Quinoa stir-fry with pan-grilled salmon: a CardioKit recipe

Lets talk quinoa

“While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, Quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.”  Philip White — 1955 Edible Seed Products of the Andes Mountains.

1-5xo1xm_1k2i2-vv4wytrmaFirstly, lets talk quinoa. Technically quinoa is not a cereal grain but a seed or “pseudo-cereal” — a food that is cooked and eaten like a grain and has a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, it is more related to beetroot, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well. For these reasons we can consider it a nutrient and fibre rich whole”grain” with low glycaemic profile. It has the highest potassium content of any wholegrain and potassium lowers blood pressure.

Quinoa is one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein — it contains a good balance of all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for our dietary needs. ‘Essential’ amino acids means that they have to be eaten and cannot be manufactured by the body — these are the essential building blocks of the proteins that form and repair our bodies. Quinoa also has an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the seed, compared to wheat where the germ comprises less than 3% the grain. It shouldn’t surprise you, therefore, that NASA has proposed quinoa as an ideal food for long-duration space flights!

Quinoa is a perfect “trade-up” ingredient when switching your diet to include more wholegrain carbohydrates. Instead of white rice you can use quinoa in the same way —as a bulking base for other flavours. Its quick, easy and can be ready in 15 minutes. This is just one example but a quinoa and veg stir-fry is a perfect weekday meal and great combined with a piece of grilled meat. Left over quinoa stir-fry is equally good the next day as a cold lunch at work.

For a stir fry (serves 4):


  • 1 large onion (brown or red)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • red or green chilli — if you like and based on your heat taste
  • 2 courgettes diced
  • 2 large handfuls of mushrooms (closed cup white or chestnut)
  • 2 sweet ‘bell’ peppers (red, yellow or green)
  • 3 spring onions
  • soy sauce and black pepper to season
  • rapeseed oil
  • a medium sized mug of quinoa
  • 4 large salmon portions
  1. Firstly put your quinoa on to cook. A medium-sized mug or cupful is a good amount. Rinse in plenty of cold water and then drain through a sieve. Add to your heated pan and pour on fresh boiled water from the kettle. Bring to the boil and cook for around 15 minutes — it’s done when you can see the little white tail (the germ of the seed) sticking out.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, heat a splash of rapeseed oil in a medium-hot non-stick wok-like pan and add your chopped onion and garlic. Allow to sizzle.
  3. After a few minutes once the onions are reaching a slightly softened translucent stage, add the diced courgettes, peppers and chilli (if you like the heat). Turn the heat up now and stir-fry the ingredients together until starting to soften.
  4. Finally add your sliced mushrooms to the pan. Stir-fry until softened and just cooked.
  5. By now your quinoa should be done. Drain in a sieve and add to the cooked stir-fry vegetable mix. Combine well together and season with black pepper and a few splashes of soy sauce (its best to taste as you do this to minimise saltiness but develop a rich savoury/oriental flavour).
  6. Add the finely chopped spring onion as a final garnish. You can switch off the heat and set aside to allow the flavours to develop.
  7. The final step is to pan-grill your salmon (although the quinoa/veg base can be combined with lots of different meats/proteins). You can poach, steam or dry-fry (especially if skin-less) the salmon for a super-healthy touch but the richness and texture of pan-grilled salmon goes well with the clean quinoa stir-fry. In a non-stick pan heat a splash of rapeseed oil and add a knob of butter for colour. When the butter is foaming add your salmon pieces skin side down and allow to cook on a medium heat. Season the tops of the salmon with a little salt and pepper. You will see the skin getting crispy and an opaque line of cooked fish moving upwards — when this line has reached the middle, flip the fish over and turn the heat right down. Salmon is quite a dense fish and it will take some time for the heat to penetrate the middle but you want it succulent and just cooked in the centre, so that the flakes are just starting to separate. This should take around 5 minutes on the skin side and 3-4 minutes flesh side depending on the size.
  8. Serve the salmon on a bed of delicious quinoa stir-fry and enjoy. A quick, easy and fast weekday meal which will give you a wholegrain, vegetable rich meal with oily fish.


The quinoa stir-fry vegetables can obviously be changed to your preference or seasonality. Other good options are chopped fresh tomatoes (for an element of acidity), frozen peas, asparagus or basically anything that can stir-fry well.  We hope you love this CardioKit recipe as much as we do.

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