Mediterranean One-Pot Quinoa and Lentils
4.59 from 24 votes

Mediterranean inspired quinoa and lentils is a one-pot vegan meal that’s as tasty as it is nutritious! It’s made with protein-rich whole grains, legumes, and greens. It’s seasoned with herbs that are common in Mediterranean cooking and enriched with dairy-free cashew cream.

A bowl holding quinoa and lentils, topped with a white cashew cream, is placed next to a gray and white napkin and a small pinch pot of herbs.

Let me begin by saying that this dish of quinoa and lentils is very, very tasty. It’s also easy to prepare, easy to adapt, and very filling.

The recipe is also proof that brown food tastes better—a lesson I learn and learn again, since I tend to cook with a lot of grains and lentils.

It’s not the prettiest dish you’ll make by any means. But what it lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for in flavor and good nutrition.

I originally titled this dish “Italian one-pot quinoa and lentils.” I’ve since realized that there’s nothing about the recipe that’s Italian, exactly. But it is a recipe that calls on Mediterranean-inspired ingredients and flavors.

These include grains and legumes, mushrooms and garlic, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. If you’re curious about the Mediterranean Diet, which is associated with heart health, cognitive health, and even prevention of some kinds of cancers, this is the type of dish that can help you to explore.

Explore in a very delicious, very satisfying way, that is.

Quinoa and lentils: a powerhouse pairing for nutrition

This recipe was inspired by yesterday’s post on iron.

As I was writing that post, the idea of a one-pot quinoa and lentil dish sprung to mind, as they’re both iron-containing, plant-based ingredients.

Separately, quinoa and lentils are each great sources of nutrition. Lentils provide B vitamins, zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium. They’re also good sources of fiber (about 8 grams per half cup cooked) and protein (8-10 grams per half cup cooked).

Quinoa, in the meantime, is a gluten-free pseudograin that’s also a good source of protein. In addition to protein, quinoa supplies folate, Vitamin B-6, iron, and zinc. It’s a source of electrolytes, too, which include magnesium and potassium.

A cup of cooked quinoa provides five grams of dietary fiber, which is a significant amount.

Quinoa and lentils are both vegan nutrition superstars. When eaten together, all of their nutritional offerings are stacked. This one-pot quinoa and lentils dish is one of those nutritional bang-for-your-buck recipes that also happens to be delicious.

How to prepare one-pot quinoa and lentils

Maybe my favorite thing about this dish?

You can cook everything at the same time. This isn’t always the case with legumes and grains that have very different cooking times. Brown lentils take more time to cook than quinoa. However, if you cook them together with the right amount of liquid, they’ll each reach a perfect consistency in under 30 minutes.

Here’s a quick walk-through of the recipe:

Saute onion and garlic

You begin by sautéing onion in some olive oil until it’s tender. Next, you’ll add garlic and sliced mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms have released all of their juices and are greatly reduced in size. It should take 5-8 minutes.

Add quinoa & lentils

Next, you’ll add your quinoa and lentils, along with seasoning (thyme and salt) and broth to cook them in. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover your pot. You’ll need to simmer the dish for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and acid

Don’t skip the sun-dried tomatoes and greens: they add nutrition to the dish, and the sun-dried tomatoes also provide a powerful punch of umami!

Note that you should use either oil-packed, drained sun-dried tomatoes, or dry-packed ones that are tender (like these). Avoid dry-packed ones that need to be re-hydrated in hot water.

You’ll stir in the tomatoes and spinach and allow the spinach to wilt down. Next, you’ll add a splash of vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice for a little acid. It will help to balance the dish.

Fold in cashew cream

Maybe my favorite part! You’ll now fold in some of my all-purpose cashew cream. This will add a wonderful, creamy texture to the quinoa and lentils.

An overhead image of a white ceramic bowl and gray and white napkin. The bowl holds a cooked whole grain and legume mixture.

It’s worth saying that the cashew cream isn’t mandatory here. I think that the one-pot quinoa and lentils are still very flavorful without the creamy component. It simply makes the dish richer, and—in my mind—more satisfying.

At this point, your simple, wholesome, one-pot meal is ready to enjoy.

Variations and substitutions

The quinoa and lentils will lend themselves to a number of variations. For example, I make the dish with brown lentils more often than not. But beluga lentils, green lentils, pardina lentils, and French lentils are all good substitutes.

In place of spinach, you can try using another chopped, leafy green, such as kale, broccoli rabe, beet or turnip greens, or chard. Keep in mind that these greens may require longer cooking times than spinach, which wilts down in the blink of an eye.

If you don’t love quinoa, you can try using bulgur wheat in its place. Millet will also be a suitable substitute with a similar cooking time.

And finally, have fun playing around with different add-ins and seasonings here! In place of what I use, or in addition to it, you could try one or a few of the following:

  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Cashew parmesan cheese
  • Crispy roasted broccoli or cauliflower florets
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Roasted red bell pepper strips
  • A swirl of pesto

And if thyme isn’t your herb, you can also try rosemary, basil, oregano, or another herb that you love in its place.

Are the quinoa and lentils gluten-free?

Yes, this is a gluten-free dish! If you have celiac disease, be sure to select quinoa and lentils that are gluten-free certified in order to avoid cross contamination.

Meal prep and storage

Leftovers of the quinoa and lentils can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. They can be frozen for up to six weeks.

More one-pot wonder meals

If you like this type of dish—nourishing and easy to prepare in a single pot—then here are a few others that you might enjoy making.

A close up, overhead image of grains and lentils with spinach that are smothered in white cashew cream.
A bowl holding quinoa and lentils, topped with a white cashew cream, is placed next to a gray and white napkin and a small pinch pot of herbs.
4.59 from 24 votes

One-Pot Quinoa and Lentils

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces sliced mushrooms (I like to use button, shiitake, or chopped portobello)
  • 1 cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped, sun-dried tomatoes (about 50 grams; oil or dry-packed but with no need for re-hydration in hot water)
  • 5 ounces baby spinach (about 4 heaping cups)
  • Splash balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is clear and soft, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and mushrooms, if using. Cook until the mushrooms have released their juices and reduced in size (5-8 minutes).
  • Add the lentils, quinoa, salt, thyme, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If all of the liquid has been absorbed when you uncover the pot, add a splash of extra broth or water.
  • Add the tomatoes and baby spinach to the pot. Stir everything until the spinach has wilted completely into the quinoa and lentil mixture. Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, along with black pepper to taste and extra salt as needed. Finally, stir in the cashew cream, if using, and enjoy.

Notes

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

A dish of vegan quinoa and lentils is adorned with a dollop of white cashew cream and some sprigs of thyme.

It’s nice when food looks as good as it tastes. But a pretty appearance is no guarantee of flavor. At the end of the day, I’ll take even the humblest and most brown dish if it delivers on taste. These quinoa and lentils certainly do.

I hope you’ll agree!

xo

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Recipe Rating




    48 Comments
  1. Yummy! I didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes so I use tomato paste, I also used frozen broken-up wild grape leaves that I picked from out in the yard that I had stored in the freezer, turned out great!

  2. 5 stars
    This was easy; I did it in the IPOt, it uses ingredients on hand, and is very good, and thats before spinach, vinegar or Cashew cream additions..

  3. How would using cashew butter instead of cashew cream (I can’t find it anywhere so far)be in this recipe?

  4. 5 stars
    Great recipe!
    I adjusted some things based on what I had at home, for example, I only had red lentils, not brown. It turned out beautifully, and delicious too! It was the perfect cozy dinner for a cold night. Using quinoa and lentils as a base, there are so many possibilities for this recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    I took the basics of this and added roasted bell peppers and lots of fresh mushrooms with broth. from here I can add flavors like coconut curry or hot sauce to punch it up.

  6. This was delicious! My only changes were addition of some leftover butternut squash cubes and substitution of vegan parmesan for the cashew cream. My kids both told me they did not want to eat it, and then ate every last bite!

  7. 5 stars
    Even after you telling me this was going to be delicious, I still sorry of didn’t believe you. Not even because it’s brown and mushy! However, I just made this, and all I can say is how very wrong I was to doubt you. This was sooo good! I love how versatile it is, too! I hate mushrooms, an allergic to cashews, didn’t have any onion, and really just wanted to use some of the random veggies I have on hand, and it still turned out great! This is def a new staple for me; thank you!

  8. Made this last night. So delicious and warming! The perfect cozy winter meal! Highly recommend and will be making this again and again!

  9. Fantastic! I got inspired and instead of the cashew milk, I puréed half of the mixture and added it in for the creaminess, used apple cider vinegar, and through in some finely chopped apples with the spinach! It was superb.

  10. This was an outstanding recipe especially for the little effort it took! Healthy and vegetarian with great flavor!
    I skipped the cashew cream and subbed in a generous splash of rice vinegar for the sherry- don’t skip the vinegar! Made the dish.
    I sent this to my cooking buddies and can’t wait to make it again! Thank you!!

  11. 5 stars
    Substituted mushroom stock for the vegetable stock, made for a nice hearty bowl of umami goodness! Thanks for the recipe, will be using it a lot!

  12. 4 stars
    I made this last night and like it a lot. My advice: don’t be shy with the vinegar! The final splash of vinegar (I used rice vinegar because it’s what I had on hand) really brought the dish together. Thanks for this healthy and tasty recipe!

    • 5 stars
      Saute the vegetables, and then put lentils, spices and quinoa and tomatoes and water in IPOT. Set pressure for 15 minutes, and let it release naturally.

  13. I absolutely love brown food and this looks like an beaut’ – thank you so much for sharing Gena. I’ll be trying this out as soon as I can…

  14. This is so simple and nutritious. Lentils are a big part of Indian cuisine and this recipe is so similar to khichdi. Would love to see you try out your own version of an Indian Khichdi!

  15. Made this last week and expected my partner to raise her eyebrow at the mushy brown appearance. Instead the first comment was a resounding “yum, we’ll have to write down this one in the ‘favourites book'”. There you go. I’m not really a big fan of quinoa but read your nutritional advice carefully about the uptake of iron and feel doubly good about the recipe. Great work Gena. Greetings from Australia.

  16. Hi Gena!
    So, I made this yesterday, and it is so flavorful…..so delicious! Thank you, for sharing this. I just ran in to one challenge, that I seem to run in to frequently when cooking my lentils. I can never quite get them done and soft. Mine almost always stay too crunchy. I thought maybe my simmer is too low, so I turned it up. And, I,simmered for longer. Of course, all my liquid was gone, so I had to keep adding more. Do you have any tips you would share with me?
    Thank you,
    Patty

    • Hey Patty!

      So happy you liked the flavor. Unfortunately, I find the same to be true of lentils–a lot of variance in cooking time (I have the opposite problem as you — they seem to turn to mush in less than 20 minutes). This is usually a result of how dry and how old the lentils or beans are, so a lot depends on where you shop, when the legumes were packaged, and so on.

      If you feel as though your beans tend to take a bit longer than indicated, and especially if you want them to cook at the same rate as another ingredient (like the quinoa in this recipe), I’d recommend soaking them for an hour prior to cooking. I’ve actually started doing this with split peas (which always vary dramatically in cooking time for me), and it’s making a big difference. Hope it helps!

      G

      • This is a great idea, Gena! Thank you! I’ll try this next time (this does happen to me on split peas, too!). Have a great day!

  17. Yum. This looks fantastic: rich, creamy and comforting. I often make a batch of quinoa/ lentil pilaf as a base for meals, then add an additional protein source and sauce, usually something cheesy, plus frozen spinach. So simple and yet so comforting. Brown food is the best!

  18. Success! You actually made it look beautiful. (though I really sympathize with delicious food that doesn’t photograph well…)

    Lentils are my go-to this fall. I am going to make this ASAP.

  19. Just to clarify, it’s calling for uncooked lentils right? Just wanna make sure I’m using the correct amount xD

    Can’t wait to make this! ♡

      • I just wanted to say Gena, that this (along with Mustardy Lentil Sweet Potato Salad) is my favourite recipe on the blog. I absolutely love it, and close to a year after it was originally posted I still make it regularly. I actually bought a big bag of mushrooms yesterday to make it tonight once again!

        It’s absolutely delicious, and tastes like something very labored-over and yet it’s so easy. I just make sure to get some cashews soaking first thing in the morning and then it comes together very quick for dinner.
        I also highly appreciate this dish too because of how much iron it packs. I’m chronically low iron despite all the whole grains, beans and leafy greens I eat and need to take iron supplements, so having a meal with iron in mind is certainly helpful. Though that’s not the reason why I love it so much; as I said, it’s just so tasty and comforting and I feel so nourished after a bowl of it.

        Anyway, my point is: Thankyou thankyou so much for this recipe. I’m sure it’ll still be a dinner (and work lunch!) favourite years down the road.

  20. Oh my goodness. Thank you for posting a recipe for something “super brown and mushy” that sounds and looks good! I love one pot meals and mine often turn out like this so it comforting to know it’s not just me. I love softer foods that are kind of in-between soup and solid. Its amazing how just adding a few colorful vegetables and/or some wilted greens or even just serving in a colorful bowl helps with the visual appeal. Personally I think yours looks delightful. Anyway, thank you so much for this post. it helps me on so many levels. Super brown and mushy = <3

  21. Well, you certainly do not need to apologize to about brown food, to me at least! Brown is one of my favorite colors – and in food? Consider these ~ chocolate, coffee, whole wheat, and lentils! Love them all and I know I will love this recipe. Simple, humble food is exactly what interests me and my husband. Thank you to both you and Steven for sharing it.

  22. I got a good chuckle when I read your opener because I know all too well the struggle with lentils and photography. Maybe it’s because of my own appreciation for lentils and quinoa, but I think your stew looks wonderful and would be happy eating this any night of the week. I’ll need to give your cashew cream trick a try- I love that touch of creaminess.

  23. I am so happy I saw this post before I finalized my meal plan for the week! This is now on my list to make and I am sure will make for yummy leftovers. It will be perfect with a baked potato on the side!

  24. I think there can be beauty in drab food, and this certainly looks beautiful. Thank you for this recipe- this is the sort of back pocket, cupboard’s-almost-bare-and-I’m-hungry meal I like to keep in reserve. I’m sure I’ll be making this very soon.

  25. lol, why is it always brown food that tastes the best? I think you did amazing work with your subject matter. It looks absolutely wonder and I can’t wait to try it out! It’s just the warm bowl of comfort I need this weekend! xox

  26. This recipe reminds me of my lentil stroganoff and would delicious served over noodles! It’s on my to-make list for sure!!