This quinoa herb salad is incredibly aromatic and delicious with its multitude of herbs, each redolent with its own unique aroma. There is so much going on here with the herbs that the quinoa is almost an afterthought.
I have a confession to make. I don’t like quinoa. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that I can’t stand the stuff!
This recipe, with the quinoa cooked in coconut milk, then tossed with a whole lot of herbs, was therefore, a delicious revelation.
Quinoa is nothing new in our household. I was cooking it for my late husband in the 90s, before it became trendy and all the rage. Every time I made it for him, I’d have some but I always felt like Mick Jagger afterwards. You know,
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try 🙂
However, I’ve started including it at home recently because all my kids went vegetarian a few years ago. Sahara, my 14-year-old, has mostly a plant based diet, because she’s allergic to eggs and doesn’t like processed foods, so it’s really her that I’m concerned about.
What is Quinoa?
It originated in the Andean region some 7000 years ago to feed livestock, and gradually made the transition to being used for human consumption. These days, because it’s become rather trendy, quinoa is grown all over the world for this purpose, and used in so many ways, including in salads like our quinoa salad today.
What’s so good about Quinoa?
Ok, so everyone goes on about what a great source of protein quinoa is, right? 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8g of protein, compared to 6g for a whole egg and 5g for 1 cup of cooked brown rice.
Personally, I don’t think 8g of protein is much if you consume meat or eggs on a regular basis. However, if you’re a vegetarian, especially a vegan, those 8g are pretty important.
In my opinion, what makes quinoa invaluable to a vegan lifestyle, is the fact that it’s a complete protein, containing all the 9 essential amino acids.
Besides that, compared to other grains (although quinoa is actually a seed), quinoa is also a good source of fibre, copper, iron, thiamin, B6, magnesium and folate.
And so, our quinoa salad today is one plate (bowl?) of supercharged nutritional goodness!
How to Cook Quinoa
Be sure to rinse your quinoa well before cooking it, even if the packaging says pre rinsed. This is because quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that can make the final cooked product rather bitter. So give it a good rinse, massaging the quinoa beads a little, and you’re good to go.
There is a lot of advice out there about how to cook quinoa. Most seem to say an additional cup of water to every cup of dry quinoa, which works for the most part.
However, I found that when I use that ratio, my quinoa is just on the wrong side of soft, a little clumpy. So I use a little less water than is usually recommended.
But, just like rice, your quinoa is going to be different, from brand to brand. You might have to adjust the liquid slightly to find the ratio that works for you. I cook quinoa just like I cook rice: leave it to boil, uncovered, until the liquid has all but gone. Then cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Our Quinoa Salad Recipe
This recipe had long been requested by a couple of readers as well as some of my mealplan clients. But it only came about recently when I was tending to the garden (which includes the stuff that grows in my conservatory).
I looked at all the herbs I was growing and had a lightbulb moment. A favourite childhood recipe came to mind, and that was the inspiration for today’s quinoa salad.
Nasi Ulam is a rice herb salad from north Malaysia, and was traditionally made with 100 different types of freshly picked wild herbs, that would include wild betel leaves, Indian pennywort and cashew nut leaves. These days, and for many of us not living in the country or villages, getting 100 fresh herbs is no easy feat, so one makes do with what one can get.
It would traditionally be served with any number of accompaniments as you see in the image above. So I made today’s recipe with nasi ulam in mind.
This is how we’ll be cooking our quinoa salad:
- Fry a little garlic in coconut oil (you can use olive oil, if you like).
- Add the quinoa and toast it in the garlic oil for about a minute.
- Top with coconut milk and water.
- Cook for 15 minutes.
- Cut up the herbs, chillies, lemongrass and tomato while waiting.
- Cool the quinoa, then toss with all the cut herbs and tomatoes.
- Finish off with some lime juice.
Quinoa to Herb ratio
The whole idea behind this recipe is that the herbs are the star of the show, much like parsley is the star of the show in the Levantine Tabbouleh, and not the bulgur wheat. The quinoa is almost a bit player, almost.
So while I took inspiration for todays’s quinoa salad from Nasi Ulam, in its makeup, I fashioned it a little like the Lebanese Tabbouleh. So heavy on the leaves, light on the starch. Yes, quinoa is a starch.
However, if you fancy using a smaller amount of herbs, I am not going to shoot you. Also, if you can only get 5 herbs, and not 17, that’s perfectly fine too.
And, if you are still in Lockdown mode, and only have dried herbs, use that, instead of your fresh herbs. We do what we have to do, right? Just remember to rub your dried herbs in your palm before tossing them into the salad. This will help to release their aroma.
What Homegrown Herbs am I using?
Everyone loves a herb garden. What makes mine a little special is the “exotic” herbs that I grow, some throughout the year, and some only in the summer.
The following herbs are what I used in our quinoa salad, all homegrown. You can use anything you can get your hands on, as much or as little as you like. But as mentioned above, the beauty of this salad lies in the variety of the herbs used. So I suggest you get as many as you can.
One thing to note: use less of the stronger ones, like rosemary and shiso. This is so they don’t overpower everything else and you have an aromatic balance that pleases all the senses.
- flat leaf parsley
- basil (I used Greek basil)
- coriander leaves (cilantro)
- Thai sweet basil
- Thai holy basil
- Vietnamese Mint
- turmeric leaf
- galangal leaf
- Kaffir lime leaf
- Indian curry leaf
- Shiso leaves
- Peruvian mint
I have some fenugreek leaves growing too, but forgot all about them!
Other Ingredients in our Quinoa Salad
Besides the herb, I thought a small amount of tomatoes would add a little more flavour and well as nutrition to the recipe. And then, plenty of lime juice to round the quinoa salad up nicely.
And, on top of that, we start off cooking the quinoa in coconut milk, after toasting it in some coconut oil with garlic. This creates a beautiful, slightly creamy base, another layer of flavour to set off the odoriferous collection of herbs we’ll be adding.
I’ve used only 1 cup of coconut milk for flavour, as I didn’t want to load the calories. If you want to cut the calories and fat content even more, skip the oil completely, and just boil the quinoa with the garlic and liquid.
And naturally, you could reduce the serving size, making this recipe go 8 servings.
Cool Salad or Warm?
I shall leave this completely up to you. In the past, when I made nasi ulam at home, I would make it warm, as my husband hated eating anything that wasn’t burning hot. He’d nuke everything in the microwave oven after it was served up on his plate.
How would I prefer to eat it? Well, I would cool the quinoa down slightly, then toss all the herbs and tomato in. That way, the herbs retain their freshness, as will the tomatoes; the best way to enjoy this salad, methinks.
Well, that’s about all I can think of, for behind the scenes. Shall we get our aprons on?
How to Serve this Quinoa Salad?
Firstly, you have to decide whether you want to keep it vegan or not. Then, whether you want to serve it as a main, or a side dish.
When I make this at home, it is a main dish and served as a vegetarian meal. I accompany it with:
- some sort of hot sauce,
- some stir fried tofu maybe,
- or sometimes, when I’m especially hungry, a fried egg.
If you are not vegetarian, it makes a perfect side dish served as the nasi ulam above, with any kind of accompaniments. Think barbecue, this would make a great salad for a garden party.
More Ideas for the Quinoa Salad
More Salad Recipes on LinsFood
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Vegan Quinoa Salad (with 17 Homegrown Herbs!)
For Cooking the Quinoa
- 400 g quinoa, multicoloured if you can get it
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil (or EV olive oil)
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 625 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
The Herbs (as many as you can get, even if they are not listed below)
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 2 sprigs basil
- 1 sprig dill
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 10 chives
- 2 sprigs mint
- 3 lemongrass
- 3 sprigs Thai sweet basil
- 3 sprigs Thai holy basil
- 3 sprigs Vietnamese Coriander
- 1 large turmeric leaf
- 1 stalk galangal leaves
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 3 sprigs curry leaves
- 4 shiso leaves
- 1 sprig Huacatay
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 red or green chillies heat level, up to you
- 2 limes
- freshly ground black pepper
Cooking the Quinoa
- Rinse the quinoa and set aside to drain.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for 30 seconds.
- Add the drained quinoa and toast in the garlic oil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the coconut milk, water and salt, stir, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
- Leave the quinoa to bubble away, until the liquid has been absorbed, but not completely dry.
- Stir the quinoa, cover and cook for 5 minutes. We stir because of the coconut milk, which has a tendency to catch.
- After 5 minutes, take off the hot hob, and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and tip all the quinoa out onto a large plate and spread it out. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes or so.You could cook the quinoa much earlier and just leave it in the pot to cool.
The Herbs and Stuff
- While the quinoa is cooking, cut up your herbs. Roll them all up (except the lemongrass) into a chiffonade, in the largest leaf you have. Then, just slice. This is the easiest way to chop up the tinier ones. Don't worry too much about stems, just chop them up too, unless they are very woody and stiff, then pick the leaves off.Place on a plate and set aside.
- Slice the bottom half of the lemongrass into rings. Then just roughly chop the rings up into little pieces. Add to the chopped herbs above.
- Quarter the cherry tomatoes and add to the herbs.
- Finely chop the chillies.
- Halve 1 of the limes. Reserve the other of you want more after tasting.
Assembling the Quinoa Salad
- Place the cooled quinoa into a large bowl. Top with the herbs and tomatoes.
- Squeeze the juice of 1 lime all over.
- Add some freshly ground black pepper.
- Toss the salad gently, making sure that everything is mixed well. Taste, then add more salt or lime juice, if you think it needs it.