Recipe Flash: Nutty Quinoa Cakes with Basil and Parmesan


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In honor of the SKC Brown Bag Week, we’ll be featuring our favorite portable lunch items all week long!

Since becoming officially gluten-free, I’ve been pretty much living on quinoa. I keep a tub of it pre-cooked in my fridge, and am now trying to find ways of disguising it for lunch so that I don’t go crazy from boredom. Luckily, it’s a very versatile grain, and there have been many experiments to date. My favorite thus far are these quinoa cakes, which taste good room temperature or hot, and keep just as well pre-made in the fridge as the leftover quinoa itself.

This particular version is kind of a deconstructed pesto. Instead of mixing all the elements together in a food processor to form a paste, each classic pesto ingredient–nuts, parmesan cheese, basil, and garlic–gets finely chopped or pulverized (see recipe headnote) individually and mixed in with the quinoa. The result is much more subtle, and the flavor of the ground nuts helps bring out the nuttiness of the quinoa grains once toasted in the skillet.

When it comes to brown bag lunch dishes, we take into consideration portability, the re-purposing of leftovers, and the ability to be made ahead or quickly the morning of. These cakes fit the bill completely. If you omit the eggs, the quinoa mixture can keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can cook the cakes the night before or in the morning of work, then reheat at the office. Almost every ingredient, aside from the basil, is pantry-friendly, so this is a recipe that will always be within your reach. Or, if you’re one of those new apartment dwellers just getting your pantry going, you won’t be disappointed by buying these ingredients for your lunch, and holding onto the excess in your cabinets for the months to come.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Nutty Quinoa Cakes With Basil and Parmesan
Makes 6-8 Cakes; 2 servings

This is a great recipe for putting your mini food processor to work. Instead of chopping your onion and garlic by hand, simply do so in your mini prep. Add to the bowl, and continue by pulverizing your Parmesan, followed by your nuts, and finally your bread crumbs. This will take a lot less time and work than doing it by hand, but of course you can do so as specified in the recipe.

1 cup cooked quinoa (from 1/3 cup dried)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup nuts (pecans, pine nuts, or cashews), ground in a food processor or coffee grinder
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (from 1 slice sandwich bread, Udi’s Gluten-Free or regular)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix together the quinoa, salt, herbs, onion, garlic, cheese, nuts, and bread crumbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the eggs and fold until the mixture is moist and sticking together.

In a large cast iron skillet or non-stick pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Form the quinoa into rounded patties, about 2 tablespoons worth in each, and place as many in the pan as will fit without over crowding (if using a 15-inch skillet, you should be able to fit all of them. Otherwise, cook them in two batches, and add another tablespoon of olive oil after the first).

Cook the cakes for 5-7 minutes on the first side, until dark brown on the bottom. Flip the cakes and gently push down on each with your spatula so they flatten slightly. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for another 7 minutes, until dark brown on the second side and firm to the touch.

Remove to a plate to cool slightly. Then either serve, pack into a Tupperware container, or store in the fridge for a brown bag latter in the week!

Posted in: Recipe Flash, Recipes
  • tami hardeman

    These look *amazing*. I’m not GF but friends are and I’m trying to eat healthier grains and WW pastas and no white food…so these are a perfect fit for me. Can I be a rebel and say I’d love to make these into a Benedict for a brunch? Top these with some poached eggs and hollandaise :)

    • Wbolivia

      Yum…I think I have one sauce and side idea. Thanks.

  • Cw shopper

    Can i omit the Parmesan cheese & still have a decent  tasting product?

  • Wbolivia

    I love quinoa but this recipe takes it to a great new level for me. Thank you.

    If I wanted to dress it up a bit, might someone have a sauce and side recommendation?

    Ps. One small typo at the end of the recipe: “latter” should be “later.”

    • Frankie

      Maybe a simple marinara sauce would work. Or a lemony aioli.

    • nooneputsbabyinthecorner

      I’ve done a balsamic glaze or a dijonaise (just dijon and mayo mixed together).

      • BGSK

        Thanks for the notes! So glad you enjoyed.

  • Monica

    I’m late to the game, since this is almost a month old, but I love it. And of course, you don’t know this, but July 13 happens to be my birthday and quinoa one of my favorite things. Happy belated birthday gift, I guess!

  • Mirakol

    I made these last night and they were AWESOME!!! 😀 I’ll have to update my blog and post pics and such and put a link to this recipe! :) The only thing I did differently was use dried basil because that’s what was on hand and I opted for the pecans :) AMAZING!! I think I’m gonna try to make a hash with it :) THANKSSS! 

  • Mirakol

    Also, I think this would be a great veggie burger starter :) I’m gonna try it!

  • Mccartmr

    I love quinoa! I actually bought a rice cooker from Tupperware just so I could make quinoa everyday! Delish! 

  • Mccartmr

    I love quinoa! I actually bought a rice cooker from Tupperware just so I could make quinoa everyday! Delish! 

  • nooneputsbabyinthecorner

    I’ve made these with Panko instead of sandwich bread crumbs, baked in the oven instead of frying, and had great results. Also, walnuts are a good nut option if you’re too broke for pine nuts. Although pine nuts are ideal for this recipe.

  • Courtney

    Would you be able to use almonds instead of any of the nuts listed?

    • BGSK


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