What’s your go-to takeout order?
While variety is supposedly the spice of life, it takes a lot of convincing for me to not get my standard orders from my favorite takeout restaurants.
Maybe if I ordered food in more than just once or twice a month, I’d take the plunge and try something new. But between trying to eat healthier and stick to my food budget, ordering takeout is a real treat – and you don’t want a meal that’s supposed to be a treat to be disappointing.
When I’m getting Chinese food, I tend to gravitate towards steamed dumplings, wonton soup (basically steamed dumplings with broth), and the occasional moo shu shrimp or tofu.
But everyone else always seem to be all about the rice dishes, especially fried rice.
While delicious, to me, fried rice just always seems so, well… fried.
I understand that rich, oily texture with bites of scrambled egg is part of the allure. However, for how indulgent fried rice is, I just don’t feel like it lives up to my expectations in terms of taste or being satisfyingly filling the same way that orange chicken or chow mein does.
But not this fried rice. No, this recipe has some serious filling power and is way lower in calories and fat. Plus, it’s vegan-friendly and can be made gluten free, making it ideal for feeding to a crowd where food preferences aren’t always a sure thing.
Let’s start with the most obvious difference: there’s no rice. Instead, we swapped in quinoa, a much more nutritious and filling whole grain. It’s a seriously healthy alternative, but with enough tasty character to not raise suspicion from family members who are used to eating white rice.
While not technically a grain, quinoa is a pseudocereal that’s naturally gluten free, and has a similar nutrient profile to whole grains. It’s high in fiber and B vitamins, and is a good source of many minerals, including iron and calcium.
But what really sets it apart is that, like animal products, it contains all 9 essential amino acids – aka the building blocks of protein – yet is a plant-based protein option that’s 100% vegan.
The rest of the recipe has your standard fried rice ingredients, just in slightly healthier amounts: oil, light soy sauce (or tamari for a gluten-free option that’s made only with soy, unlike the regular soy sauce found at many Chinese restaurants that also contains wheat), ginger, garlic, peas, and carrots.
Now, this recipe can be made one of two ways. For a side dish to serve with meaty dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, Spicy Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps, or Mongolian Beef, simply stick with these six basic ingredients.
For a vegan or vegetarian-style entree, I’ve also included also instructions for adding crumbled tofu. In addition to making this a heftier, more filling dish, the tofu also mimics the scrambled egg that’s traditionally found in fried rice.
While it’s not yellow, if you wanted something closer to the full egg experience, you could sprinkle some turmeric over the crumbled tofu for that yellow color. However, be warned that the rest of your dish will also turn a bit yellow with this addition.
I’m pretty sure this recipe is the first dish that’s made me excited about fried rice. As I mentioned earlier, it’s never been my favorite takeout dish, but each bite is just filled with a slight nuttiness from the quinoa, sweetness from the veggies, and savoriness from the soy sauce and garlic.
Since making it, I’ve been scooping out spoonfuls from the fridge for little snacks here and there – after all, the best part about takeout is the leftovers.
P.S. This recipe would be so delicious served alongside steamed potstickers (veggie or meat-filled, depending on your preference)!Print
Great as a healthy side dish or a vegan-friendly main dish with crumbled tofu, our quinoa fried “rice” is ready in less than 30 minutes.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 block extra firm tofu, drained (optional)
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
- 12-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables
- Place rinsed quinoa and water or broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes and then let sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
- If using, wrap tofu in a paper towel and place between two cutting boards. Place a heavy object, such as a book or full tea kettle, on the top cutting board to press out extra moisture. Set aside to press for 10 minutes while the quinoa is cooking.
- Once pressed, use a fork or potato masher to crumble the tofu. Set aside.
- Place a wok or large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. Once oil is hot, add garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute, and then add crumbled tofu, if using. Saute for 3 minutes, or until tofu is warmed through.
- Add soy sauce and mixed vegetables to the wok and cook another 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are hot and softened.
- Transfer cooked quinoa to the wok and stir well to combine. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Vegan
Keywords: vegan, quinoa, fried rice, tofu, mixed vegetables
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients
Measure out all of your ingredients and drain the tofu, if using. Rinse quinoa under running water.
Step 2 – Cook Quinoa
Place the rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan along with 2 cups of water or low-sodium vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes, or until water is fully absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.
Remove from heat and let sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
Step 3 – Press and Crumble Tofu
If you’re going to be adding tofu, start by pressing out the extra moisture.
Place the tofu on a cutting board and then wrap it in a few paper towels.
Place a second cutting board on top of the tofu block and then put a book or other heavy object on top.
Set aside to press for 10 minutes. Remove the paper towels and crumble the tofu, using a potato masher or fork. Set aside.
Step 4 – Saute Garlic, Ginger, and Tofu
Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute, and then add the crumbled tofu if you’re using it . If omitting the tofu, skip to skip 5.
Cook for 3 minutes, or until tofu is warmed through.
Step 5 – Add Soy Sauce and Mixed Vegetables
Add soy sauce and mixed vegetables to the wok. Cook another 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and hot.
Step 6 – Stir in Quinoa and Serve
Add the cooked quinoa to the wok and stir well to combine. Serve immediately on its own or with a delicious protein, like our Chicken Yakitori!
A Comforting Way to Incorporate More Whole Grains
Have a family of picky eaters? Incorporating new ingredients into familiar dishes can be a great way to slowly open their minds, and their palates.
While quinoa is high in protein and fiber, it isn’t the only whole grain that works well in fried rice. Buckwheat (also gluten free), freekeh, farro, or wheat berries would all add some chew and a nutrition boost to this takeout classic.
Looking for more ways to use that bag of quinoa? Try one of these equally easy and healthy recipes:
- Protein-Rich Lemon Chicken Bowls
- Light and Lemony Bowls with Roasted Zucchini and Tomatoes
- Breakfast Quinoa with Blueberries
- Sweet and Tangy Summer Squash Quinoa
- Healthy Quinoa Casserole
What’s your favorite takeout meal to recreate at home? Share in the comments below and make sure to give this recipe a rating before you leave!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 3, 2013. Last updated: May 30, 2023 at 13:15 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.