When one of my best friends said “tell me what to do with quinoa”, this is first recipe I thought of. Here’s a chilled, refreshing quinoa salad called tabouleh. It’s a dish I make frequently in summer to serve with chicken or fish, and to eat on it’s own as a lunch or snack.

If you’ve only heard of quinoa (keen-wah) but never cooked with it, you’ve got to add this powerhouse to your pantry. It’s been grown for thousands of years at high elevation in the Andes. This ancient supergrain is what fueled the Inca Indians of Peru, and it can fuel your family too.

Nutrition-packed Quinoa

Quinoa is light and easy to digest and is packed with protein and fiber. It’s also considered a complete protein, which means it provides all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. This is one healthy grain that needs to be in your pantry and in your diet.

Traditionally made with cracked bulghur wheat, my version of tabouleh uses quinoa. Since quinoa is gluten-free and wheat-free, its an excellent choice for everyone.

How To Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is easy to prepare with just 15-18 minutes of cooking in a small saucepan and a few more minutes to steam finish off the heat. When cooked, the tiny quinoa seed unfurls into a fluffy grain. What you see is the spiral-like germ that has separated. Think of quinoa as you would rice for recipes.

Refreshing Tabouleh Salad

For the tabouleh, add finely chopped tomato, cucumber, lots of fresh parsley and mint, a little red onion, and dress with a lemony vinaigrette for a bright, fresh flavor. A note on using fresh herbs – they will cut much better when clean and dry. Wash and dry in a salad spinner or on layers of paper towels. Don’t try to chop them wet. They just become a mess.

You can cook the quinoa and make the salad all except for adding the dressing a day or two ahead, then dress before serving. Cooked and not dressed, it will last five days in the refrigerator.

Buying & Rinsing Quinoa

You’ll find quinoa in most markets these days in red, white, black and tri-color blend (which is my favorite). The red and black have a little more fiber but cook the same as the white. You will find it in the packaged grain sections as well as in bulk.

Quinoa is covered in a natural substance called saponin, which acts like a natural bug repellant for the seed. As saponin is bitter, quinoa must be rinsed before cooking. I put my in fine sieve and run plenty of cold water through it using the sprayer on my faucet.

Quinoa Salad (Tabouleh)

This fluffy, crunchy, gluten-free whole grain salad made with high protein quinoa (keen-wah) is delicious as well as nutritious. Serve chilled or room temperature, it’s my version of a Middle Eastern dish called Tabouleh. It’s great for lunch and dinner in the heat of summer or anytime. Serve with chicken, fish, or by itself as a vegetarian dish. I had a bowl this afternoon for lunch topped with diced avocado.

Serves 4-6



  • 1 cup (192 grams) organic quinoa (I like the tri-color blend)
  • 2 cups (500ml) water
  • 2-3 Persian cucumbers diced small (or half of a large English seedless)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 of a small red onion ,diced fine (or use shallot)
  • 1 cup (25 grams) fresh finely chopped flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley)
  • 1/2 cup (13 grams) fresh finely chopped mint leaves
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) of dressing, recipe below
  • 6 tablespoons(90 ml) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Make the vinaigrette – Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. This will make extra, in case you need a bit more.
  2. Add 1 cup of grains (192 grams) to a small saucepan a tight-fitting lid. I use a 2 quart (2 liter) pan. Add 2 cups (500 ml) water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover with lid. Turn heat to low. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Allow to stand for about 15 minutes to steam finish. The grains should be light and fluffy with the germ ring unfurled. Place quinoa in a bowl to cool and fluff with a fork. (See manufacturers box for alternative cooking directions for rice cooker).
  3. While quinoa is cooking, prep the vegetables and herbs. For cucumbers, quarter them, slice out the seedy center, cut each quarter into three long strips and cut across into fine dice. Do the same with the tomatoes. See photos in the post for help.
  4. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, herbs. When ready to serve add a few tablespoons of the dressing and toss gently. Add enough to flavor the salad but don’t soak it in dressing.  Serve chilled.
  • You can make this salad a day, even two days, ahead of serving. It will keep for five days undressed in the refrigerator. Dress before serving.
  • To chop fresh herbs, wash and dry well. Dry herbs chop easily. Chopping wet or damp herbs just becomes a mess. Wash and dry on paper towels or in a salad spinner.
Other Links:
Why we need amino acids, from Health Guidance
Quinoa Pilaf, from Simply Recipes
Roasted Veggie-Quinoa Casserole, from Recipe Renovator
Here’s a warm and nutty breakfast quinoa recipe from 101 Cookbooks
Here’s a cookbook dedicated to quinoa, if you want lots of recipes for this terrific grain (365 Quinoa)
More recipes from the quinoa company, Ancient Harvest

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shut Up & Cook June 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Such fabulous photos! Is your husband a great and talented photographer by chance?


I love quinoa…this recipe is one of my faves: Quinoa with Feta, Tomatoes, and Basil, tossed with a lemon vinaigrette
Quinoa with Feta, Tomatoes, and Basil, tossed with a Lemon Vinaigrette



2 Madonna June 28, 2012 at 1:36 am

Another great lunch.

I see where your stuffed portobello made the most popular at foodgawker. Congrats.


3 Ann Mah June 28, 2012 at 2:38 am

I love tabouleh, but never thought of making it with quinoa — genius idea! Your photos are stunning.


4 Riley June 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

Yum! I love tabbouleh and I bet it’s great with quinoa!


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