Cilantro Lime Quinoa

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Cilantro Lime Quinoa is a healthier version of your favorite Chipotle rice made with protein packed quinoa and full of flavor.


Easy quinoa with the flavors or cilantro and lime is my new favorite thing to make as a Mexican side dish or as the base for burrito bowls. The lime and cilantro add so much flavor to the quinoa and will have you going back for more. Serve it with some Baked Chicken Fajitas or Grilled Chicken Tacos.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, Chipotle was the new kid on the block and my old roommate and I were more than happy to make it a regular part of our routine. We would venture over after a particularly long school day, split a burrito and a bag of chips with their infamous guacamole, and sometimes have a beer depending on how hard the day had been.

Being broke first year teachers, it felt like such an escape to sit outside and decompress from the day. Plus since it totaled up to around $10, it fits perfectly into our budgets.

Fast forward ten years and I still have the same fondness and love for Chipotle. As someone who isn't the biggest fan of fast food, I am constantly surprised by how much I still love Chipotle.

One of my favorite things there (outside of the salty limey chips and guac) is their cilantro lime rice. I just love the brightness and zing that the lime and cilantro add to what would normally be boring white or brown rice.

For a long time, I have been making my own versions at home using white rice, brown rice, and cauliflower rice and recently I started making it with quinoa as well and I love it. The extra protein will keep you full longer and the nutty taste and texture pair perfectly with the cilantro and lime.

I usually serve this as a side dish and then save the extra for lunchtime meal prep. It is the perfect base for a lunchtime bowl. Just pile on any leftover protein you have around, throw in some fresh veggies, and lunch is ready to go.

Tips for Making Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • Make sure to rinse your quinoa before cooking it. There is a coating on the outside of quinoa called saponin that can sometimes make the quinoa taste bitter or soapy. It can also cause the quinoa to more firm when it is finished cooking.
  • Make sure to use fresh lime juice when making this recipe. Sometimes it may seem easier to reach for bottled lime juice since it's easy to keep a bottle in the fridge but it will change the flavor. The lime zest also brings a lot of flavor so that's something you don't want to skip.
  • If you don't like cilantro, you could definitely use parsley instead. And if you want to venture outside of the box, switch the lime juice for lemon juice and add fresh basil.

Quinoa with lime and cilantro in a bowl with a wooden spoon and fresh lime juice and cilantro.

Recipes Ideas for Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • Add in some canned black beans for added protein and fiber.
  • Toss in some grilled corn and queso fresco to make a Mexican Street Corn style salad.
  • Make this a meal by adding some cooked chicken, veggies, and creamy cilantro sauce.
  • Make things spicy by adding some chopped jalapenos. Pickled jalapenos are a good option for this and add a nice bite to the quinoa.
  • Consider freezing the leftovers for an easy side for future meals. Just let the quinoa cool completely before freezing.
  • To sneak in some veggies, replace half the quinoa with cauliflower rice. 
  • Switch up the flavor profile by using different herbs and citrus. Try lemon juice and fresh basil, orange juice and parsley, or lemon juice and fresh dill.
  • Use this cilantro lime quinoa in these Thai Bowls.

Main Dishes to serve with Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • Slow Cooker Beef Machaca is delicious on a bed of this quinoa. The lime flavor pairs perfectly with the spicy flavors in the beef.
  • Stove-top Shredded Chicken Taco Filling can be used for tacos with this quinoa on the side or you can make taco bowls with this quinoa as the base. Add pick de gallo, chopped avocado, and cheese.
  • Cilantro Jalapeno Chicken Drumsticks make a great summer meal and this quinoa is the perfect pairing on the side.
  • Honey Lime Tilapia is a quick 15-minute meal that kids love. Use this as a healthy side dish and put some of the extra honey lime sauce on the quinoa as well.
  • One Pan Shrimp Fajitas are the easiest meal for busy weeknights and this makes the perfect side dish.

Here are some tools I used to help prepare this dish:

  • Having a hand zester is a huge help in the kitchen for faster prep. In this recipe, I use mine for the lime zest and to quickly grate the garlic since it is faster than taking the time to mince it.
  • I can't live without my citrus juicer since we put lemon and lime on almost everything. I use this handheld version and it's the first one that has held up for years after constant use.
The Recipe
Cilantro lime quinoa in a bowl with cilantro leaves, lime zest, garlic, and onion.

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

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  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water (or broth)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 1/3 cup cilantro

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Add the quinoa, water, garlic, and lime zest to a pot. Bring to a boil and stir. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes and turn off the heat. Let sit covered for 5 minutes.


Open and fluff and a fork. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 164
Calories from Fat 24
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 8mg
Total Carbohydrate 30g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 0g
Protein 6g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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On Cilantro Lime Quinoa
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Dana Roy
February 20, 2022 - 14:02
Did you use fresh or dried cilantro. I wanna try this but only have dry and can't always get fresh. What would the fresh vs dried ratio be?
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February 22, 2022 - 12:06
I always use fresh but dried will work as well. Just add it to the water at the beginning so the flavor can the whole dish. I would start with 1-2 teaspoons depending on how much cilantro flavor you want. You can always add more.
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