When one of my best friends said “tell me what to do with quinoa”, this is first recipe I thought of - a chilled, refreshing dish called quinoa tabouleh salad. 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.
Quinoa Tabouleh Salad
Traditionally made with cracked bulghur wheat, my version of tabouleh (also spelled tabbouleh and tabouli) uses quinoa. Since quinoa is gluten-free and wheat-free, its an excellent choice for everyone. 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 high in the Andes. This ancient supergrain is what fueled the Inca Indians of Peru, and it can fuel your family too.
Quinoa is light and easy to digest and is packed with protein and fiber. It’s also a complete protein, which means it provides all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. This is one healthy grain (technically a seed) that needs to be in your pantry and diet.
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.
Tabouleh Salad Prep Tips
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, except for adding the dressing, a day or two ahead. 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 in red, white, black and tri-color blend (which is my favorite). The red and black have a little more fiber and nutty flavor 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.
Quinoa Tabouleh Salad
- 1 cup organic quinoa tri-color blend
- 2 cups water
- 2-3 Persian cucumbers diced small sub half a large English seedless
- 3 roma tomatoes diced small
- ½ small red onion diced fine
- ¼ cup pine nuts optioanl
- 1 cup fresh finely chopped parsley
- ½ cup fresh finely chopped mint leave
- 6 tablespoons dressing recipe below
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Add 1 cup of quinoa to a small saucepan a tight-fitting lid. I use a 2 quart (2 liter) pan. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover with lid. Turn heat to low. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 15-18 minutes. Turn off heat. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes to steam finish. The grains should be light and fluffy with the germ ring unfurled. Spread quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool. (See manufacturers box for alternative cooking directions for rice cooker).
- While quinoa is cooking, make the vinaigrette, then prep the vegetables and herbs. To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. This recipe makes extra, in case you need a bit more. 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.
- Add the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, pine nuts and herbs to the cooled quinoa. 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.