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Easy Quinoa Salad or Side Dish Recipe

My husband is a wonderful cook. We share the kitchen and we each have our specialties. He often does the cooking for our dinner parties.

This quinoa salad makes a great side dish or meal!

This quinoa salad makes a great side dish or meal!

Highly Nutritious and Easy to Make!

I first found this quinoa salad on one of the food network channels, and I created my own delicious version using some fresh produce from my garden. It would be a perfect picnic dish or could be served almost anytime as a delicious and highly nutritious meal.

I was unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) until my husband and I happened to be watching that particular show together. I was intrigued.

It looks a bit like couscous, which we both like. When I found out that it is an excellent source of protein, I decided to try it sometime. My hubby and I were shopping in Costco one day when I spotted a four-pound bag of this grain. While it might have been nice to have been able to sample a smaller amount, we decided to go ahead and make the purchase.

Fresh ingredients for my quinoa salad

Fresh ingredients for my quinoa salad


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 or 4 large table onions
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 large English cucumber
  • 1 large lemon
  • Large handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper, to taste


  1. Measure out the quinoa and either soak the grains for a while, afterward straining them, or put them into a sieve and hold them under running water until the water runs clear. (Much of the quinoa one purchases has already been rinsed before being packaged. But this extra rinsing eliminates any bitterness that might still be attached to the grain.)
  2. After rinsing, put into a pot with the water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer until done. This takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Watch the pot as all of the liquid will be absorbed when the quinoa is fully cooked. It should still have a slightly chewy feel, and the look of it will change. A white spiral-like little curly thread-like appearance will surround the individual grains of the quinoa.
  3. Cool the quinoa to at least room temperature.
  4. Chop the English cucumber into small diced pieces.
  5. Dice the yellow pepper into similar-sized pieces.
  6. Slice both the white and green parts of green table onions.
  7. Halve or quarter the grape tomatoes, depending upon their size.
  8. Roll up the mint leaves into a tight bunch and then slice through with a sharp knife, producing shreds. (If you do not have mint, parsley would be a good substitute, although the flavor will be different. It is easy to substitute vegetables or herbs of your choosing with this recipe.)
  9. After adding all the chopped ingredients to the cooled and cooked quinoa, make a dressing using extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The ratio is approximately two parts extra virgin olive oil to one part lemon juice or to taste.
  10. Blend well and refrigerate.

Serving Suggestions

This quinoa side dish can be served chilled or at room temperature, which makes it a perfect food combination to take to a picnic, as there is nothing that will quickly spoil at warmer temperatures.

This recipe makes a large portion that will feed many people if used as a side dish. It filled a 48 oz (3-pound plastic lidded container) that was recycled from a different purchase some time ago. I'm big into recycling things.

Serve it anytime alone or with other dishes, and be prepared for compliments. Bon appetit!

This is the brand of quinoa we purchased.

This is the brand of quinoa we purchased.

Quinoa's Health Benefits

I took a picture of the bag that we purchased at Costco. It was easy to see the little beads of the 100% whole grain through the transparent window. I also liked the fact that it was organic, gluten-free, wheat-free, and a good source of protein.

Quinoa contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a terrific source of protein for vegetarians as well as other people who wish to eat nutritious foods. This grain is also a good source of calcium, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber. The back of the bag described the quinoa as having a slightly nutty flavor.

There were two recipes on the back of the bag. One of them was a quinoa pilaf, which incorporated chopped onion, carrots, vegetable broth, chopped walnuts, and parsley. The other recipe called for toasted almonds and cranberries. These two recipes led me to surmise that both sweet and savory dishes could be concocted using this grain.

Additional Recipes

Just click on any of the videos below to learn more about quinoa and to get other ideas of how versatile cooking with quinoa can be. It can be made into sweet or savory dishes.

© 2010 Peggy Woods