Spicy Quinoa Salad

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Quinoa is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. This makes it a perfect choice for those who are limiting meat in their diet. And as a special bonus, it cooks in just fifteen minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

By itself, quinoa is somewhat bland, but we packed it with lots of flavor, starting with a spicy, sweet-tart dressing. This grain salad is easy to make, and it’s just as good the next day.

Tip

  • The outside of the grain has a coating called saponin, which acts like a natural pesticide to protect the seeds from being eaten by animals. Saponin has a slightly bitter flavor, but it isn’t harmful. To remove this coating, rinse the quinoa well in a mesh strainer under cold running water until the water runs clear. Some packaged quinoa is pre-rinsed, but it doesn’t hurt to rinse it again to remove any remaining saponins.
  • The word chile, when spelled with an “e,” refers to ground dried chile peppers with no other additions. When it ends with an “i,” as in chili, it’s a mixture of ground chile peppers and other spices and herbs, such as cumin, oregano, garlic, and salt. 
  • In this recipe, we use either mild New Mexico or California red chile powder. Ancho chile powder can be used as a substitute, such as McCormick’s Ground Ancho Chile Pepper. Because this is a milder pepper than the New Mexico chile, add 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper for some additional heat.

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Spicy Quinoa Salad

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons New Mexico mild red chile powder (or 1 1/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder plus 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper)
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Add to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Refer to the directions on your quinoa package. Remove from heat. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until cool.

In a small bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the quinoa and toss to thoroughly coat. Add the beans, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro, and toss again. You can serve this right away, but the flavor is even better if you let it set at least 15 minutes.

It tastes delicious the next day too.

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