I hate using the term “diet”, so let’s just say that ever since I got back from vacation I’ve been focusing on healthy lifestyle choices. I’m trying to focus (again) on increasing my vegetable intake and reducing my dependency on simple carbs. Judging by my Pinterest feed, it’s suddenly time for all-things-fall, so I thought a nice basic vegetable soup was in order. I wanted something classic and simple, like the kind you get out of a can, but homemade. Since I’ve also been hitting it hard at the gym lately, I knew I was going to need a little extra protein in the soup, and that’s how this became a Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is technically a seed, but it cooks up a lot like a grain, which makes it very versatile. It’s higher in fiber and protein than rice, which makes it a great alternative if you’re trying to swap out those simple carbs. Quinoa can be pricey, so I like to use it in recipes like this soup where it’s balanced with lesser expensive ingredients, like the carrots, celery, spinach, and tomatoes in this soup.
Substitutions for Quinoa
If you’re not into quinoa, you can try another grain like pearled barley, or even pasta (orzo or couscous), or rice. Just be aware that the cooking time for other grains, pasta, and rice will not be the same as the quinoa.
How to Store Your Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup
This Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup will freeze great, so don’t be frightened by the 10 cup yield! That just makes it great for your weekly meal prep. Make a huge batch, stash 4-5 portions in the fridge for the week ahead and then freeze the remaining portions for the future when you’re running low on funds or time to cook.
P.S. Serve this soup with a couple slices of garlic bread, which you can also keep in the freezer, and you’ll be in fall soup heaven!
Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.11)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.25)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.32)
- 3 carrots ($0.32)
- 3 ribs celery ($0.44)
- 15 oz. can kidney beans ($0.69)
- 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes ($1.35)
- 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
- 1 tsp dried oregano ($0.10)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
- Freshly cracked pepper ($0.05)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa ($1.97)
- 4 cups vegetable broth* ($0.54)
- 2 cups water ($0.00)
- 1/4 lb. frozen spinach ($0.40)
- Mince the garlic and dice the onion. Add the olive oil, garlic, and onion to a large pot and sauté over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and transparent.
- While the garlic and onion are cooking, wash and peel the carrots, then slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Wash the celery and slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and continue to sauté until they just begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
- While the carrots and celery are cooking, rinse the quinoa well with cool running water in a wire mesh sieve. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Add the quinoa, kidney beans, diced tomatoes (with juices), basil, oregano, smoked paprika, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 20 cranks of a pepper mill) to the pot.
- Add the vegetable broth and water to the pot, place a lid on top, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow the pot to come to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 25 minutes (make sure it's simmering the entire time, turning the heat up just slightly if it stops).
- After simmering for 25 minutes the quinoa should be slightly translucent and tender. If not, let simmer a few minutes longer. Stir in 1/4 lb. of frozen spinach until heated through. Taste the soup and add salt or adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.
Scroll down to see the step by step photos!
Step by Step Photos
Begin by mincing four cloves of garlic and dicing one yellow onion. Add both to a large pot along with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions are transparent.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, wash and peel three carrots. Slice the carrots into 1/4-inch rounds. Wash three ribs of celery and slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Add the carrot and celery to the pot and continue to sauté until just slightly tender (about 5 minutes).
While the carrots and celery are cooking, rinse 1 cup quinoa really well with cool water. This step is very important because quinoa has a natural substance on the surface that tastes kind of bitter. Since the quinoa are very small, you’ll want to do this in a fine wire mesh sieve.
Add the rinsed quinoa, a 15oz. can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed as well), 15oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (WITH juices), 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, and some freshly cracked pepper (maybe 20 cranks of a pepper mill).
Finally, add four cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water. Stir to combine. I use Better Than Bouillon base to make my broth, which usually has enough salt to season my entire soup. If using a low sodium or less flavorful broth, you may want a pinch of salt at the end of the soup. Adding salt at the end of a dish often gives a bigger flavor punch with less salt than salting earlier at the beginning.
Place a lid on the pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the pot come up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 25 minutes. Make sure it’s simmering the whole time. After 25 minutes, the quinoa should be tender and slightly translucent.
Now pour in about 1/4 lb. of frozen spinach and stir until the spinach has melted. The residual heat from the soup should be plenty to thaw the spinach. I like to add the spinach at the very end like this so that it doesn’t over cook and the color stays vibrant and green (instead of an icky dark olive color).
And that’s it! Easy vegetable filled goodness right there. As always, you should taste the finished product and adjust the salt or other seasonings to your liking (everyone’s taste buds are different!). As for me, I liked it just the way it was.
It’s just screaming “GARLIC TOAST!” isn’t it? I don’t know how I forgot to pick up a baguette at the store. *sigh*
I still have some queso fresco left over in my fridge so I sprinkled a little of that on top of my Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup, but honestly it didn’t add much. The soup had enough flavor going on on its own! #win