Cranberry quinoa salad is a plant-based festive burst of flavors and textures. This is the perfect salad when you want something delectable - a bit sweet, a bit savory and full of satisfaction. No one will suspect how quick this to make when you serve it up for a ‘wow’ lunch.
Let’s keep it silly simple. That’s at the heart of this salad recipe. You get plenty of veggie goodness and satisfaction with the addition of red peppers, cucumber and red onion. I’m not ruling out adding some shredded carrots, beets or even thinly sliced radishes, but less could well be more. The idea behind cranberry quinoa salad is making something quick that doesn’t taste quick.
Quinoa of a different color
Although there is no substantive nutritional difference between red, white and black quinoa, I find both red and black quinoa a bit chewier and somewhat denser than the white. The red and black take a few more minutes to cook (about 5). I can get essentially one brand in my neighborhood in The Hague, so take that into consideration when I suggest that the red and black is a teensy bit smaller as well.
No-fail quinoa rules
No matter the color or brand of quinoa, I always follow my no-fail rules: rinse well, use 2 cups of liquid for per 1 cup quinoa, simmer until the liquid is absorbed and fluff. If you find a brand that doesn’t require rinsing, toasting quinoa in your pan before adding liquid will add a distinct nutty dimension. It isn’t the same if you rinse it first which is why I didn’t include this in the instructions.
Get your simmer on
I opted to simmer my quinoa in vegetable broth (my standard practice). I used the same method for pear quinoa salad. If you simmer with water, add a pinch of salt to help bring out the flavor. No, it doesn’t make the water boil faster.
Dress for success
While your quinoa is doing that simmer thing, you have plenty of time to make the perfect tomato-Dijon dressing. I know what you’re thinking: “Seriously, tomato with cranberries? That’s too weird Denise”. To which I say: “Trust me. Give it a try”. You’ll discover that this easy oil free dressing is the perfect complement. 4 ingredients, a blender and 3 minutes. If you want to take the spice down a notch, you can substitute the Dijon for a milder mustard. The mustard not only gives flavor, but it also adds thickness so it’s better to experiment with the type of mustard rather than the amount.
Even kale needs to relax
Yes, massaging kale is a culinary thing. Kale really benefits from a quick massage and although many recipes will call for oil, you don’t actually need it. The acidity of the tomatoes and the salt in the mustard from our dressing will soften the shredded kale in short order. Do this right after you make the dressing and just let it sit while the quinoa finishes up and you prep the pepper, cucumber and red onion.
Dish it up
If you dish it up, I can take it. I’m talking about cranberry quinoa salad here. I made this the first time on a Saturday as a ‘throw together’ lunch. We devoured it in short order. Best of all, it left us feeling happy in that way that only healthy meals can do. There was enough left over for Sunday. I had suspected there would be which is one reason I chose kale over lettuce. Kale might relax after that massage, but it retains its crispness after being dressed. Keep that in mind if you want a portable salad for a busy week. This one likes to travel.
There’s a connection between simplicity and control. It’s one reason why downsizing and decluttering is so popular. When everything around us appears too complicated, when systems are too complex, when we are inundated with ads, apps, applications, rules we flee to the simple. We take control where we can get it. Our ordered corner of safety while the world swirls around us.
Illusion of simplicity
Many years ago, I tried a diet where you had to create a balance of fats, carbs and protein. I won’t disclose the name, but many if you have been engaged in professional dieting like I was, you’ll recognize it. Admittedly, I never read any of the pseudoscience behind it. I was a flip to the meal plan, let’s get started girl in those days. Of course, I wasn’t going to succeed. Too complicated, lack of rationale. I failed at those calorie counting apps for a similar reason. Too complicated, too time-consuming.
The Pollan principle
I turned to a plant-based diet because it was simple. I used the Michael Pollan principle: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I’d tried everything else, so I tried that. It was uncomplicated and I knew it wouldn’t do any harm. I knew the risk was failure, but hey, I’d had plenty of dieting failures and I had decades worth of diet books to prove it.
As the Pollan principle started to pay off, I gradually learned the science behind it. I began to understand some of the complex reasons while enjoying the pure simplicity of eating plant-based. My shelf of dusty, half read diet books were replaced by well-used plant-based cook books.
I learned that I didn’t need to count anything. Measure ingredients, not servings. Eat because I’m hungry and it tastes good, not because it’s on the ‘plan’. I also learned that are no permanent fails. Falling off a wagon might mean that you need to be the driver of the wagon. Take the reins, chart your own journey. Keep it simple. Peace.Print
cranberry quinoa salad
Cranberry quinoa salad is simple, plant-based, oil free perfection. This burst of colors, flavors and textures can be made ahead, lasts for days and love to travel.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salads & Bowls
- Method: Stove Top
- Cuisine: Plant-based
- 1 cup quinoa (I like using red, but you can you white or black)
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 4 cups shredded kale
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 cucumber deseeded and diced (I never peel cucumbers, but peel if you don’t like the skins)
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
2 large tomatoes (2 cups diced)
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (use a milder mustard if you don’t want so much spice)
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
- Rinse the quinoa and add it to a medium pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth (or water with a pinch of salt). Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed.
- Make the dressing by combining the diced tomatoes, garlic clove, mustard and Balsamic vinegar in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Add the shredded kale and dressing to your salad bowl and massage the kale until it is coated with the dressing and starts to soften a bit. Set aside.
- Prep the red pepper, cucumber and red onion.
- When the quinoa is done, remove the lid, give it a few stirs and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Add the quinoa, pepper, cucumber, onion, cranberries and almonds to your salad bowl. Mix well. Add salt and/or pepper if desired.
- Once you mix the salad, you can add extra Balsamic or mustard to spice it up a bit. Depending on how much you add, it can dramatically change the flavor.
- I used red quinoa for this recipe, but you can always substitute regular (and cheaper) white and get the same great taste. Cook it the same way.
Keywords: cranberry quinoa salad