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piece of quinoa mac and cheese on plate F
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4.86 from 14 votes

Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Looking for a healthier but equally delicious version of mac and cheese? Then check out this quinoa mac and cheese packed with veggies. A perfect vegetarian weeknight meal.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings (change as needed): 2 -3 mains (or 4-5 sides)



  • 1/2 cup dry uncooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Veggies, Note 1

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, (chopped in small pieces) green onions are fine too
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, chopped in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated or matchstick carrots
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped, Note 2

Cheese Sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or per taste)
  • 1 cup grated cheese, Note 3

Panko Breadcrumb Topping, Note 4

  • 1 teaspoon butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • pinch of garlic powder, salt, black pepper, Parmesan as per taste


  • Preheat oven to 400F/204C. Line a small oven-proof casserole dish with parchment paper or spray the dish with cooking spray for easier clean up.
  • MAKE QUINOA: Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Drain and add to a small saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boil. Lower heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • SAUTE VEGGIES: Heat oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Add carrots and peppers. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until tender. Add spinach and stir for 1 minute until wilted. Scoop veggies into a bowl and set aside.
  • MAKE CHEESE SAUCE AND CASSEROLE: In the same saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add milk, Dijon (if using) and salt. Continue stirring until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheese(s), cooked quinoa and sauteed veggies. Stir to combine. Spoon quinoa mixture into prepared baking dish.
  • ADD PANKO TOPPING AND BAKE: Combine Panko crumbs, melted butter and a pinch of seasonings of your choice. Sprinkle evenly over the casserole. Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown. Serve hot.


  1. Vegetable options
    • Instead of onion, red pepper and carrots, try chopped broccoli florets (microwaved for 2 minutes), mushrooms, zucchini.
    • Make sure the water from the veggies evaporates to avoid a watery result. Or pat them dry with a paper towel if needed.
  2. Spinach options: 
    • If you don't have fresh spinach, use frozen spinach that is thawed and well drained with all the water squeezed out (use about 1/3 to 1/2 a 10-ounce package).
    • You can also substitute swiss chard for the fresh spinach.
  3. Cheese options:
    • I use a combination of Gruyere and sharp Cheddar cheese (white or orange) - fairly classic.
    • Other good options are Gouda, Muenster, Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack.
  4. Topping alternative: Instead of a breadcrumb topping, you can just add a thin layer of shredded cheddar cheese and a bit of Parmesan cheese on top before baking.
  5. Other variations and substitutions
    • Gluten-free version:
      • Omit the breadcrumb topping and and, instead, spread 1/2 cup (60 grams or 2.1 ounces) or more grated cheese on top of the casserole before baking. You will also need to use gluten-free flour for the cheese sauce.
    • Lower calorie, lower fat version
      • To reduce calories and saturated fat, use a bit less cheese or a lower fat cheese.
      • Use a low fat milk like 1%.
      • And skip the bread crumb topping.
    • Add some heat: with a pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce.
  6. Shortcuts
    • Use pre-shredded cheese in a package.
    • Use 1 1/2 cups/277 grams leftover or store-bought cooked fluffy quinoa.
    • Instead of chopping onions, substitute a rounded teaspoon of onion powder or a rounded tablespoon of onion flakes.
    • Skip the sauté step with multiple veggies and just do a quinoa spinach mac and cheese. Stir frozen spinach (thawed, and all the water squeezed out) right into the finished cheese sauce.
  7. Make Ahead:
    • You can make the whole casserole (without baking) ahead of time and keep it covered in the fridge for a day or two. Bake at 375F/190.5C for 20-25 minutes when ready to use.
Nutrition values are estimates based on a generous portion of 1/2 the full recipe per person. They include values for 2% milk and cheddar cheese. 
    • Use different veggies such as chopped broccoli florets (microwaved for 2 minutes), red bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini. Make sure the water from the veggies evaporates to avoid a watery result. Or pat them dry with a paper towel if needed.
Calories: 626kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 1185mg | Potassium: 977mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 11576IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 660mg | Iron: 5mg