A hearty freekeh salad jammed with earthy sweet roasted beetroot, salty preserved lemons, crunchy seeds, nuts and fresh herbs. This a great recipe you can make ahead of time and enjoy any day of the week. Exploding in flavour and texture, our freekeh grain salad satisfies with every element.
Why You’ll Love Our Freekeh Grain Salad Recipe
I am a big fan of salads with grains. They yield comfort, but they don’t weigh you down at the same time. With the right mixture of vegetables, nuts or seeds – grain salads are a hearty meal that is tasty and satisfying.
For this freekeh grain salad recipe, I love the contrasting textures and flavours all mixed together. I balance the nutty texture of freekeh and all the nuts and seeds with sweet roasted beetroot, plus inject an intense salty, sour flavour with preserved lemons.
The sumac yoghurt dressing matches perfectly with all the nutty textures. The tangy but creamy yoghurt dressing deliciously coats the grains, nuts and seeds and adds another layer of zingy edge.
What I adore about this winter salad recipe is that you can adapt it to your liking or whatever you have in the pantry. Mix and match the nuts and seeds you like, as well as the herbs you toss in.
And the bonus part, this salad recipe can easily be prepared in advance and transported. It is one that can be meal prepped for the week, perfect for a delicious and healthy lunch.
What Is Freekeh?
For this grain salad recipe, I decided to use freekeh as the main ingredient. Freek-what?
An ancient grain derived from wheat, freekeh originates from the Middle East and is very commonly used in the region as well as North Africa. The Arabic word freekeh actually refers to how the grain is created, which is “to rub”.
Freekeh is a great pantry staple and can be used like bulgur wheat, couscous or quinoa. It goes well in many different dishes like stews and soups, as well as an accompanying pilaf side dish.
How to Use Preserved Lemons?
To add a pop of interesting flavour to the wholesome mix of freekeh, seeds and nuts, I decided to include preserved lemons.
Whole lemons preserved in water, salt and lemon juice create an intense result with a unique salty, lemony and sour taste. Preserved lemons are a real flavour bomb.
Essential in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons are used in many of their delicious lamb and vegetable tagines, plus chicken and fish dishes and, of course, in salads.
Preserved lemons work a treat in grain salads as it helps balance the earthy, nutty flavours. The flesh of preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces but it is the skin that is more popular as it carries most of the concentrated flavour.
Flavour/Texture: It is nutty, crunchy, salty, tangy – seriously, this salad has an explosion of flavours and textures which I adore. Beetroot pairs well with freekeh as they both have earthy undertones.
And together with the yoghurt dressing, it adds another layer of creaminess that seriously elevates the whole salad.
Ease: There are two cooking components to master in this recipe but otherwise, the rest is a simple toss and mix together.
Time: As we are roasting the beets, this recipe will take over just over 1 hour to make. To speed up the process, you can use pre-cooked beetroots sold in vacuum packs.
These are the main ingredients you need for Freekeh Grain Salad:
Freekeh: You can purchase freekeh online, larger supermarkets or wholefood stores. I normally have wholegrain freekeh but you can also use cracked freekeh.
Baby beets: I love the different coloured baby beets in this salad but of course it is not compulsory. You can also use large beets and cut them up into smaller bite sized chunks.
Preserved lemon: For this freekeh salad recipe, I used store bought preserved lemons. Try larger supermarkets or local Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores for ready made preserved lemons.
Dried cranberries: Another element of sweet tartness, dried cranberries also add a pop of colour to the grain salad mix.
Seeds and nuts: This is where you can definitely mix and match your own combination of nuts and seeds in the salad. I chose pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and pine nuts, but others like pistachio, chopped walnuts or sesame seeds also work.
Yoghurt: Plain Greek yoghurt is usually my go-to for dressings. I love the creaminess and thicker consistency compared to other yoghurts.
Sumac: Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice easily found in most spice sections at the supermarkets. Made from the dried and ground berries of the wild sumac bush, it has a slightly acidic taste and adds a delicious tangy flavour to the yoghurt dressing.
Variations and Substitutions
Nut free option: Omit the pine nuts and almonds in the salad if you need a nut free salad. Add extra pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Sumac substitute: If you can’t find sumac, add a little lemon zest to the yoghurt dressing.
Preserved lemons: You can try fresh lemons instead of preserved lemons or alternatively roasted lemon slices like our Roast Vegetables and Quinoa salad.
Vegan salad variation: Switch Greek yoghurt with your favourite plant-based yoghurt and use rice malt syrup instead of honey in the dressing.
Step by step instructions for how to make freekeh grain salad:
How to Cook Freekeh For Salad
Bring to boil 2½ cups of water. Add one cup of freekeh and boil it on medium heat for 35-40 minutes. Let the grain fully absorb all the liquid.
Cooking time may vary, so you may want to check the labels on the packaging. If you are using cracked freekeh it will take about half the time of wholegrain.
Use a fork to fluff up the freekeh.
How to Roast Baby Beetroot
Preheat oven to 180OC or 350OF.
Trim the green tops off the baby beets, give it a good wash, place in foil and season with salt.
Wrap foil parcel up tightly and roast in oven.
This will take approximately 45-55 minutes in a preheated oven. Smaller beets will cook a little faster so you may want to check after 30 minutes in the oven.
To check if the beetroot is tender, you can use a fork or skewer to pierce through it. Beets are done when you can slide the fork or skewer easily to the centre.
Remove beets from the oven.
After the beetroot has cooled down, peel the skin off.
The sensible way to peel beetroots to avoid stains is to of course wear disposable gloves. However, I don’t often have disposable gloves in the house, so I just peel beetroots quickly under running water to avoid stains on my hands. Generally does the trick.
Cut the baby beets into halves or quarters depending on size. If you have used larger beets, cut them into bite-sized pieces.
How To Make The Salad
Over medium-hot heat, toast pine nuts, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds and pepitas in a dry pan until lightly brown. It will only take about 1-2 minutes.
Watch it carefully as the nuts and seeds will burn very quickly. I just want them lightly toasted to bring out the natural oils and add nutty flavours to the salad.
Wash and roughly chop cilantro and parsley.
Remove preserved lemons from the jar and roughly chop into smaller pieces.
How To Make The Salad Dressing
In a small mixing bowl, add the plain Greek yoghurt, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, crushed garlic and sumac and mix well together.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl, place freekeh, roasted beets, preserved lemons, dried cranberries and mixed seeds and nuts. Lightly mix together and toss in with chopped cilantro and parsley.
Tumble into your serving bowl and drizzle half the sumac yoghurt dressing over the salad.
Leave the remainder of the sumac yoghurt dressing in a small bowl and serve.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Be sure to cook freekeh well: Let the grain fully absorb the cooking liquid rather than draining it. You can also let freekeh sit in a covered pot to steam for a few minutes for a fluffier texture.
Coat the salad well with dressing: As this is a hearty grain salad, I like to ensure I cover the salad well with the yoghurt dressing. Even though I only drizzle half the yoghurt dressing in the salad at the start, make sure it is tossed properly. You can then let your guests adjust the dressing by serving the remainder in a small bowl on the side.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with Freekeh Grain Salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
For this hearty freekeh grain salad, we recommend some lighter main dishes to go with it.
For a vegetarian meal, pair it with this easy asparagus keto quiche or a rustic minestrone soup which would be great for the cooler months. If you’re after some fish, a light panko crusted cod would certainly be a great meal for the family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes you can definitely prepare this salad ahead of time. I would dress it closer to the time of serving.
You can store the salad for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the fridge but keep the yoghurt dressing separately if you haven’t tossed it in.
No, freekeh is derived from wheat, therefore, it is not gluten free. If you need a gluten-free replacement for freekeh, try quinoa or farro.
Cracked and whole freekeh essentially are the same thing, other than cracked freekeh is simply whole freekeh broken up into smaller pieces.
They both taste the same, but cracked freekeh has a slightly coarser texture. The best thing about cracked freekeh is that it is faster to cook.
Full of texture and delicious flavours, our freekeh grain salad with preserved lemons is fantastic by itself as a vegetarian salad or a delicious partner to a warm, rich stew. I also love to meal prep this salad and have a hearty lunch any day of the week.
More Hearty Salad Recipes
Freekeh Grain Salad with Preserved Lemons
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Bring to boil 2½ cups of water. Add one cup of freekeh and boil it on medium heat for 35-40 minutes. Let the grain fully absorb all the liquid. Cooking time may vary, so check the labels on the packaging.
- Preheat oven to 180OC or 350OF.Trim the green tops off the baby beets, give them a good wash, place in foil and season with salt.Wrap foil parcel up tightly and roast in the oven for 45-55 minutes.Remove beets from the oven. After the beetroot has cooled down, peel the skin off.
- Over medium-hot heat, toast pine nuts, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds and pepitas in a frypan until lightly brown. It will only take about 1-2 minutes.
- Wash and roughly chop cilantro and parsley.
- Remove preserved lemons from the jar and roughly chop into smaller pieces.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the plain Greek yoghurt, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, crushed garlic and sumac and mix well together.
- In a large mixing bowl, place freekeh, roasted beets, preserved lemons, dried cranberries and mixed seeds and nuts.
- Lightly mix together and toss in with chopped cilantro and parsley.
- Tumble into your serving bowl and drizzle half the yoghurt dressing over the salad.
- Leave the remainder of the dressing in a small bowl and serve.
- Omit the pine nuts and almonds in the salad if you need a nut free salad. Add extra pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
- If you can’t find sumac, add a little lemon zest to the yoghurt dressing.
- You can try fresh lemons instead of preserved lemons or alternatively roasted lemon slices like our Roast Vegetables and Quinoa salad.
- Switch Greek yoghurt with your favourite plant-based yoghurt and use rice malt syrup instead of honey in the dressing for a vegan salad.
- You can let freekeh sit in a covered pot to steam for a few minutes for a fluffier texture.
- Make sure to cover the salad well with the yoghurt dressing
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.