Meat Free Monday: Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

by Angela on December 3, 2011

It wouldn’t surprise me if many people are reluctant about today’s recipe merely because they don’t know what quinoa is or how to pronounce it.  But I am here to encourage you to read on about this highly nutritious superfood, pronounced KEEN-WA.  When I saw that this recipe was listed as a week 1 meal for the Whole Living 28-Day Challenge Deena and I are doing, I thought what a great way to introduce quinoa and its numerous benefits.

Quinoa is a grain-like plant that is grown mainly for its edible seeds, which is the most common form you will find in the store.  Quinoa is used much like rice or couscous, but is also versatile enough to use as a breakfast food, like oatmeal, or even in desserts.  But versatility is only the beginning of its great qualities.  Quinoa is a great source of protein, containing twice as much as regular cereal grains.  It also contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.  Essential amino acids cannot be made by our bodies and must be taken in from an outside source, but they are necessary building blocks of our bodies.  Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, is high in magnesium and iron, and is gluten-free and considered easier to digest.

So where do you get it? I’ve seen quinoa at my local chain grocery store in the same aisle as rice and couscous.  But I personally buy mine from Costco and have found it to be much more economical.

How is it cooked? Quinoa is very easy to prepare.  First, unless the packaging indicates it has been pre-rinsed, you will want to either soak and drain or rinse the quinoa for a few minutes, otherwise it will have a very bitter taste.  I place my measured quinoa in a sieve and turn my faucet sprayer on it for a couple minutes.  For basic preparation, using a 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to quinoa, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the liquid has boiled out.  For my family of four, I use 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water, and this makes plenty for us to have leftovers.  I will also season it a bit with chicken bouillon granules, or put a chicken bouillon cube in the pot.  I have also replaced the water with canned chicken broth before.

Because we usually eat quinoa like we would eat rice, I wasn’t sure how my husband would like this recipe, which contains a lot of “other stuff” in the quinoa.  But it ended up being a hit.  I did not give any to the kids as my 7 year old is allergic to tree nuts and my 3 year old just hasn’t acquired the taste for something so “fancy” but my husband and I enjoyed the fresh, healthy taste and crunchy texture.  The recipe implies that it should be served cold, but we personally liked it warm and will probably always eat it that way.  The only complaints I have about the recipe is that it was a little too spicey for our taste so I’ll probably reduce or cut out the red pepper flakes, and it only made enough for us to eat at one meal (no leftovers!).  Next time I plan to double the recipe!

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

click here for printable version

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) quinoa
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 lime, halved


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds until crisp, lightly browned, and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper, garlic, scallions, and red-pepper flakes; cook until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in quinoa, thyme, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from heat.
  4. Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil, season with salt, and fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature before packing into two containers and refrigerating. When ready to eat, squeeze lime over salad, if desired. Serve with additional lime wedge and thyme, if desired.

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Susi August 29, 2012 at 1:44 am

This looks so great! I just tried cous cous for the first time last week and I loved it. My husband would LOVE this meal, (minus the red peprpes) I will try it for sure! Thanks for sharing!! also you’re so beautiful!!

Deena January 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I made this recipe recently for Meat Free Monday and I absolutely LOVED it. I doubled the recipe per Angela’s suggestions. I had never tried Quinoa before nor was I sure I would like cooked zucchini. I will definitely be making this again – even my husband who is skeptical of anything that looks remotely like couscous thought it was good. And we both liked the little “kick” that the crushed red pepper flakes provided.

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