Posted: Nov 27, 2013 6:00 AM
Already bored of oatmeal and cream of wheat? Why not try quinoa for a healthy and warm morning breakfast? Vegan chef Dayna McLeod shares her family's favorite recipe and a few of the reasons they are hooked on this new breakfast staple.

You may already be pairing healthy servings of quinoa with your dinner staples, but add your favorite fruit, a little almond milk and agave syrup and the ancient grain turns into a delicious and filling breakfast. Vegan chef to the stars Dayna McLeod shares her go-to recipe and some background on why agave syrup and real maple syrup should be a staple in your kitchen.

Families working to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet often struggle with a healthy breakfast alternative to eggs and conventional cereals. Chef Dayna always encourages a "progress, not perfection" approach to making lasting diet changes.

"I am a big believer in picking your battles. While it would be wonderful for my daughter to sit down and have a big bowl of steel-cut oats every morning, realistically I'm happy if she sits down and eats breakfast every day," said Chef Dayna, who was most recently featured in an episode of Guy Fieri's Grocery Games on the Food Network. "To mix things up a bit, we love breakfast quinoa with something sweet in it. That's how I came up with this recipe. I knew if I could make it taste like a dessert, my family would eat it. P.S. It worked like a charm!"

Increasingly, health-conscious eaters are turning to agave and maple syrups as a natural sweetener over traditional white sugar. You don't have to be a scientist to understand the benefits. Chef Dayna breaks it down.

Get real sweeteners

agave nectar"Let me start by saying, when I refer to maple syrup, I'm not talking about Mrs. Butterworth or Aunt Jemima. When I was growing up I actually thought this was maple syrup, and most people still do. As far as sugars go, pure maple syrup is one of the least harmful. It has a medium-low glycemic index (54) and a higher degree of sweetness than table sugar for roughly the same number of calories. However, agave nectar still has some advantages. While the sweetness of agave and maple is comparable, agave still has the lower glycemic index (between 11 and 30)."

"The most daunting property of maple syrup may be its price. Because it takes approximately 40 gallons of raw maple sap to produce a single gallon of finished syrup, the cost of pure maple syrup can be easily twice that of agave syrup, making it pretty pricey for daily use."

A little goes a long way

"A lot of people tell me that they think agave is too sweet. The simple reason for that is they are using way too much of it. Next time you go to use agave, remember agave is 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. You may want to start with a conservative amount, and then you can always add more to taste."

What's stopping you? Put the coffee on and fire up a breakfast with this sweet vegan dish.

Breakfast quinoa

Serves 2


  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Earth Balance spread
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts
1 tablespoon agave nectar


In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa, milk, water and salt to a boil for 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 to 30 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

    Note^ I added a bit more almond milk about 10 minutes into cooking and didn't remove it from the heat until I could see that the grains had been sprouted.

  3. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

    note^ I added a bit of the Earth Balance spread to add to the creamy consistency.

  4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, melt the Earth Balance spread.
  5. Add the apple, stir together until evenly coated, and sauté for 1 minute. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, or until soft.
  6. Add the cinnamon and nuts and cook for 1 additional minute.
  7. Stir in the apple mixture with the quinoa, and divide between 2 bowls.
  8. Drizzle the agave nectar on top and enjoy!

More vegan recipes

Three breakfast smoothie recipes
Go vegan with Chef Dayna McLeod
Avocado, white bean and cilantro salad