This Mediterranean quinoa salad is made with fresh chopped parsley, flavorful sun-dried tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and peppers, and a tangy lemon tahini dressing. It can be served warm or cold, and makes a great lunch the next day.
The flavors of Mediterranean cuisine are some of my favorites: bright lemon, briny olives, colorful vegetables, and the concentrated flavors of sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. The cuisine is rich and satisfying from the fresh ingredients and well-seasoned dishes while still being incredibly healthy.
While quinoa is originally from an entirely different part of the world, South America, it's the perfect "grain" (actually a seed) to carry these flavors. In this Mediterranean quinoa salad, the quinoa plays a role similar to bulgur in tabbouleh (or you can make Quinoa Tabbouleh!), enveloped in chopped fresh parsley and mixed with fresh veggies and olives.
This dish is heartier than tabbouleh with a higher ratio of grain to green, and a creamy lemon tahini dressing, so it can be served as a main or a side. I enjoy eating it warm for dinner, then having it as a cold salad for lunch the next day.
The lemon tahini dressing is creamy, tangy, and a bit savory from the soy sauce and touch of toasted sesame oil. All you need to do is stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl—no blender needed! If you have extra dressing, you can save it for your next salad.
- Red onion
- Red bell pepper
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Kalamata or green olives
- Fresh parsley
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Toasted sesame oil
- Agave nectar
- Soy sauce
Sun-dried tomatoes are savory, tangy, and a little sweet. They add a chewy texture and punch of flavor to the salad. The recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes in oil since they are nice and tender. If you only have dried sun-dried tomatoes, you can soak them in hot water for 10 minutes before chopping to soften them.
You can use any kind of olive you like in this salad. I recommend kalamata olives or green olives. Kalamata olives will add a deeper, umami flavor while green olives will be brighter and briny.
Tahini is a paste made of sesame seeds. It's basically sesame seed peanut butter. It's a main ingredient in hummus, often used in sauces and dressings (like the tahini sauce that comes with falafel), and also in the Middle Eastern confection halvah. Some brands of tahini can be pretty bitter, so you might have to try a few to find your favorite. Mixing tahini with an acid and a sweetener can help cut the bitterness, so this dressing is a great way to use bitter tahini.
Toasted Sesame Oil
Toasted sesame oil is a bit of an unconventional ingredient for this cuisine—it's typically used in East Asian cooking and stir fry sauces. I find that it brings out the flavor of the tahini in the dressing and adds a layer of richness. A little goes a long way!
Rinse the quinoa in a strainer prior to cooking to remove bitterness.
Combine the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the water has absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
Mix the quinoa and the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the salad, stirring to coat the quinoa.
Serve immediately if you'd like to eat it warm, or let chill for at least an hour if you wish to serve the salad cold.
💭 Top Tip
Quinoa seeds have a bitter coating called saponin, which discourages birds and animals from eating the plant while it's growing. One way to tone down this bitterness is rinsing your quinoa in a strainer before cooking.
If you'd like to give the quinoa a nuttier, deeper flavor, try toasting it before boiling. This step is totally optional, but try it if you have a few extra minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add your dry or rinsed quinoa to the pan. Stir occasionally until the quinoa is fragrant and golden, 5-10 minutes.
Once you reach this point, remove from heat and cook as directed in this quinoa salad or any other quinoa recipe.
Gluten free: Substitute tamari for the soy sauce to make this quinoa salad gluten free. Most soy sauce contains small amounts of gluten.
- 1 ½ cups quinoa, dry
- 4 cups water
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- ½ red onion, diced
- ¾ cup red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- ½ kalamata olives or green olives, de-pitted and chopped
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ⅓ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- Juice of 2 large lemons
- 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce, or tamari for gluten free
- Rinse the quinoa in a strainer prior to cooking to remove bitterness (see note for a toasted quinoa variation instead).
- Combine the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the water has absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
- Mix the quinoa and the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the salad, stirring to coat the quinoa.
- Serve immediately if you'd like to eat it warm, or let chill for at least an hour if you wish to serve the salad cold.
- Feel free to use any veggies you like in this salad.
- The salad can be served warm or cold.
- If you prefer to use dry rather than oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes before using to soften them before chopping.
- Variation: Toast your quinoa prior to cooking for a nuttier flavor. Heat a large cast iron skillet or other pan over medium heat, and add your dry or rinsed quinoa to the pan. Stir frequently until the quinoa begins to turn golden and become fragrant. Remove from heat and continue to the boiling step. You do not need to rinse toasted quinoa.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: ⅙
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 316mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 4gSugar: 12gProtein: 5g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on seitanbeatsyourmeat.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.