Loaded…wait-what? If quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) isn’t on your food radar, you better upgrade your system. This super grain (actually it’s a seed, but scientists call it a “pseudo-cereal”, which has me imagining Fruit Loops trying to disguise themselves as Wheaties, lol) is all the rage and has been for some time. It’s the only grain that contains all the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein, and it’s considerably higher in antioxidants than other grains. It’s also gluten-free, and almost always organic. And it can go in virtually everything, like these nachos that were absolutely inhaled when I served them.
If you’re looking for an economical way to add a little protein to your meal, without the preparation time (or considerable cost) of meat, quinoa could be your answer. I did add one chicken breast half (which I rubbed with a little taco seasoning, then cooked and shredded), mostly because I wasn’t certain how all family members would feel about completely meatless nachos, but you could leave it out completely and still have a delicious, hearty, and nutritious meal (which is how I served it), or appetizer. Quinoa can be added to salads, burritos, casseroles, or even eaten for breakfast (top it with scrambled eggs, veggies, cheese, and salsa-yum!). It’s a great (and more nutritious) substitute for rice, and can easily be flavored with broth or herbs and spices while cooking to compliment the rest of your meal. It also cooks in one-third the time of regular long-grain rice.
I’ve packed baked chicken breast mixed with quinoa (our daughter’s favorite) in literally hundreds of school lunches. Thankfully, you can prepare a big pot at the beginning of the week and store it in the refrigerator, so it’s always ready. I served my quinoa nachos with all the fixings I’d include if these were all-beef or all-chicken nachos. Of course, feel free to change up/add/delete any ingredients.
Find quinoa next to the rice and other grains at your grocery store. And if you’re looking for a way to introduce healthy quinoa into family meals, these nachos would be a great place to start. Do you already cook with quinoa? Let me know in the comments what dishes you make with it.
Loaded Quinoa & Chicken Nachos
- 3 c. cooked quinoa
- 1 ½ c. cooked, shredded chicken breast (seasoned with taco seasoning or your favorite seasoning)
- 1 c. black beans
- 1 c. cooked corn
- 1 c. shredded lettuce
- 1 c. sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
- ¼ c. chopped red onion
- 1 small avocado, chopped
- 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
- 1 lime, cut in wedges
- 1 c. shredded cheese (I use a Mexican cheese blend)
- tortilla chips
- sour cream, salsa, jalapeños for topping
- Step 1 On a large serving plate or platter, layer ingredients in order given beginning with quinoa, then chicken, beans, corn, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado, and cilantro.
- Step 2 Arrange tortilla chips around the outside of the platter. (You will probably need a bowl for additional chips.) Sprinkle the cheese over everything on the platter and either warm in the microwave or oven (be sure your platter is oven-proof) until cheese melts.
- Step 3 Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, salsa, and jalapeños.