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Spicy Sesame Ground Beef and Quinoa Bowls

These ground beef and quinoa bowls are the perfect high protein meal prep recipe for spice lovers. The beef is cooked in toasted sesame oil and seasoned with garlic, ginger, and a blend of Korean-inspired chiles and peppers. It’s super easy to make and comes together in about 20 minutes.

Every serving has a whopping 29 grams of protein with just 375 calories. And the recipe can easily be customized to fit different calorie needs, but we’ll get to that in a minute!

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How to Make Ground Beef and Quinoa Bowls

I’ll walk you through the recipe below and cover a few ingredient substitution questions as we go. If you’re a Kinda Healthy Recipes veteran, hit that jump to recipe button above and get cooking! 

Step 1: Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil before seasoning with salt, reducing to a low heat, and covering for 15 minutes.

If you’d rather have rice or cauliflower rice, go for it. Jasmine or basmati rice would go great with the spicy sesame ground beef. If you’d like to keep the carbs in check, I’m a fan of mixing the two. My Tex-Mex ground beef and rice skillet, for example, calls for a bag of frozen cauliflower rice and a packet of ready rice. 

Step 2: Cook 1 pound of ground beef in 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in a skillet. 

browning ground beef in sesame oil

I’m done apologizing for my passion surrounding browned ground meats. If you’re throwing ground beef, turkey, or chicken in a pan and immediately mincing to cook, you’re making a mistake.

Like I mentioned in my Instant Pot turkey chili, leaving your meat alone in the pan leads to the Maillard reaction, or a chemical reaction between amino acids and reduced sugars. This reaction creates the browning on the surface and creates a very distinctive flavor you’d miss out on otherwise. If you can see in the photo above, the pound of ground beef is nearly cooked through in the center before I ever start breaking the beef apart. 

What’s the difference between toasted and regular sesame oil?

Toasted sesame oil is darker in color and has a richer, nuttier flavor when compared to regular sesame oil. It also has a lower smoke point than regular sesame oil, so you’ll want to use your ventilation! If you don’t have toasted sesame oil, you can use regular sesame oil or even olive or avocado oil instead. Just be generous with your sesame seeds when serving. 

Step 3: Add soy sauce, gochujang, pickled roasted red peppers, garlic powder, and ground ginger to the ground beef.

gochujang, red peppers, garlic powder, ground ginger, and soy sauce added to cooked ground beef

These ground beef and quinoa bowls draw inspiration from my Korean ground beef recipe, upping the flavor of the original with added garlic powder and ground ginger. If you wanted to add fresh garlic and ginger, you could add it to the sesame oil for about 30 seconds before adding the beef. Just be careful not to burn it. You might even take it out of the skillet to add back in this step. 

If you’re unfamiliar with gochujang, it’s a Korean chile paste that’s spicy, sweet, and umami. It’s a bit tricky to replicate with other ingredients like sriracha so I’d encourage you to find some. Most grocery stores, even Walmart, carries it these days. And if you’re afraid of never using it again, you can use gochujang to make other recipes like my spicy coconut ground chicken, pressure cooker chili coconut pulled chicken thighs, or sweet and spicy pork tenderloin.

Need to make do without gochujang? Check out my firecracker ground chicken, which uses a blend of brown sugar and buffalo or hot sauce to make a thick sauce.

pickled roasted red peppers diced on a cutting board

And finally, for the roasted red peppers, you’re looking for some type of pickled pepper. I like Trader Joe’s fire roasted red peppers, but you can find all kinds of options. These don’t add as much spice as they do salt and acidity. If you’d like to add more spice, you can buy pickled chiles or make your own pickled chili peppers of any kind.

Step 4: Add 1 cup of beef broth to the ground beef and reduce to your desired thickness.

beef broth added to the seasoned ground beef

If you plan to swap the ground beef for ground chicken or turkey and want to use chicken broth, that’s fine. Only have chicken broth on hand? That’s also perfectly fine. And if you have neither, water will do the trick. 

If you’d like your ground beef and quinoa to be a bit saucy, a minute or two will do the trick. Also, if you go too far and thicken your ground beef too much, just add some more broth. No harm, no foul. 

Step 5: Add the ground beef and quinoa to 4 bowls and top with green onion, sesame seeds, and lime wedges. Dig in! 

spicy sesame ground beef in a bowl with quinoa, green onion, sesame seeds, and a lime wedge

In the recipe card below, I’ve included the weight and nutrition facts for both the spicy ground beef and cooked quinoa in case you’d like to make more than 4 ground beef and quinoa bowls.

I topped mine with fresh green onion, toasted sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, and a lime wedge or two. If you find the beef to be a little too spicy, the acidity from the limes will save your bacon.

And that’s all you need to know. If you have a question I forgot to cover, leave a comment at the bottom of the post and I’ll help you out. Otherwise, enjoy your ground beef and quinoa! 

ground beef and quinoa in a bowl with sesame seeds and green onion

Spicy Sesame Ground Beef and Quinoa Bowls

Yield: 4 Bowls
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Lean ground beef cooked in toasted sesame oil and finished with a spicy chili sauce and red peppers served over quinoa.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Ground Beef (96/4)
  • 1 Tbsp (16g) Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 2 Tbsp (60g) Gochujang
  • 2 Tbsp (30g) Soy Sauce
  • 4 oz Pickled Roasted Red Peppers, diced
  • 1 C Beef Broth
  • Green Onion and Sesame Seeds, for garnish

For the Quinoa

  • 1 C Quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 C Water
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt

Instructions

  1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil before reducing to a low heat, adding salt, and covering. Cook for 15 minutes on low before turning off the heat (leave covered).
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet over medium- high heat. Add the ground beef and brown both sides before mincing to finish cooking.
  3. Once the beef is fully cooked, add the garlic and ginger, gochujang, soy sauce, and diced red peppers. Stir to fully incorporate before adding the beef broth. Continue cooking to reduce the broth to your desired consistency, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa to bowls and top evenly with the ground beef. Top with sliced green onion, toasted sesame seeds, and lime wedges.

Notes

For ingredient notes about toasted vs regular sesame oil, gochujang, fresh garlic and ginger, pickled peppers and chiles, see the post above.

Nutrition Information Notes

  • Each ground beef and quinoa bowl has 8 WW SmartPoints (blue).
  • You can stretch the quinoa to make smaller bowls. The entire recipe has 1,495 calories, 117g of protein, 151g of carbs, and 41g of fat. If you'd like to have the beef on its own, it has 870 calories, 93g of protein, 42g of carbs, and 31g of fat.
  • The weight of the finished ground beef is around grams. The weight of the cooked quinoa is around grams.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Bowls Serving Size: 1 Bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375Total Fat: 10gCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 29g

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