This quinoa salad with pistachios and cranberries can be made ahead of time for lunches or even as a side to dinner. Full of nutritious and delicious add-ins, it’s not only good for you but it looks gorgeous too.
The colors in this quinoa salad will add a festive note to a holiday meal—and it can be prepared in advance so the cooks can devote last-minute preparations to the main course. Quinoa, native to the Andes Mountains, is related to the weed lambs quarters and has been part of the diet of the people who live on the mountain plateaus of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile for five thousand years. Quinoa is a highly nutritious food with protein that’s superior to other more common cereal grains.–Fran Gage
LC Beige But Not Bland Note
Don’t let the benign beige appearance of quinoa mislead you into thinking it’s bland. Oh no. Quinoa possesses an irresistible nuttiness that’s an able backdrop for just about anything. Use it anywhere you’d use rice, couscous, even, in the case of dressings, cubes of day-old bread. (You may, however, need to tweak the amount of liquid. Hey, we said it wasn’t boring. Not that it was a no-brainer.)
Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Cranberries
For the sherry vinaigrette
- 2 teaspoons minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons not overly robust extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons cold water
For the quinoa salad
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 stalks celery thinly sliced
- 3 scallions white and pale green parts thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries coarsely chopped
Make the sherry vinaigrette
- Place the shallots, vinegar, salt, and a few grindings of pepper into a small deep bowl, a coffee mug, or a 1-cup measure. Slowly pour 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil into the bowl, beating constantly with a fork. Beat in the water, then the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Make the quinoa salad
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Arrange the pistachios in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan and toast until you can just detect their aroma and they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let them cool to room temperature. Coarsely chop the pistachios.
- Toast the quinoa in a skillet over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until it just begins to brown, starts to crackle, and smells a bit toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a pot, add the water and the salt, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the quinoa is soft but still has a little texture left in its center, about 15 minutes. The water should be completely absorbed.
- Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and let cool. Add the pistachios, celery, scallions, and cranberries and toss. Dress the salad with the sherry vinaigrette. (If not serving immediately, refrigerate the salad but allow a little time to bring it to room temperature before serving.)
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This quinoa salad is saturated with goodness. Quinoa is a great source of protein and is low-fat, easy to cook and mild in taste. The salad goes together quickly, is colorful and provides various flavors and textures. It lends itself to a summer picnic or as a potluck side dish for the holidays. Everyone I served it to loved it so much I ended up making another batch, this one with Royal Red quinoa (which legend holds was served only to Inca royalty). Although the flavor was much the same, the cooked quinoa was a beautiful shade of burgundy. I can see already this dish will be on my favorites list.
This quinoa salad was very nice, although a bit oily for my liking. I would cut the oil in half or add more vinegar the next time I make this. Really lovely bursts of bright flavours with the celery and onion, and the contrasting crunch of the pistachios mixed with the chewiness of the cranberries adds wonderful texture.
Nutty, chewy (from the quinoa and cranberries), crisp, and slightly tart. This is my new favorite quinoa recipe—if I could only remember to keep celery on hand more often! I still think you should toast the pistachios is a pan instead of the oven, but other than that it all works out to an easy, light salad—no lettuce in sight.
I discovered the joys of quinoa a year ago, and this is a tasty example of why I really love it. Quinoa is very versatile. It’s a grain, and on its own it really doesn’t taste much like anything. The great thing about it, though, is that it soaks up whatever you add to it. The sherry vinaigrette makes it very savory. I also love the flavors from the pistachio nuts and cranberries. It’s great as a side dish, particularly with anything chicken. An added bonus is that you can feel good about eating this dish because quinoa is just so good for you. It’s a great clean flavor.
I took this dish to a party and it was very well received after I explained what quinoa is. Personally I loved the nutty/sweet/savory flavors. As easy as a pasta salad this quinoa dish introduces a nice variety to salads.
An amazing blending of taste, texture and color. While each ingredient stands out, none of them seems to dominate the recipe. Easy to make and I think the advance preparation enhances the flavors even more. A great salad to serve for a change of pace. Quinoa is one of the unsung heroes that many cooks overlook in salads, soups and pilafs. Another easy recipe for my vegetarians.
This quinoa salad was a hit with both my husband and my toddler (and me). It was much more than the sum of its parts—chewy, crunchy, and savory. This recipe will become part of my repertoire.
An excellent balance of flavors and textures, as well as colors: not only the red and green holiday colors described in the recipe’s introduction, but, for example, a trio of lively greens—pistachios, celery, and scallions, which, even with their tops removed as directed, still show fine green striations an inch or two past the root end. The introduction states that this salad can be prepared in advance. I tested its lifespan by following through on the directions to refrigerate the salad if not serving it immediately, and then to bring it back to room temperature before serving. I did this twice. When first served the mid-day after it was made, it seemed, in fact, a bit better than right after it was assembled, with the flavors settling in and melding well, and the quinoa simultaneously retaining its signature texture—a pleasant slight popping of each tiny grain when chewed—as well as its signature nutty, earthy taste (reinforced by toasting before cooking).
This salad was fantastic. I tried it twice, with both red and white quinoa, and the white was much tastier. It allowed the flavors of the vinaigrette and vegetables to come through in cleaner layers.
As this was the very first time I’d cooked with quinoa, I decided to follow this recipe exactly to make sure I knew what I was doing. What I came to find out is that quinoa is similar to semolina (which is used to make couscous), but with a more meaty taste and certainly more filling consistency. This recipe came together in a snap, and I loved the different textures and tastes. The crunchiness of the nuts and the celery, then the sweetness of the cranberries, all were beautifully balanced. Next time, though, I’ll add more citrus juice to better balance out the oil. This can easily be served as a meal unto itself or as a side dish. What a nice plate filled with color, flavor, and healthfulness.
Originally published September 08, 2009
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is a really fantastic quinoa salad. Easy to make, wonderful flavors, and healthy to boot. I loved the crunch of the pistachios and celery combined with the sweet chewiness of the cranberries. I”l make this salad again, but with changes to the vinaigrette as follows to reduce the saltiness and increase the distribution of the flavors of the vinaigrette in the salad: a) add a little sugar; b) reduce the amount of olive oil; and c) increase the acid. (I will probably mix lemon juice and vinegar in equal parts.)