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Gluten-free Quinoa Salad

May 14, 2010


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Everyone is always looking for the perfect side dish to take to picnics, potlucks, or something nutritious to pack in a lunch bag for school or the office. Here is a recipe that fits the bill: Quinoa Salad. It is loaded with nutrients, quick to prepare, easy on the wallet and best of all, it tastes great warm or at room temperature. It is gluten-free and vegan. It has always been a favorite of mine.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is one of the oldest cultivated grains and was an important food source for pre-Columbian civilizations throughout South America for centuries. The Incas called it “the mother grain.” Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest. Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa has a balanced set of amino acids making it a more complete protein (the protein content in quinoa is 12-18% so it is an excellent choice for vegetarians). It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and high in magnesium and iron.

A few words about using grape seed oil vs. extra virgin olive oil. I never cook with olive oil; instead I prefer to add it to my food after I’ve turned off the heat. Even though I grew up using olive oil for cooking, frying and in salads, I now use grape seed oil for cooking instead because of its relatively high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and lose its nutritional value) of approximately 420°F compared to 375°F or less for olive oil. Therefore, I think cooking with grape seed oil is healthier. Adding extra virgin olive oil at the end of the recipe off the heat retains the nutrients and the fresh flavor of the oil.

This quinoa salad can be eaten as a side dish, scooped into a lettuce cup for a light and nutritious lunch or spooned in endive leaves for an elegant hors d’oeuvre. Fresh lemon juice is a must for this dish and the more, the better. It is a complete meal with both proteins and vegetables, making it a perfect choice to prepare today.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6


3 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½ medium onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced (divided)
1 cup raw organic quinoa
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 cups (15 oz can) tomato sauce
3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced (reserve a little to decorate the dish at the end)
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (reserve a little to decorate the dish at the end)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


1 Rinse and drain the quinoa.

2 In a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium high heat, sauté the onions in the grape seed oil and season with salt and both peppers. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the onions are caramelized. Add half of the diced red bell pepper (reserve a small amount to decorate the final dish) and continue sautéing for another 3 minutes.

3 Add tomato sauce to the onion-pepper mixture along with the lemon juice. Stir to combine. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the quinoa. Cover and cook until the quinoa is done, about 15 minutes.

4 Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the extra virgin olive oil.

5 Place quinoa in a large serving bowl and mix in the parsley, the other half of the red bell pepper and the scallions. Toss well and adjust the seasonings.

6 Decorate the top of the dish if desired with the reserved red bell pepper, scallions and parsley. Serve.

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  • kriz

    this looks like a great summertime dish!!! i’m going to make this for my next sunday picnic! DELISH!

    • I am sure it will be the highlight of your picnic menu! The scallions and the parsley make it taste like you made it on the spot! Fresh!! Thank you for your comment, Kriz.

  • Franco O.

    Coming off of my success from the last recipe (which was uber delicious), I thought I’d put my sister to work this time and have her try this week’s salad. She’s hardly a chef and even she found the recipe simple and easy to follow. Anyone can attest that I typically don’t eat vegetables, but upon completion, it was calling my name. My carnivore critique: AH-MAH-ZING! It tastes just as delicious as the picture presents it. My pallate was enjoyably awakened by something I don’t typically eat. If all vegetarian dishes tasted this good, I just might be convinced to become a vegetarian. If all you’ve eaten this past week involved you going through a drive-thru window, try this dish. It’s easy and definitly guilt-free. Bon Appetit!

    • Thank you for being such a devoted follower of my recipes, Franco! This recipe is not only gluten-free and vegetarian, it’s vegan too! Thank you for taking the time and making the previous recipe and tasting this one! More dilicious recipes are in line. You’re going to love vegetables!

  • Lena Garabedian

    Hripsime, this looks sooooo good. Can’t wait to try it. Quinoa is very tasty and healthy, thank you so much for this recipe!

  • Arpie

    My next trip to the market will have to have Quinoa on the list of items to buy.
    By the way, this website has class. And food. Just in case you didn’t know…:)
    Best wishes and salutations.

  • Edith

    What a perfect dish to bring to summer picnics at the Hollywood Bowl (or anywhere!) So delicious, so nutritious! Thanks for sharing these wonderful recipes.

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