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

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

This highly enjoyable bowl has a mix of everything you could want in a salad and is highly enjoyable.

Course Entree
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Calories 483 kcal
Author Kirsten Helle


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:

  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

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.

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Chef Kirsten Helle
October 3, 2013 12:18 pm

5 stars
So glad you all enjoy the recipe! I hope you love it! For sofrito I like to just prep the ingredients ahead and make it in seconds before I need it in the food processor to keep it at it’s freshest. But yes, it freezes well, just not as much “punch”. 🙂 Enjoy!

October 3, 2013 11:44 am

So pleased to learn about Sofrito. I was looking for something a little different to use in wraps, tacos, burritos etc., that didn’t involve meat (we have a vegetarian household) or, of course, any of the processed vegetarian soy mince that’s available. This is perfect.

My mouth is watering now just thinking of Sofrito in a wrap with fresh lettuce…..

October 3, 2013 10:55 am

4 stars
Just this week I learned about sofrito from my Hispanic friends! I’m really excited to try it out. How great is it to have a veggie-filled base for meals?!

October 3, 2013 10:50 am

Oh, good GRAVY, that looks delicious! Going on the must-try list!

October 3, 2013 10:35 am

Quick tip: if you freeze your leftover sofrito the add a few more fresh herbs when you thaw it out, freezing dulls the flavor.

Chef Kirsten Helle
October 8, 2013 5:09 pm
Reply to  beth

5 stars
Good tip Beth!

October 3, 2013 10:23 am

I cannot wait to try this…I love quinoa anyway (especially for breakfast!) so making it in big batches is already a good habit here!

Cathy @ She Paused 4 Thought
October 3, 2013 9:47 am

Simply wow! I am making this for dinner tonight.

October 3, 2013 5:55 am

Sofrito sounds amazing! Sure beats dried spices for flavouring. How long does sofrito last in the fridge? Can it be frozen?

Chef Kirsten Helle
October 3, 2013 8:44 am
Reply to  Firesparx

5 stars
I hope you try it Firesparx! Sofrito adds so much nutrition too! It will last a couple of days in the fridge, freezing is definitely okay too! I like to keep it as fresh as possible though so I usually just make it when I need it, it’s so fast. To save time you could always chop your veggies ahead of time to be able to toss into the food processor and buzz up for the best flavor when you need it. I hope you enjoy!

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L.
October 3, 2013 10:16 am
Reply to  Firesparx

5 stars
Yes, sofrito is freezable. EZ. Pour puree into ice cube trays. Freeze trays, put frozen cubes into freezer bags labled with contents and date. Remove cubes as needed. Enjoy!

Trish @infinebalance
October 3, 2013 5:53 am

This is how I love to eat during the week. Making stuff ahead of time makes things so much easier during the week. The sofrito looks delicious and would be such a great way to get veggies into a meal.

Chef Kirsten Helle
October 3, 2013 8:42 am

5 stars
So smart to make things ahead Trish! I hope you enjoy the sofrito too!

October 3, 2013 5:17 am

I am so excited to try sofrito. I had never heard of it til now. Thanks for introducing me.

Chef Kirsten Helle
October 3, 2013 8:42 am
Reply to  suzyhomemaker

5 stars
I hope you enjoy it! I have a link over to my site showing another delicious way to use sofrito – I use it in almost everything. 🙂 My personal chef clients with picky eaters can’t pick their veggies out. 🙂

October 4, 2013 9:29 am
Reply to  suzyhomemaker

This is my first time hearing if it also! So excited to try it!