Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Cranberries

A large wooden spoon with a scoop of quinoa salad with pistachios and cranberries being held over a white bowl filled with the salad.

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. Best of all, quinoa has a nutty, earthy taste. A vinaigrette made with a medium extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar complements the nutty quinoa and pistachios.–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

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 15 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The New American Olive Oil cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • For the sherry vinaigrette
  • For the quinoa salad


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.)

Print RecipeBuy the The New American Olive Oil cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

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.)

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.


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. The short answer is no, Teresa, you don’t have to rinse the quinoa. Rinsing removes something called saponin, a natural substance that coats each grain of quinoa, although most of the commercially available quinoa in the states has already had the saponin rinsed or rubbed off. (If you’d like to read more about whether or not to rinse quinoa, there’s a lot of information out there, just warning you!) If you do decide to rinse the grain, you’ll need to spread it out and allow it to completely dry before you attempt to toast it. The drying can take hours, if not days, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

  1. Love this salad. I wonder how it would taste with a touch of orange added. May try adding mandarin orange segments next time, or maybe just some orange zest or a little orange juice instead of some of the water when simmering.

  2. There are so many testers who’ve praised this dish, I am not sure that my two cents will add anything, but this is one of my favorite LC dishes. I also reduce the oil in it, or sometimes just substitute a lemon-oil dressing I generally have on hand (called “latholemono” in Greek), but the salad itself I don’t alter. One reason I love it is that my son, who generally balks at quinoa, enjoys it with the addition of the sweet and chewy cranberries and the crunch of celery. It’s a “happy in your mouth” kind of dish, and very nutritious. Adults and kids can all get behind that.

  3. I havent tried this yet but just wanted to tell all the Jewish readers and testers that Quinoa is kosher for Passover.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish