Looking for a delicious and healthy appetizer that will impress your guests? Look no further than these spicy pesto quinoa balls! Made with a flavorful blend of basil, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and a hint of spice, these bite-sized treats are perfect for any occasion.
Looking for a mouth-watering vegetarian dish that's easy to make and bursting with flavor?
These spicy quinoa balls are sure to tick all the boxes! With their delightfully crispy exterior and soft, flavorful interior, they're perfect as a standalone snack,side dish, or vegetarian main course.
Made with red quinoa, these bites are not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients like protein, fiber, and antioxidants. And the addition of pesto gives them an irresistible kick that will leave your taste buds begging for more.
These versatile bites can be enjoyed in many ways.
Serve them over pasta with a hearty marinara sauce for a filling meal that will satisfy even the most discerning palates. (My crockpot marinara is a great option.)
Or if you're hosting a dinner party, these bites make for an impressive finger food that's sure to wow your guests.
- Broth: Use vegetable broth to keep this recipe vegetarian. I like to use homemade, but you could use canned broth as well.
- Quinoa: Use red quinoa for this recipe. It has a delicate texture and nutty flavor that pairs nicely with the other ingredients. You'll need ½ cup of uncooked quinoa.
- Basil: A full cup of basil adds lots of flavor to this recipe. Make sure to use fresh basil leaves, not dried. (If you are making this for kids, you can reduce the basil to ½ cup.)
- Sun-dried Tomatoes: You'll need 6 tablespoons of drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil from marinated tomatoes.
- Pine Nuts: Toast the pine nuts to bring out their nutty flavor before adding them to the mixture.
- Bread Crumbs: Use gluten-free bread crumbs to keep this gluten free.
- Onion: A yellow onion adds flavor and texture to the mixture. Roughly chop about ¼ cup for this recipe.
- Parmesan Cheese: Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the best flavor. You could substitute cheddar if you prefer.
- Garlic: Mince 2 cloves of garlic, about 1½ teaspoons of fresh minced garlic. Don't have fresh garlic? Garlic powder can be used. I recommend ½ teaspoon.
- Cayenne Pepper: This can be adjusted depending on how spicy you want it.
- Egg: I used a large egg, but any size will work.
- Salt: Adjust according to your preference.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if quinoa is undercooked?
For quinoa balls, quinoa should be cooked until it is al dente – tender, but still slightly chewy. To check whether quinoa is cooked to the right consistency, taste a few seeds and observe the texture. If quinoa is too hard or crunchy, it needs more time to cook.
Is it necessary to soak quinoa before cooking?
It isn't necessary to soak quinoa, but it can be a healthy choice.
Soaking quinoa before cooking helps to reduce phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can positively impact quinoa's digestibility.
To soak quinoa, place it in a bowl of water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the quinoa and rinse it thoroughly with cold water before using it in recipes.
Soaked quinoa will cook a few minutes quicker than unsoaked.
Can I bake quinoa balls in the oven?
Yes, quinoa balls can be baked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a baking sheet and place quinoa balls on it. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Step By Step
For the full recipe with measurements, see the recipe card below.
Cook the Quinoa
First, start by pouring the broth into a pot. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil.
When boiling, add quinoa and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let quinoa simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed around 15 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.
Make the Quinoa Balls
Next, add basil, sun-dried tomatoes with oil, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, onion, Parmesan cheese, garlic, cayenne pepper, egg and salt to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.
Process until the pesto bites mixture has reached a smooth consistency. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the quinoa mixture into a large mixing bowl.
Add cooked quinoa to the bowl and mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then scoop about 1 generous tablespoon each quinoa ball onto the tray. Use your hands to roll quinoa mixture into smooth round balls – quinoa bites!
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Cook in a Skillet
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place it over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa bites to the hot pan, with at least an inch between them.
Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, then carefully use the back of a spoon to roll them. Do this every minute or so, until the entire outside surface is golden brown. Then reduce the heat to low.
Cover and cook for another couple of minutes, to be sure the inside has cooked through.
Serve quinoa pesto bites hot or warm. Enjoy!
A special things to Valentina for bringing us this recipe. Valentina is a recipe developer, food writer, food photographer and owner of the popular food blog, Cooking On The Weekends.
To learn more about Valentina and where her work has been featured, visit her About page and Press page at Cooking On The Weekends. You can also keep up with Valentina's recipes on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Spicy Red Quinoa Pesto Bites
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup quinoa red
- 1 cup basil packed
- 6 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes drained + 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil (from marinated tomatoes)
- 6 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
- ¼ cup bread crumbs gluten free
- ¼ cup yellow onion roughly chopped
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese finely grated
- 2 cloves garlic about 1½ teaspoons, minced
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Olive oil for the pan
- Pour the broth into a small pot, place it over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Add the basil, sun-dried tomatoes (and oil), pine nuts, breadcrumbs, onion, Parmesan, garlic, cayenne, egg and salt to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until you have as smooth a consistency as possible. Use a rubber spatula to transfer this to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cooked, cooled quinoa to the bowl and mix until everything is evenly incorporated.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then about 1 generous tablespoon each, shape the quinoa mixture into about 2-dozen round "bites." Roll each one between your hands to create a smooth, round surface.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil and place it over medium-high heat. Once the pan is very hot, add the quinoa bites, with at least an inch between them. (Depending on the size of the pan, you may need to do this a few batches.) You should hear a sizzling sound when they hit the pan — if you don’t, wait because the pan isn't hot enough.
- Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, then carefully use the back of a spoon to roll them. Do this every minute or so, until the entire outside surface is golden brown. Then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for another couple of minutes or so, to be sure the inside has cooked through.
- Serve hot or warm.
These would make a great sub for meatballs!