Have you ever heard of Protein Bar? Well if you live in the Chicago area, you might have. It’s a chain of restaurants that serves quick, high protein foods and smoothies. I used to work near one at my old job and we would frequently go there for dinners during our busy season. A big section of the menu are these quinoa bowls and they are my absolute favorite. I would sometimes get a chicken quinoa chili bowl, but my go-to was always the spinach and pesto bowl. It consisted of organic quinoa mixed with chicken, basil pesto, spinach and parmesan cheese.
Since my dietary needs have changed a bit then, and I no longer work near a Protein Bar location, I took matters into my own hands to come up with a chicken pesto quinoa bowl that would satisfy my hankering for the restaurant version. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. I used my vegan parsley walnut pesto for this recipe which is probably the most time consuming part of this recipe, which doesn’t even take very long. The rest of this recipe is seriously a cinch. Just cook your chicken (or better yet, this is a great way to use leftover chicken!) and some quinoa and you’re in business. The pesto recipe is vegan, so if you wanted to keep the whole meal vegan, you easily could – just swap out the chicken for a vegan option – I bet chickpeas would taste amazing! Oh, and I totally wouldn’t blame you for adding parmesan cheese to these bowls if that’s your thing. In fact, I’d encourage it!
With how easy these chicken pesto quinoa bowls are to make, they are quickly becoming a favorite in my house!
Chicken Pesto Quinoa Bowls
This chicken pesto quinoa bowls are super quick for easy gluten-free meal prep. We use our parsley walnut pesto but your favorite homemade or store-bought pesto also work in this recipe! Gluten-free and dairy-free.
- 1 cup red quinoa rinsed
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup loosely packed spinach leaves
- 2 lbs chicken breast cooked and cut into bite size pieces
- 1 batch parsley walnut pesto or about 1 cup other pesto
In a medium pot over medium high heat, bring quinoa and water (or chicken broth) to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, covered the pot with a lid and lower to simmer. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes until all of the water is evaporated. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
In the meantime, cook the chicken whichever way you prefer. We use our George Foreman grill and cook them that way. Poaching, baking, cooking in a skillet, etc. works too.
To assemble bowls, spoon about 1/2 cup cooked quinoa into each individual bowl. Add 5-6 spinach leaves. Add about 1/2 chicken breast to the top and spoon pesto over the bowl. Mix with a spoon and serve immediately.
*For a "prettier" presentation, you can mix the chicken pieces and pesto together first and spoon those together over the spinach.