Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Mac and Cheese

I had this recipe on my to-do list for over 6 months before I finally got around to trying it. I was still iffy (to put it mildly) on quinoa when I bookmarked it, but I figured if ever there was a surefire way to fall in love with this little superfood, combining it with buffalo sauce, chicken and a luscious cheese sauce must be it!

The plan was to make it for myself one night when Shane wasn’t around for dinner, but let’s be honest – it’s actually pretty rare that we don’t eat dinner together, and when it does happen, I usually don’t bother cooking. I’m much more likely to pop some popcorn, throw it in a bowl and spend the night on the couch catching up on episodes of Revenge :)

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Mac and Cheese

A few weeks ago I was digging through my bookmarks working on our meal plan, and re-discovered this dish. I casually mentioned it to Shane as a possible dinner idea without any real expectation that he’d be on board, but much to my surprise, he said he’d be open to it. I added it to the menu right then and there, before he could change his mind. There was a moment right after I pulled these bubbling dishes from the oven where it looked like he was having second thoughts but he later told me the orange color just made him nervous I’d tried to sneak some butternut squash in…

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Mac and Cheese

I’ll cut to the chase – if you’re looking for a way to introduce quinoa to your family, this is it. Shane not only ate it, but he went back for seconds! And when asked if he’d want me to make it again (the real test of how much he enjoyed a recipe) he said yes. I was thrilled since I really liked it too, which wasn’t necessarily a given since I’m still not completely sold on quinoa. One of my favorite things about this dish is that while it’s most definitely comfort food, the quinoa is packed full of nutrients so you can feel less guilty about enjoying it!

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Mac and Cheese
adapted from Iowa Girl Eats (via What Happens After Singleton)

{Note: shred your own cheese, the prepackaged stuff just isn’t the same. As written, this recipe isn’t super spicy, so you’ll want to adjust accordingly if you like a lot of heat.}

1 1/4 cups quinoa
1 cup cubed chicken (about 1 medium chicken breast)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a small casserole dish (or 3-4 individual serving dishes) with nonstick cooking spray.

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly (if you don’t, it’ll be bitter!) then cook according to the package directions. I like to cook mine in chicken stock for more flavor, but water is fine too.

Meanwhile, add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over low heat. Let the butter melt, then add the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add the milk to the pan, continuing to whisk so you don’t wind up with lumps. Increase the heat to medium, and cook, whisking frequently, until the sauce thickens.

Remove the pan from the heat then add the cheddar cheese and buffalo sauce. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the cooked quinoa and chicken and stir until incorporated.

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish (or dishes, if you’re using individual ones). Top with the crumbled blue cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles around the edges of the dish. Garnish with green parts of scallions before serving.