This quinoa salad recipe is a personal favorite utilizing one of our top cooked grains of choice, quinoa.
Pronounced "keen-wah", this South American staple makes an especially nice salad ingredient when cooked, cooled and added to chopped, diced and thinly sliced raw vegetables and a marinade using fresh herbs.
We then fold into the mix two rich and tasty fats: pine nuts and sun-dried black botija olives.
Very similar to the popular "quinoa tabbouleh", but with a Mediterranean twist, a quinoa recipe like this one is a great choice for a light and refreshing main meal or can likewise be served as a side dish to other protein sources.
Don't forget, as far as grains go, quinoa is a little higher in protein content and can be an especially preferred option for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Compared to other grains, it also offers a higher protein to lower carbohydrate ratio as well as a balanced essential amino acid profile, making it a complete protein source.
Most likely if you have arrived on this quinoa salad recipe page, you know a little bit about this alternative grain (Chenopodium quinoa) indigenous to the Andean regions of Bolivia and Peru, particularly the Lake Titicaca region bordering these two countries.
Dry quinoa seeds have a flat rounded shape and when cooked have a comparable texture to that of couscous. When completely steamed in water, the seeds pop open to form tiny rounded balls with a white curled germ falling off of them.
We first started eating quinoa over 25 years ago, when it was considerably less popular than it is today. It has over the years become one of our regular vegan cooked food staples that we consume more than any other whole grain variety.
Largely popularized in the mid 1990's by Donna Gates and her book The Body Ecology Diet, it was promoted as a more alkalinizing "BED grain" to consume for those with candida overgrowth.
Alkaline-forming foods are believed to help counteract blood acidity and balance body pH which can be helpful for establishing a healthy equilibrium of intestinal bacteria in the body, especially the colon.
Quinoa provides a better alternative to other common staples, like corn, rice, oats, wheat and animal-derived sources, which all tend to be acid-forming in the body after consumption.
Along with other gluten-free options, like millet, buckwheat, teff and amaranth, it is lighter, less mucous forming and usually easier to digest for those with allergic sensitivities to gluten.
In a study analyzing the gastrointestinal effects of eating quinoa it was identified that the "Addition of quinoa to the GFD [gluten-free diet] of celiac patients was well tolerated and did not exacerbate the condition."
When it is properly prepared it has a light and fluffy texture with a distinct nutty quinoa flavor.
If you're looking for a pasta replacement, quinoa might provide a nice substitute. Although the shape and texture is nothing like noodles or spaghetti, as a high protein food, it does have a rich dense pasta-like quality.
For some people, the texture might take a little getting used as it does not have a chewy starchy consistency like rice, but is rather more like couscous.
A slightly bitter taste can sometimes be detected, as the seeds are known to contain a natural saponin coating, which can act as an "antinutrient", causing mild digestive upset for some individuals.
This can be reduced by soaking or pre-rinsing the grains before cooking them. This process is also beneficial for lessening any phytates that may be present on the dry seeds.
These days, however, most commercially produced quinoa is pre-washed to remove most of the saponin content to make it more flavorful and to increase its assimilation. Some suppliers also provide dry whole grains that have been pre-soaked and pre-sprouted.
The year 2013 was officially declared by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the "International Year of Quinoa" in recognition of the native Andean peoples, but also to honor quinoa's "exceptional nutritional properties." (*)
As we mentioned, quinoa is slightly higher in protein content than other whole grain types. By comparison, it also has a higher protein to lower carbohydrate ratio. (*)
is also considered a complete protein, as it contains all essential
amino acids. It is particularly higher in the essential amino acid lysine, which is typically lower in most grains.
Consumed as a cooked whole food, it comprises a number of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and iron as well as B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, B6 and folate. It also provides slightly more calcium, potassium and zinc in contrast to other staple grains.
Whole grains, like quinoa, are valuable source of dietary fiber which help to facilitate digestion and ensure bowel regularity.
(For more about quinoa nutrition visit our health benefits of quinoa page.)
Quinoa is not only one of our healthiest go-to whole grain staples, but also one that's incredibly easy and quick to cook up for a last minute meal.
As a fast-cooking grain, it usually only requires about 20-30 minutes total cooking time, depending on how much water you add.
It is a good idea to rinse it briefly before use to remove any residual saponin content and occasional dirt clods or rocks that, we have noticed, sometimes find their way into the bulk grains.
Some people, in addition to rinsing, also soak it for a short period of time to reduce phytates, in which case you would use about 1/2C less water.
While most cooked quinoa recipes call for 1C dry quinoa to 2C water, this in our opinion only partially cooks it and can leave some undesirable crunchiness.
We prefer the texture and digestibility of quinoa that is made with 1C quinoa to at least 2 1/2C water. This grain:water ratio produces a light and fluffy consistency as opposed to an under-cooked quality.
However, this is a matter of personal preference, so you may need to experiment.
(For more information on how to cook quinoa, please visit our quinoa recipe page.)
This quinoa salad recipe is a great way to liven-up your cooked quinoa with fresh raw enzyme-rich vegetables and provides a very appetite satisfying salad filled with savory taste sensations.
The cooled cooked quinoa can be mixed with the ingredients and dressing marinade right before serving or it can be prepared in advance. It fills a medium salad bowl, usually yielding about 4-6 serving size portions.
We use black botija sun-dried olives because of their exquisite taste, but you can use other types of olives if you prefer. We recommend those that are ripe, unpasteurized and prepared in natural brine solutions as oppose to those softened with chemicals such as lye or artificially darkened with ferrous gluconate.
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
This is a quinoa salad recipe to enjoy fresh or can be made ahead of time for a potluck or family gathering. It makes an especially perfect summer-time meal.