Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad Recipe

An impromptu quinoa salad recipe made by tossing a quick tahini dressing with chickpeas, red onion, and cilantro.

Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad recipe has become a favorite of mine. And I know many of you are looking for interesting ways to prepare quinoa, so I though I'd share. Chances are you've heard of quinoa. It's one of the nutritional darlings featured in the media regularly. The good news is it's an easy ingredient to work with and once you get to know this curious little grain (er, seed) there are endless ways to incorporate it into your repertoire.

Instead of going on about the nutritional benefits of quinoa (which you can read about just about elsewhere) I'll throw out a few words/phrases that come to mind: Seed not grain. Cute curlicue. Grain-like. Ancient. Pretty colors. Underutilized. Superfood. Quick cooking. Incan gold. Complete protein. Whole. Rinse and cook. Tiny. Fluffy yet crunchy. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Keen-wah.

I've seen a rash of orzo salads lately (!?). I'm not sure what that's all about, but if you're partial to orzo (the rice-shaped pasta) salads why not explore wheat berries, quinoa, or any of the other grains to use in place of the pasta? An easy whole grain substitution.

Here's what I threw together for lunch with some leftover plain quinoa that was in my refrigerator. Took less than five minutes to throw the tahini dressing together and to comb the cupboards and pantry for a few tasty and colorful add-ins.

Browse this page for more quinoa recipes!

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Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad Recipe

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans, or dried equivalent
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
Zest of one lemon
scant 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15- 20 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then the salt.

Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, cilantro, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing if you like and season with more salt to taste. Serve garnished with a bit of cilantro.

Serves 4.

Prep time: 5 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Thanks I've also been searching for information about quinoa and I've made a little compilation in: http://quinoa.iuhu.com.ar/ It includes information about quinoa and some preparation instructions and recipes. Hope it helps.


Regarding interesting ways to eat quinoa- I just recently tried it for the first time, and it was a cold salad of quinoa, chopped granny smith apples, dried cranberries, cilantro and seasoned with lemon juice and salt/pepper. Really yummy and easy to make. I'll definitely try this recipe.


what is quinoa? is it the same as couscous? and what is tahini? is it chickpeas boiled or canned?


This looks fabulous. I might make it with fried tempeh, instead of beans.

another outspoken female

I've just returned from a month in Peru and enjoyed quinoa as "quinotto," prepared as risotto (one traditional, one with gorgonzola, which was amazing). They also bread chicken cutlets with quinoa and saute them. There's a traditional chicken soup that's just like chicken noodle, but with quinoa. My husband and I were not feeling well and this was like a shot in the arm!


I tried the recipe and thought it was a little bland so I sprinkled some rice vinegar on it and it was perfect.


Mmmmmm..... I can just smell it now.... will definitely give it a try.


Wow, that really does look appetizing. Will have to try this recipe.


Gorgeous photo! And what's not to love about a grain that is gluten-free? And a complete protein? You've inspired me to do more with quinoa. It really is underutilized.


Sounds like a great ricepe (though I havnt tried it yet.) I usually have an antagonism for so called "health food" but im gradually getting over it.


I wish I could get some Indianised recipes with their Indian names for the ingredients used.


We've been having a quinoa salad with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing tossed with minced shallots, good feta, globe basil and lemon cucumber from the garden. I always toast the quinoa then cook it with some bullion.


Looks delicious. I'm curious how you get such perfect lighting for your photographs. Are you using a flash? And what model camera are you using?


I wonder if you could cook this like pasta: lots of water and then drain. I actually cook my rice like this too.


An old coworker once told me she thought quinoa looked like little condoms. Though I love the grain, I've never been able to erase that mental image. :)


We've just been talking about Quinoa on our forum. I'm definitely going to try this recipe. Good for you and great tasting. Quiona is also good sprinkled on top of salads...


I also toast my quinoa first in a cast-iron skillet, and then when cooked, combine with black beans, corn, olive oil, lime juice and cumin. Tasty! I discovered quinoa on a trip to Ecuador, where nearly every day for 2 weeks, we ate a variation on the theme of a quinoa/vegetable soup.


If you want really fluffy quinoa, try steaming the grains after you boil them. I boil my quinoa and then strain it using a metal mesh strainer. Using same strainer, I place the grains over boiling water, cover with a clean dish cloth and lid, and steam for up to 15 minutes. It's extra effort but for a dish in which quinoa is the star, so worth it!


After rinsing the quinoa, I toast it dry in a skillet before boiling it. Adds a great, slightly dense, texture.


Thank you all for all these great ideas! I usually cook mine with a bit of basil and steam some smoked tofu slices with it and eat it with some organic baby greens. I can't wait to try all of your different ideas. This is one of my favorite grains, but I've had only one way to cook it. Thanks!

Sara Mae

I like to chill my quinoa after I cook it. Then I serve it cold tossed with sliced green grapes, berries, and almonds. It makes a great, light side dish for grilled chicken or fish (really good with spicy or savory recipes). It also makes an easy-to-pack, satifsying lunch for work or school.


Ooh, this recipe looks great! Incredible photos. I've been looking for more quinoa recipe ideas lately. My usual is quinoa black bean salad. I'm excited to try your tahini dressing!


I'm so glad quinoa is making a come-back. Another phrase: more protein than tofu. But it can be difficult to keep from mushing out. Where I'm consulting they make it in saffron water and dice roasted summer squashes, tossing them together for a nice medly. I used to like to slowly melt onions in scant olive oil/butter and "roast" quinoa in this before adding water.

shuna fish lydon

I simply don't know where to start with your fabulous site: so much to read, too little time!


I use quinoa instead of rice all the time - for stir fries, in soup (mushroom barley soup is great with quinoa instead), etc. lentil-quinoa pilaf (with lots of jalapeno and cilantro) is a great taco filling for the vegetarians.


Yes, the quinoa from Rancho Gordo is superb. It's organic from Bolivia, I believe Very light in color, fabulously flavorful. Thanks, Heidi, for this simple rendition.


Fatemeh, I believe it is the new Bolivian grown quinoa from Rancho Gordo. I had a half bag left that I saved in an unlabeled plastic baggie - used that. Thanks for the reminder, I meant to link to him!


One of my daughter's (18 mos) favorites is quinoa with roasted carrots, raisins, and yogurt. I've also started using it as a binder replacing traditional breadcrumbs. I've been loving quinoa for at least a decade now, and so happy to see it get the culinary respect it deserves!


For all national and international stockists, contact Bison Australia on +61 2 6257 7255 or [email protected] they will send you a catalog and you can order that way.

Stacy Kontak

I like to use quinoa in place of bulgur in tabbouleh. I also toss in feta and lemon zest. Yum. For the morning I cook it is water with cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, then serve with sides of warm soymilk, maple sugar, and raisins. A protein packed alternative to oatmeal. I am excited to see your cookie recipe!


Hmmm... your quinoa is much paler than mine is when cooked; mine is almost bulgur-colored. Where do you get yours?


I've got some incan red in the pantry just asking to be turned into this salad! I'm always looking for a good gluten-free side dish recipe. This sounds like it would be a refreshing accompaniment to baby field greens topped by a nice poached salmon with a caper/lemon/herb compound butter and a crisp Pinot Grigio. Yummy.

Debbie Schnell



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