Southwestern Quinoa Bowls, and why sofrito is one of the best things ever

4.86 from 14 votes

Southwestern Quinoa Bowls

Still trying to get your family over to the healthy side? Or maybe your family is like mine: we eat really healthy, but my kids still turn their nose up at a pile of plain quinoa on their plate.

As a personal chef I work with many families that are just learning to appreciate healthy, unprocessed foods and natural flavors, as well as families that ask me to sneak the vegetables into their children who are not yet willing to dig into their greens, or they’re still picking out the veggies they can see.

Two of the ideas that solve these issues every time? Dinner-in-a-bowl and sofrito.

The dinner-in-a-bowl concept is simple: Take something ordinary like tacos, shepherds pie, chicken stir fry and veggies, lasagna, samosas and pile the deconstructed ingredients into a bowl. The bowl looks like a party and just begs you to dig in. Below I share my Southwest Quinoa Bowls that will convert most quinoa-haters. The reason why? It is cooked in delicious, super nutritious sofrito!

Sofrito is a popular recipe base in Latin American, Portuguese, Haitian and even Valencian cooking. It is basically aromatic vegetables extremely finely minced or pureed and cooked down to create an incredible flavor base to anything you add to it.

Ingredients for Sofrito

I use sofrito for almost everything I cook not only because it adds the depth of flavor to my recipes (the vegetables get sweet, the onions are pungent, the garlic bright), but also because it adds so much nutrition! I take at least a carrot, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic and from there I add whatever else is on hand.

Usually I throw in a handful or two of kale, some spinach, fresh herbs, zucchini when it’s in season and hot peppers. The best part is that you just chuck it all into the food processor and blend until very finely minced or slightly pureed. Nobody can pick the veggies out of their meal! Try this for your next batch of spaghetti squash, chili or enchiladas. (Check out my guest post from last year for a great Enchilada recipe and more information about my 100 pound weight loss from going #Unprocessed.)

Making softrito for Southwestern Quinoa Bowls

The recipe below calls for cooked quinoa. (Here’s how to cook it to perfection.)  If you’re not batch cooking your grains ahead of time or doing a little bit of prep every night for the following night, I highly recommend getting into this habit. It saves you so much time during the week and if you plan it right several of your meals every week can be practically no-cook, just throwing together some of the things your prepped already. That’s how I created this recipe – I had some leftover quinoa, leftover chicken, some veggies and voila – dinner!

Check out my other bowl recipe for an Indian samosa-style bowl that is incredibly delicious too! I doctor up the plain quinoa by tossing it with the delicious sofrito which makes it so tasty (and disguises a little bit of that bitterness many people don’t like about quinoa). Your family will be sure to gobble it up!

4.86 from 14 votes

Southwest Quinoa Bowls

By: Kirsten Helle
This highly enjoyable bowl has a mix of everything you could want in a salad and is highly enjoyable.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


For the sofrito:

  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • Additional add-in’s you’d like: kale, spinach, zucchini, hot peppers

For the bowls:

  • 2 tsp healthy unprocessed oil, fat of your choice
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 1 batch of sofrito
  • 2 pinches Kosher/sea salt
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breasts, reheated and cubed (I toss mine with some lime juice and chili powder)
  • *Or make these vegetarian by using cooked black beans instead of chicken*
  • shredded romaine lettuce
  • shredded cheese, optional
  • cubed avocado
  • fresh cilantro, for garnish


To make sofrito:

  • Toss the sofrito ingredients into the food processor and pulse until very finely minced and just starting to turn into a purée.

To make the bowls:

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, when hot add oil, swirl to coat. Add the sofrito (notice how AMAZING it smells!) and cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has cooked off. Stir in the quinoa and toss to coat.
  • Assemble the bowls by layering the quinoa in the bottom of a bowl and topping with the chicken/beans, shredded lettuce, cheese, avocado, and cilantro. Serve and enjoy!


Calories: 483kcal, Carbohydrates: 62g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 59mg, Sodium: 71mg, Potassium: 891mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 3785IU, Vitamin C: 45.9mg, Calcium: 69mg, Iron: 4.9mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

A bed of Quinoa for Southwestern Quinoa Bowls

Add chicken or beans for your Southwestern Quinoa Bowl

Easy, Southwestern Quinoa Bowls

About the Author

Chef Kirsten Helle is a mom to two crazy kids who lost over 100 pounds when she set out to create a healthy new family legacy.  She turned her passion for healthy cooking and exploring culturally rich recipes into a career as a personal chef for professional athletes and high-profile clients.

You can learn more about Chef Kirsten on her website and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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juan luis
February 7, 2015 11:17 am

You forgot to mention Spain as the origin of sofrito. Sofrito is the base of Spanish cuisine, is as key for Spain’s cuisine as the mother sauces in the French cuisine.

October 15, 2014 7:11 pm

Wow! This may be the best unprocessed dinner so far–approved by my picky eater husband who was wary of both quinoa and this mysterious sofrito. This will definitely be made again in my house! It tastes just like a burrito bowl from chipotle, but more filling colorful and nutritious! I just hope it freezes well bc I have a lot left. 🙂 thanks for this great recipe!

October 8, 2013 6:55 pm

Ummmmmmm, I clicked the box below to receive any comments….HOW DO I TURN IT OFF??

Reply to  RENEE
October 8, 2013 8:28 pm

Hi Renee,

I just turned off the comment notifications for you on this post.

For future reference – each of the notification emails has a link at the bottom to manage your subscriptions, so you can click through and change things there. There’s also a link at the bottom of the comments section, just below the “Submit Comment” button. 🙂


October 8, 2013 5:42 pm

5 stars
Pretty fabulous!

Cheryl Pierce
October 6, 2013 4:55 pm

So, today I made a batch of sofrito for dinner tomorrow. I got carried away and made waaaaay too much, so I used it as the base for the 3 Bean Sweet Potato Chili from Wednesday’s post. It smells divine in my kitchen right now!

Reply to  Cheryl Pierce
October 7, 2013 5:38 am


Reply to  Cheryl Pierce
October 8, 2013 5:05 pm

5 stars
There you go! Great idea!

October 3, 2013 9:23 pm

5 stars
Oh my this looks delicious and so healthy! I’ve been a loyal follower of Mesa De Vida for a while and she never let’s me down! Excited for this challenge! 🙂

Reply to  Devani Freeman
October 8, 2013 5:07 pm

5 stars
Thanks Devani! Glad you’re taking Andrew’s challenge, it really can be life changing!

October 3, 2013 4:58 pm

This was cool on so many levels! I just typed “cheddar unprocessed” in the search bar, trying to figure out if it’s ok to eat this month. I found Mesa de Vida’s enchilada recipe, which looks amazing, and answered my question. I figured, if cheddar in the recipe, it’s probably ok. 🙂 Then, imagine my surprise, when I clicked to refresh the page & check out today’s post, and find Mesa de Vida again! Ha!!! How awesome!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Reply to  Coppelia
October 3, 2013 10:03 pm

I really need to add a “Like” button to my comments section. 🙂

Reply to  Coppelia
October 8, 2013 5:06 pm

5 stars
AWESOME! 🙂 Enjoy!

October 3, 2013 4:17 pm

On my way to pick up these ingredients…

October 3, 2013 3:59 pm

The only Sofrito I’ve seen is in a jar at the store…it was a disappointment. I just KNEW there was a way to make homemade, thank you!! I was taught that you can avoid any bitterness in quiona by placing it in a mesh strainer and rinse, rinse, RINSE. Then, you receive more nutrition (because it digests better) if you soak it (all grains, including oatmeal) overnight. RINSE THEN SOAK. If you are following the cooking instructions on the box, you’ll have to adjust liquid and time but that wasn’t a problem. It takes way less time than rice so don’t leave it alone!

Reply to  RENEE
October 8, 2013 5:08 pm

5 stars
I love using sofrito to make a base for delicious rice and quinoa – good point on soaking the grains too. I have many personal chef clients with very intense needs and I soak their nuts/seeds like you recommended. Can’t say that I do it for myself, but I sure should try more often. I hope you enjoy the sofrito!