Thai Quinoa Salad

Salad number two in this month's series is full of flavor and color. You just know that something with all these vibrant colors has got to be good for you! Of course you could make this in the summer too, but the reason it made it's way into my winter salad series is because of the quinoa. Grains, beans and pasta are pantry items that can be relied on in the winter months, when we are missing our garden veggies. I'm thinking about you precious tomatoes.

If you haven't tried quinoa (say it like this- keen-wah), what are you waiting for? Don't let its "health"food status scare you off. It looks and behaves like a grain when cooked, but technically it's a seed, that's been cultivated in the Andes for thousands of years. It has a high protein content, which is code for, keeps you full longer, and is pretty mild in flavor. You can buy it in a red, white or black variety, with the white being the mildest, so maybe start with that one if you are a quinoa newbie. Quinoa will absorb the flavors it's cooked with, or as in this case, combined with in a big bowl! It also cooks quickly, which can make it a nice side dish to serve with other vegetables and a protein, like chicken or fish. Have I sold you yet?

I used red quinoa for this salad. Be sure to rinse off your quinoa before cooking to eliminate the natural coating that can sometimes taste bitter. Cook according to package directions which is usually about 1 cup quinoa to 1 3/4 cups water or broth. This will yield about three cups cooked quinoa. It will also hold well in the refrigerator for a number of days, so you can cook extra to use at another time. Always think ahead to how your work today can benefit you tomorrow..

While the quinoa is cooking, you can chop, chop, chop the rest of the salad.

When you are cooking seasonally, you think about your ingredients a little more thoughtfully, not just grabbing the first thing you see in the produce aisle, but searching for vegetables that are either growing somewhere close to you right now, or were grown in the late fall and have been stored for winter use. Red cabbage,carrots and onions are three such vegetables and play a starring role in this salad.

The recipe also calls for red pepper, chives and cilantro. In six months I'll have tons of chives growing in the garden, but right now I couldn't bring myself to pay $3.49 for a little plastic package, so I'm substituting the green part of a few scallions. This purchase makes more sense, because I will use those onions in other recipes. I did spring for the pepper and cilantro (use flat leaf parsley, if you just can't) though, because a Thai salad really needs those flavors. I also had a small piece of a jalapeño pepper, that I added for a little heat. That is totally optional.

Once you're quinoa is cooked and you've fluffed it up with a fork, pour it into a big bowl. You need lots of room to stir all this stuff! While it's cooling down, mix up your dressing.

Start with peanut butter. Add freshly grated ginger. ( Don't skimp here! Use fresh and use lots!)

Then you will add soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, lime juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Can't you just taste this already?

Pour the dressing over the quinoa in your bowl. Mix well. Then add all your chopped veggies.

Take a moment to admire the beauty in this bowl. Then stir everything together adding peanuts or cashews at the end for a little salty crunch. Surprise! Weren't expecting that were you?

This makes a big salad, so be prepared to eat on it for a few days, or bless someone's life with a delivery right to their door. I call this kitchen ministry, and it's always appreciated.

So there you have it. A delicious, flavorful salad that will serve as a main meal, or a hearty side. Enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups chopped red cabbage

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 red onion, diced

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup peanuts

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup diced chives or green tops of scallions


1/ 4 cup natural peanut butter

2 t. fresh grated ginger

3 T. soy sauce

1 T. honey

1 T. red wine vinegar

1 t. sesame oil

1 t. olive oil

juice of 1 lime

Rinse quinoa with cold water in a mesh strainer until water runs clear. In a medium saucepan, boil 1 1/2 cups water. Add in quinoa and return mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Place in large bowl to cool.

Make the dressing: Mix peanut butter and honey. You can microwave this for a few seconds to make it smoother. I skipped this step in the recipe. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, the oils and the the lime juice. Stir until mixture is combined. Add dressing to quinoa and stir.

Fold in the cabbage, pepper, onion, carrots, cilantro and chives/scallions. Add peanuts and stir.

If you want to take the time to make this prettier, garnish with extra peanuts, limes slices and herbs. As you can see, I just wanted to eat lunch.

* Recipe compliments of

* I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. Yikes! But the recipe was too good not to share. I'll work on my lighting in the future!

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