Lemon-Grass Coconut Quinoa Is a Refreshing Twist on Comfort Food

By Elle Penner, RD MPH

Staying on track can be a challenge any day, but especially this time of year with the holiday hustle and bustle upon us. Shopping, traveling, celebrating, oh my! There’s just so much more to do, and eat.

If you’re looking for a quick veggie-packed meal to balance all the extra indulgences and to-do’s these next few weeks, give this lemon-grass coconut quinoa a try. Lemon grass brings bright flavor to this dish, while the creamy, coconut quinoa and crunchy veggies add plenty of plant-based protein, fats and fiber. Sweet chili sauce gives this dish a tasty zing, but if you’re watching out for added sugars, a squirt of Sriracha will do the same!

The best part about this dish, besides the taste? Pre-chopped veggies steam while the quinoa cooks, resulting in a delicious, plant-based dinner in less than 30 minutes. When time is tight, I’m all for optimizing efficiency and embracing simple innovations (like pre-chopped and frozen veggies!) to get a nutritious meal on the table.

Wishing you happy and healthy holidays, from my family to yours!



  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, divided
  • 1 (2-inch) piece lemon grass, tough exterior removed, finely grated
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced, dark green ends separated from light green
  • 1 cup shredded or julienned carrots
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • ¼ cup sweet chili sauce (optional)


Melt ½ tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add grated lemon grass and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, add quinoa and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring twice to prevent quinoa from browning too much. Add coconut milk and kosher salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.

While quinoa cooks, melt remaining ½ tablespoon coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green onions (light green ends), carrots and broccoli along with 2 tablespoons water. Cover and steam 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once. Remove lid, add peas and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until heated through. Stir in cooked quinoa and sweet chili sauce, if adding. Veggies should be tender but still crunchy.    

Serve immediately. Garnish with remaining green onions (dark green ends) and Sriracha for spice, if desired.

Video/Photo credit: Elle Penner, RD MPH


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Elle Penner, MPH RD

Elle Penner is a registered dietitian and former lead dietitian at MyFitnessPal, turned full-time writer, recipe creator, photographer, blogger and mama. Her favorite things include her camera, carbs, sweaty workouts and her son.