoa isn’t something you really cry about not eating (we’d be having a different conversation if it was chocolate), but it did make things quite tricky when visiting Peru in 2018, where they put it in literally everything. Trying to avoid quinoa in Peru, where it’s natively grown, is like trying to avoid fries and fast food in the US.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and I decided to start experimenting with it again. At first, it was just eating granola bars with dried quinoa as an ingredient — small doses. Then I tried some grain mixes that included it and ate a tiny portion. I worked my way up from there to where I am now, where I can tolerate it in reasonable amounts.

After much research, it turns out that this is a common thing that happens with quinoa, and it can be exacerbated by not rinsing the grain. I now only buy organic quinoa and rinse and soak it very well before cooking.

This cheesy quinoa recipe was created in 2012 and was one of my favorites back then. It turns an otherwise pretty bland grain into a cheesy concoction that even any kid will happily scarf down. Now that quinoa and I are on civil terms again, it needed an update.

The ingredients for a quinoa side dish are laid out on a white surface.

Ingredients to make cheesy quinoa

  • Uncooked quinoa — Choose organic if you can, and make sure to rinse it well before cooking.
  • Broth — Using either vegetable broth or chicken broth adds much more flavor than cooking the quinoa in water.
  • Spices — Garlic powder, ground mustard (mustard powder), and onion powder help bring flavor to the grain.
  • Zucchini — This is the secret ingredient in this cheesy quinoa dish. Shredded zucchini melts right into the side dish, so you barely know it’s there. It’s a great way to add some extra nutrition. It can be left out, however, if you choose. Frozen zucchini works excellent if you don’t have fresh.
  • Cheddar cheese — I like sharp yellow cheddar for this recipe, but any kind can be used. Shred the cheese yourself rather than buying pre-shredded. Store-bought pre-shredded cheese utilizes starches to keep the shreds from sticking to each other, and they just don’t melt the same.
  • Greek yogurt — This ingredient makes the quinoa super creamy and adds more protein.
  • Salt & pepper — Use these to taste to bring life to the dish.

How to make this cheesy quinoa recipe

The first step is to cook the quinoa. Add the broth and spices to a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the rinsed quinoa to the pot, stir to combine, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

My Pro Tip

Recipe Tip

Quinoa is like rice. The water-to-grain ratio is 2:1, and the cooking method is the same.

Cook the quinoa until the broth is fully absorbed; this will likely take about 15 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.

Once the quinoa is fully cooked, remove the lid and add the shredded zucchini, grated cheddar and yogurt. Mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

My Pro Tip

Recipe Tip

Stove-top is the fastest, but quinoa can also be cooked in an Instant Pot or rice cooker. 

A bowl of cheesy quinoa with parsley.

Why everyone will love this recipe

Adults will love cheesy quinoa for its taste and nutrition. Kids will love it for the cheese. I get that quinoa is typically not something kid palates gravitate towards, but with enough cheese, anything is possible. 

With just a handful of ingredients and all standard pantry items, this recipe is a keeper for quick and healthy meals.

Quinoa mac and cheese is another popular way of turning the grain into something decadent, comforting, and very unlike its natural bland state, but I think this cheesy quinoa side dish is even easier.

How to serve this dish

It’s hard to find a meal that wouldn’t pair well with this cheesy quinoa. I treat it just like I would a side of potatoes, rice or pasta.

Try it with porkchicken or beef as a side dish. 

Alternatively, you could add some chopped tomatoes, black beans, salsa, avocado and cilantro to make it a meatless meal with a Mexican vibe. Try adding cumin to the spice mix if you go that route.

A bowl of a cheesy quinoa recipe garnished with shredded zucchini and cheddar.

Storage and tips

To store any leftovers, transfer the quinoa to an air-tight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. It can also be frozen for up to a few months.

If you want to play around with this recipe, add different vegetables to the cheesy quinoa, like small broccoli florets, baby spinach, kale or sliced bell peppers. You can also change up the seasonings to suit your taste.

More quinoa recipes to try

Quinoa pancakes — These are fluffy and incredibly delicious with the addition of bright lemon.

Warm quinoa cereal — This breakfast bowl is pure comfort food and one of my favorite ways to enjoy breakfast in the colder months. The recipe also gives options for using other grains.

Quinoa crumble — Turn quinoa into dessert with this peach and cherry crumble that uses toasted quinoa in the topping. It’s crunchy and quite the summer treat!

A bowl of cheesy quinoa and zucchini with a spoon.
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4.75 from 20 votes

Cheesy Quinoa

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
A bowl of cheesy quinoa topped with shredded cheddar cheese and zucchini.
Packed with cheddar, spices, and hidden zucchini, this cheesy quinoa side dish is the perfect comforting healthy twist to your dinner.


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, loosely packed
  • 1 cup grated yellow cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Combine the rinsed quinoa in a sauce pot with the broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a low simmer until the liquid is fully absorbed by the quinoa.
  • When fully cooked, remove the lid, add the shredded zucchini, cheddar cheese and yogurt and stir until well combined.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 353kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 20gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 460mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American
Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I am never eating cheesy rice again … quinoa is superior! I did add some red pepper flakes for a spicy note. We served ours with grilled chicken and BBQ sauce. Cannot wait to make these again.

  2. 5 stars
    Loved how quick and easy this was to make. I loved the combination of flavors! My kids enjoyed it too, which is a big win!

  3. 5 stars
    This is so yummy and satisfying! I loved the zucchini in there, a little extra plant power! Such a versatile side dish, will be making again and again

  4. 5 stars
    Quinoa just got a lot more interesting thanks to this recipe! Super creamy with the Greek yogurt, and the shredded zucchini melted into the dish, which is actually a great trick because my kids are not big fans of zucchini. So that’s a win for me.