Healthy, filling and so easy to make, this Mexican Quinoa is a delicious one-pot meal. Quinoa, beans, corn, and crunchy peppers are cooked with Mexican spices in just 30-minutes in the Instant Pot.
This vegan and gluten-free dish is perfect for school lunches, picnics and potlucks too.
This Mexican Quinoa bowl is one of my go-to recipes for mid-week lunches and potlucks.
It takes me roughly 30 minutes to make this delicious quinoa burrito bowl in the Instant Pot, out of which 20 minutes is hands-off cooking time!
This one-pan Mexican Quinoa is loaded with flavors and nutrients. It's a high-protein, vegan, and gluten-free dish that's perfect as-is, and makes for a wonderful side dish to Veggie Fajitas or Salsa Chicken.
It's also a great recipe for picnics and potlucks. Here's why:
- It stays good at room temperature, so no need to worry about refrigeration on warm days.
- Easy to carry, no drips or mess, which makes this SO easy to transport. I transfer it to a large salad bowl and cover that with a lid. Done!
- Easy to customize for everyone with a variety of toppings, like, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, chopped jalapenos, onions, etc.
Ingredients - Notes & Substitutions
This Mexican style Quinoa comes together with a handful of easily available staples. Here's what you need:
Quinoa: I use white quinoa, but the other varieties work equally well. Be sure to rinse the quinoa 2-3 times with cold water to get rid of the bitter saponin coating.
Beans: Black beans are my favorite pick for this recipe, but you can also use pinto beans or kidney beans. Use one 15oz can, rinsed and drained, or ¾ cup of dried black beans cooked from scratch.
Vegetables: I use chopped red bell peppers, but feel free to use green or other colored peppers instead. I use frozen corn, but freshly shucked corn will work as well. As for onions, use any variety you like - white, onion, or red.
Salsa: This is what gives the quinoa recipe an addictive flavor. Use your favorite brand of store-bought salsa. If your salsa is thick, add an extra ¼- ½ cup of water for cooking.
Seasoning: Chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, and paprika is what seasons this dish. Salt brings everything together, and a touch of cayenne adds a subtle heat, feel free to reduce or skip if you like.
To substitute taco seasoning in this recipe, replace all the spices with 2 tablespoons of your favorite taco seasoning brand.
For Finishing: Freshly squeezed lime juice and chopped cilantro are the perfect way to finish this quinoa recipe.
For Toppings: Although optional, adding a few of your favorite toppings can elevate your burrito bowl meal. Toppings include salsa, pico de Gallo, sour cream, or sliced avocado.
Scroll to the recipe card for a detailed list of ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Mexican Quinoa
Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to make this easy-peasy Mexican quinoa in the Instant Pot, or any comparable electric pressure cooker:
Step 1: Finely Chop onions and peppers. Rinse quinoa 2-3 times to get rid of the bitter coating. Drain well and keep aside.
Step 2: Saute Onions, garlic, chopped jalapeno, and chopped peppers for 1 minute. Add spices including salt, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne, and saute for another 30 seconds.
Important Step: Deglaze the pot with ¼ cup of water after sauteing and scrape off any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom.
Step 3: Add drained quinoa, rinsed and drained black beans, frozen (or fresh) cor,n and salsa to the pot.
Prevent burn error: If your cooker is notorious for giving the burn message, add all ingredients except salsa, stir well, then add salsa on top, but don't stir it.
Step 4: Add a cup of water and stir well. Close the lid, and set the vent to 'sealing' position. Pressure cook at high pressure for 2 mins.
Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, after which release the remaining pressure manually (QR).
Step 5: After the pin drops, open the lid and fluff the quinoa using a fork. Squeeze in fresh lime juice and cilantro and serve warm with your favorite toppings.
This Mexican quinoa is flavorful as-is, but toppings are what makes this a fun recipe, especially for my kids.
We all customize our quinoa burrito bowls by choosing from a variety of toppings like sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped avocado, etc. Here are some of our favorite choices:
- Guacamole (kids' #1 topping)
- Homemade Salsa
- Pico De Gallo
- Pickled sliced jalapeno (hubby's favorite)
- Chopped onion and cilantro
Make-Ahead for Parties
You can easily multiply this recipe and make it 2-3 days in advance and refrigerate until ready to use. On the day of the party, serve it as:
- Mexican Quinoa Casserole: Spread in an oven-safe serving dish. Top with shredded cheese and heat in the oven until the cheese melts. To serve, top with avocado chunks and pico de gallo.
- Mexican Quinoa Salad: Add prepared Mexican quinoa to a large salad bowl. Mix in diced avocado, cucumber, onions, and halved cherry tomato. Squeeze lime juice and toss with chopped cilantro.
- Switch the beans: I use canned black beans in this recipe. These can be substituted with pinto, kidney, or white beans as well.
- Using dry beans: If using dry beans for this recipe, cook them separately. You would need about ¾ cup dried beans for this recipe.
- Seasoning: To substitute taco seasoning in this recipe, replace all the spices with 2 tablespoons of your favorite taco seasoning brand. You may need to adjust the salt based on your seasoning contents.
- Salsa: For best results, I recommend adding salsa to this recipe. But if you're adding crushed tomatoes, add an additional 1-2 teaspoons of chili powder (or taco seasoning) to enhance the flavor.
- Packing tip: This recipe works great for school lunches, potlucks, and picnics. For potlucks, I keep the toppings in separate containers, to be added to individual bowls just before serving.
- Make-ahead: This recipe can be made a day or two in advance and stays good in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Prevent burn error: For extra insurance against the burn message, deglaze the pot with ¼ cup of water after sauteing the spices and onions. Add all ingredients except salsa, stir, then add salsa on top, but don't stir it. Pressure cook and enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Quinoa is the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant. This nutrient-rich food is neither a grain nor a bean.
Cooked quinoa can be cooked with warm spices to make it taste good. Some examples are this Mexican Quinoa and this Indian-spiced Quinoa Biryani.
One serving of this Mexican Quinoa contains about 370 calories.
More Mexican Inspired Recipe For You
These recipes are part of the Mexican & Tex-Mex Recipes Collection:
You might also like: 13 Quick and Easy Cinco De Mayo Recipes
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoon garlic crushed, about 2 cloves
- 1 cup onion chopped, 1 medium onion
- 1 cup bell peppers chopped, red/yellow/orange/rainbow
- 1 jalapeno de-veined, de-seeded, chopped
- 1 can black beans rinsed and drained, 14.5 oz can
- 1 cup frozen corn , or fresh
- 1 cup salsa , or crushed tomatoes (see notes for details)
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed in a sieve
- 1 cup water
- ¾-1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika regular or ½ teaspoon smoked
- ½ teaspoon cayenne adjust to taste, or skip
- Pico de Gallo, sour cream, chopped avocado, onions or cheese.
- Finely Chop onions and peppers. Rinse quinoa for 10–15 seconds under running water, drain well and keep aside.
- Saute Onions, garlic, chopped jalapeno and chopped peppers for 1 minute. Add spices including salt, cumin, chili powder, paprika and cayenne, and saute for another 30 seconds. This brings out the flavors of the spices.
- Add drained quinoa, rinsed and drained black beans, frozen (or fresh) corn and salsa to the pot.
- Add a cup of water and stir well. Close the lid, and set the vent to ‘sealing’ position. Pressure cook at high pressure for 2 mins. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, after which release remaining pressure manually (QR)
- After the pin drops, open the lid and fluff the quinoa using a fork. Squeeze in fresh lime juice and cilantro and serve warm with your favorite toppings.
- I use canned black beans in this recipe. These can be substituted with pinto, kidney, or white beans as well.
- If using dry beans for this recipe, cook them separately. You would need about ¾ cup dried beans for this recipe.
- To substitute taco seasoning in this recipe, replace all the spices with 2 tbsps of your favorite taco seasoning brand. You may need to adjust the salt based on your seasoning contents.
- For best results, I recommend adding salsa to this recipe. But if you're adding crushed tomatoes, add an additional 1-2 teaspoons of chili powder (or taco seasoning) to enhance the flavor.
- This recipe works great for school lunches, potlucks, and picnics. For potlucks, I keep the toppings in separate containers, to be added to individual bowls just before serving.
- This recipe can be made a day or two in advance and stays good in the fridge for 3-4 days.
This recipe has been updated with new photos and tips to prevent the burn message.
Hello! Do you have to adjust the amount of pressure cooling time on the Instant Pot if you multiply the recipe? I plan to make 3x the amount.
Hi Dee, the same cooking time should work, but just for extra insurance, I'd say add another 2 minutes. Hope you enjoy it!
Got the BURN notice 3 times even tho I added 2 cups of water and 1 can of crushed tomatoes…trying to save the dish by cooking it on stove top 🙁 so disappointed ..wanted to make a quick lunch and it’s turning out to be quite a chore
Hi Divya, I'm sorry to hear that. Next time, you can do the following to prevent that. Deglaze the pot with 1/4 cup of water after sauteing the spices and onions. Add all other ingredients, stir, then add salsa on top, don't stir it. This should resolve the issue.
The Quinoa did not fully cook. Tried to rescue the dish but I failed miserably. Had to order take out.
Hi Daniel, sometimes if the quinoa is really old, it takes longer to cook. Have you cooked that batch of quinoa in other recipes yet? The reason I ask is that this recipe has been successfully tried by many readers.
Made this recipe last week. Delicious!
I skipped the cayenne because of the kids.
I did use the 1 tbsp chili.
It wasn't too spicy, it was fine for them.
Unfortunately 1 daughter did not like the recipe.
The other half of the twins and I loved it!
As a topping we used vegan grated cheese and your recipe "Easy guacamole".
Thank you Aneesha!
💋Love from The Netherlands,
Savitri & the twins👩👧👧
Hi Savitri, perfect! So glad you and the twins enjoyed it! Thank you!
Looks delish! Is it spicy? I see that that is chilli powder. I am planning to iss mild salsa.
Thank you Sara. I wouldn't call it spicy, but you can skip the cayenne to make it mild. And the Mexican chili powder is more for flavor than heat. Try it without cayenne, hope you enjoy it!
This is so delicious. Thanks so much for this great recipe!
Hi Josie, thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Very tasty, easy recipe. But twice trying to cook it I got a "BURN" notice from my IP, had to turn it off, open the lid and scrape the burnt bottom. Any suggestions on how to avoid this? I used a 15oz can of crushed tomatoes and 8oz water and I still was getting BURN. Recipe is great though, this is a keeper.
Hi Scott, I'm sorry you had to deal with that. Since there is enough liquid in this recipe (juice from tomato + water),the only possibility could be that your cooker didn't seal tightly. Sometimes, if the sealing ring isn't snug enough, it causes the liquid to evaporate before the cooker can come to pressure, resulting in the burn error. This recipe has been tried by many readers and so far no one had that issue. I would recommend checking your sealing ring once. Thanks for your feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed the taste!
I have taken into account the comment about the "Burn" notice in this review.
That's why I used 1 1/2 cup of water instead of 1 cup of water (and I used 1 cup of salsa, so no can of crushed tomatoes) and luckily I didn't get a "Burn" notice from my IP Duo60.
Just attempted this recipe and got the BURN notice as well. Aneesha is exactly right, it was the seal. When I tried again, I noticed the float valve was still down and you can hear it sizzling and trying to build pressure. Then I grabbed the handle on the lid and pressed down on the whole pot, and instantly the pressure built and the valve popped up! Nothing got burned. I think after the pot has heated for so long and not built pressure, it just gives up and sets the BURN error. Hope this helps someone. Recipe is very tasty, thanks!
Hi Zackary, I'm glad you were able to save the dish with your quick thinking. So happy that you enjoyed the recipe- thank you!
Betsy G. says
Excellent recipe. I made it using Penzey’s Cajun Seasoning since that’s what I had on hand. 🙂 Delicious!
Hi Betsy, thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it and even put your own spin on it. I'm definitely trying that with Cajun seasoning next time!
Anaya J says
Came out delicious! I packed leftovers for lunch 🙂
Hi Anaya, I am so glad you enjoyed it. Even I packed this for kids lunch today 🙂