As the weather (finally) starts to warm up here in the PNW, few things sound more delicious than a refreshing salad. But, of course, I like my salads to have a bit more to offer, so today we’re sharing the ultimate easy recipe: quinoa salad with fresh herbs and feta! It’s perfect for summer gatherings. This quinoa salad recipe makes a great side, a substantial vegetarian main dish, and it accompanies any summer BBQ spread flawlessly. A win-win situation, all around.
The best way to make quinoa:
Before we go into the details of this recipe for quinoa salad, let’s breakdown how to cook the best quinoa. There are tons of methods, but this is what consistently works best for us:
As with most grains, the best cooking ratio is 2:1, which means two parts water to one part grain. Typically, this fail-proof method is listed on the packaging. With quinoa specifically, I find the real key to achieving light and fluffy end result is a 1:1 ratio. This gives the grain the right amount of water to achieve the desired outcome without overcooking.
Another way to enhance the flavor is to toast the quinoa a bit before cooking. Toasting adds a nice nutty flavor to your quinoa that really elevates this recipe and others!
Should I rinse quinoa before cooking it?
The short answer is yes. To be more specific, the grains are coated in a protective coating called Saponins. Saponins are mildly toxic and can lead to stomach aches and digestive discomforts. While they are great at repelling birds from eating the seeds before they are mature, they aren’t too great for flavor (leaving a bitter taste) and stomach comfort. Always give your quinoa a rinse, even the pre-rinsed stuff.
How to make a quinoa salad:
I find the best way to make a quinoa salad is to toast the seeds, cook, and then cool the quinoa thoroughly. Next, make the dressing, allowing it to sit and marinate a bit, so the flavors really come together. Once the grains are cooled, toss in the salad components one at a time. I really mean toss here! Avoiding smashing the grains is pretty crucial to a light salad.
If you plan to serve immediately, you can then toss the dressing into the salad and serve. If you’re making ahead, leaving the dressing off until right before serving is essential. An undressed salad will last in the fridge for about 2 days when stored in an airtight container.
The Perfect Summer Quinoa Salad Recipe
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup feta cubed
- 1 whole English cucumber chopped
- 1/2 red onion diced
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas rinsed and dried
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp zaatar seasoning
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic finely grated using a micro-plane
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or the juice of one large lemon)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- salt & pepper to taste
Roasted Za'atar Chickpeas
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Drain and rinse chickpeas, then pat dry with a paper towel. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread the chickpeas out evenly, making sure not to overcrowd. Toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle with the zaatar seasoning.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are crisp. Allow to cool completely.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, rinse the quinoa under cool water, making sure to move the grains around with your hands. Strain and dry on a paper towel.
- In a large saucepan, add the dry quinoa and toast over medium heat until slightly aromatic. About 5 minutes.
- Add water and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and turn the heat to low, cooking until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is nearly tender. Spread the grains out onto a rimmed baking dish and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
- In a jar with a lid, combine the lemon juice, mustard, grated garlic, and olive oil. Shake to combine and pour over salad immediately. You can also whisk the dressing together in a small bowl.
Assembling The Quinoa Salad
- Once the quinoa is cool, toss in the feta, red onion, parsley, mint, roasted chickpeas, and the dressing. Serve immediately. The salad can be stored for about 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Looking for even more summer recipes? Try this delicious sweet potato and quinoa burger recipe!
So what do you think of this easy recipe for quinoa salad? It really is perfect your next last-minute BBQ or summer gathering, or even as an easy weeknight side dish that’s vegetarian. Be sure to let us know if you make a batch!