An amazing side dish that uses tricolor quinoa, sweet potatoes, and fragrant spices! This tricolor quinoa recipe can be served as is for a vegan side, or combined with chicken or other protein for a full meal.
Quinoa is such a cool grain to me. I love how healthy it is. Yet it is still filling and delicious—especially if you add other ingredients to it!
Tricolor quinoa is just an added bonus because it makes a dish more beautiful. In this recipe we’ll be using it mixed with sweet potatoes and other spices. I hope you love it!
Here’s what you’ll need to get started on this yummy tricolor quinoa recipe:
Tricolor Quinoa – I used a package from Trader Joes, but you can use any tricolor quinoa in this recipe! In fact, you can even sub in regular quinoa in you prefer that instead.
Sweet Potatoes – you’ll need one medium sweet potato, cut into a 1/4 inch dice. Having the sweet potato cut this small will allow it to cook faster in a cast iron pan.
Garlic – you’ll need two cloves that are minced. This will add great flavor to the dish.
Cumin – we’ll sprinkle this in right after the garlic.
Water – adding some water to the pan will help cook the sweet potatoes faster.
Cilantro – we’ll mince some up and add it in at the end. It ends a beautiful freshness and pairs well with the cumin and garlic!
How to Cook Tricolor Quinoa
The good news about cooking tricolor quinoa is that it can be done in the same exact way as regular white quinoa! You can always follow the instructions on the package. But here’s a step by step guide:
Rinse quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer.
Put 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all the water is gone—about 15 minutes. Fluff and serve! What it should look like:
To continue in this recipe, we’ll now make the sweet potatoes. Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan, then add the sweet potatoes. After 4-5 minutes, add the garlic and cumin.
Once the sweet potatoes are fork tender, add some butter to the pan, then the cooked quinoa. Stir to combine, taste and add more spices to taste. Then, remove from the heat and add cilantro.
You can easily adjust this recipe to fit your needs! If you are vegan, don’t add butter at the end, but simply use another tablespoon of olive oil.
If you don’t like sweet potatoes, you can take them out completely or sub with other veggies.
And you can easily change up the flavors by using different spices and herbs! Here’s a few other combinations I might try soon:
Middle-eastern flavored – garlic, cumin, and tumeric.
Ranch flavored – garlic, onion powder, and fresh dill. Sub sweet potatoes for diced peppers or any veggies you like with ranch flavoring.
Mexican flavored – garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika.
Lemon Pepper flavored – garlic, freshly cracked pepper, lemon zest.
Serving & Storage
This tricolor quinoa makes for a great side dish. It can be taken to a potluck, or paired with other proteins/dinner recipes.
My favorite way to enjoy it is eaten along with roast chicken. You can even add some of the same spices to the chicken to make everything marry well together!
As far as storage goes, this recipe will last awhile in the fridge: up to one week! When you reheat it, you can use the microwave or put it back in a pan with a little oil or butter.
In addition, both quinoa and sweet potatoes freeze well, so if you have an overabundance, stick it in the freezer!
Tricolor Quinoa Recipe Tips:
Here are a few things to keep in mind when making this recipe.
- Make sure to rinse your quinoa. You don’t want to miss this step!
- Taste as you go along. You can add more salt and pepper, and more cumin and cilantro too. I prefer strong spice flavors, but you can go easy on them if you prefer.
- Make sure you add the cilantro at the end. Since cilantro is considered a “dainty” herb, the flavor will be best preserved if added off the heat.
- You can also use broth instead of water when cooking the quinoa, if you want even better flavor!
More Veggie Side Dishes:
Spiced Tricolor Quinoa Recipe With Sweet Potatoes
- 1 medium sweet potato, diced
- 1.5 cups cooked tricolor quinoa (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp butter
- Small handful of cilantro
- Cook tricolor quinoa according to package instructions: bring 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. This should yield about 1.5 cups cooked quinoa.
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Once hot, add diced sweet potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 4-5 min. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add cumin and cook for another minute.
- Add water and let sweet potatoes continue to cook until fork tender. Next, turn down the heat and melt 1 tbsp butter in the pan. Add 1.5 cups cooked tricolor quinoa. Stir frequently so it doesn’t stick. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in minced cilantro to taste. Serve and enjoy!
- Make sure the sweet potato chunks aren’t too big. If they are larger than a quarter inch, it will be hard to get them fork tender.
- Rinse your quinoa before cooking it!
- Make sure to taste as you make this dish and add more spices/herbs to your liking!
Tricolor Quinoa FAQ
I thought we would end this post by talking about some common questions people have about tricolor quinoa.
Is Tri-color quinoa better than white?
As far as nutrition goes, all colors of quinoa are about the same. However, they do have some differences in taste and texture. White quinoa is not as bitter as the other colors.
What can I make with Tri-color quinoa?
There are lots of options! You can use it in pretty much any dish that calls for regular quinoa. However, tricolor quinoa is particularly good in salads since the red and black quinoa has a chewier texture compared to white quinoa. You can also make bowls, side dishes, or pair it with chicken or beef for dinner.
Is quinoa healthier than rice?
Yes. Overall, quinoa has more nutrients than both white and brown rice (but espeically white). Quinoa has more protein and fiber. And it is also high in other nutrients like iron, magnesium, and zinc.
What can you add to quinoa to make it taste good?
Lots of things! I love experimenting with adding spices to quinoa, because it makes it literally so much better. Of course, in this recipe I did a mix of garlic, cumin, and cilantro. If you want to go more middle-eastern style, you can try garlic, cumin, and tumeric. Or, you can use different fresh herbs like dill or parsely.
Just keep in mind when you are adding these things in. With fresh herbs, it is usually best to stir them in at the end. However, spices like cumin can be added either at the beginning of cooking, or at the end.
Does quinoa have to be rinsed?
Yes, it is best to rinse your quinoa before cooking (whether tricolor or not). Believe it or not, rinsing gets rid of a bitter flavor in your quinoa: saponin, which coats the seeds.
Tricolor quinoa makes for both a beautiful AND tasty dish! It can be used in so many different recipes, but I love pairing it with sweet potatoes and fragrant spices. But now its your turn to experiment in the kitchen – what flavor combinations will you make? If you try this recipe, I hope you love it!