Mexican Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Quinoa for breakfast is a great change of pace. This dark chocolate breakfast bowl has antioxidants, protein and calcium that keep you full for hours.

Of all the plant-based proteins, quinoa is near the top of my favorites list. I make it often to bulk up a lunchtime salad or to serve alongside a main at dinner. I also love it as a base for vegetarian patties and "meatballs." Though botanically classified as a seed, the fact that it is gluten-free, cooks and eats like a grain has many people reaching for it in place of other, less nutrient-dense grains. Quinoa, according to Healthline, is a complete protein rich in B vitamins and several crucial minerals like magnesium, folate and iron, to name just a few. 

To rinse or not to rinse

Quinoa seeds have a bitter coating of saponin, which helps protect them from predators. According to Epicurious, manufacturers "clean" the seeds by abrasion to remove most of the bitter layer. For most people, that's all that's needed. For those who still find quinoa bitter, grassy or suffer an upset stomach after consuming it, washing before cooking can remove the residual bitterness. For me, it varies by brand. When I don't wash it, roughly 50 percent of the time, I find quinoa bitter. I've now gotten into the habit of washing it twice. Just putting it in a strainer and rinsing it under running water isn't enough for me. I place it in a bowl, fill it with water and then rub the seeds between my hands under the water. I pour it into a strainer to drain and repeat the process. I finish by putting the quinoa back into a strainer for one final rinse under running water. It might seem like overkill to some, but this ensures that no one I serve the quinoa will have a bad reaction to it. 

Quinoa for breakfast?

For years, I've seen photos on my Pinterest feed of quinoa breakfast bowls. So, of course, eventually, I would wind up trying it for breakfast myself. I started making them back in 2015, my first being a cardamom-scented quinoa breakfast bowl with Cara Cara oranges and almonds. It was a great break from my oatmeal rut. 

Since loving my initial experiments with quinoa for breakfast, I've incorporated various quinoa bowls into my breakfast food rotation. Like today's recipe for Mexican Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Honey Vanilla yogurt. OMG. It's divine! 

For this bowl, I prefer to use red quinoa. Studies have shown that the darker the quinoa, the higher its nutrient values. Red and black quinoa contain more vitamin E and have slightly more antioxidants than their white counterpart. 

Coincidently, chocolate, not loaded with processed sugar, is also rich in antioxidants; the darker the chocolate, the better. I use chocolate two ways in this breakfast bowl: I add cocoa powder to the milk that the quinoa cooks in, plus extra dark chocolate chips as a garnish (I love Guittard's extra dark chocolate chips). Now, one caveat: according to Livestrong, natural cocoa powder is better for you than Dutch process. However, the Dutch process is smoother and tastes better to me here than the natural one. I list Dutch process in the ingredients, but if all you have is natural, it will work just fine. 

I also add ground Mexican cinnamon (ceylon cinnamon) and a bit of vanilla. I use Mexican piloncillo (unrefined pure cane sugar) or dark brown sugar for sweetness. 

To serve, I toast raw almonds until fragrant and browned; they add a great crunch! The final dollap of honey and vanilla yogurt is a delicious counterbalance to the chocolate; I suggest you don't skip it. 

I often eat this Mexican Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl warm just after making it. However, it tastes just as delicious cold, making it a great addition to your meal prepping. Just wait to add the toppings until you're ready to serve. 

Mexican Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

I generally use vanilla bean paste over vanilla extract. Besides being able to see the flecks of vanilla seeds, I feel the vanilla flavor is more pronounced, but regular extract will work. Whole sticks of Mexican cinnamon (ceylon cinnamon) labeled canela is available at most well-stocked grocery stores in the Mexican foods aisle. Mexican markets will also carry it already ground.


Makes 2 servings


½ cup red quinoa

1½ cups milk of choice, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa 

1 packed tablespoon dark brown sugar or grated piloncillo

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract 

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela

For the yogurt: 

½ cup plain whole milk yogurt

1 teaspoon raw organic honey

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

To serve:

¼ cup raw almonds

Extra dark chocolate chips

Splash of milk, optional


Rinse the quinoa and place it in a mesh strainer to drain until ready to use. 

Add milk to a small saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa, brown sugar, vanilla bean paste and cinnamon. Bring to a hard simmer, then add the quinoa. Bring back to a hard simmer, then put on low heat, partially cover and cook for 25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Cover the pan entirely during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

While the quinoa cooks, rough chop the raw almonds and toast in a dry skillet until fragrant and browned; set aside.

To make the honey vanilla yogurt, add the yogurt, honey and vanilla bean paste to a small bowl and mix to combine well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, divide the quinoa between 2 bowls. Top with yogurt, toasted almonds and chocolate chips. Optionally, add a splash of milk. 

Until next time, friends... xo, ani