We adore this delicious vegan tricolour quinoa salad mixed with sweet roasted baby peppers, caramelised eggplant and tangy lemon. All tossed together with a zesty lemon garlic dressing. This is the perfect side dish recipe for potlucks and parties.
Why You’ll Love Our Tricolour Quinoa Salad
When I get asked to bring a dish for potluck gatherings, I have so many questions that run through my head.
Should I bring something to reheat? What about allergies? Are there any vegetarians there? And salad, hmm, will it get soggy? What about desserts? Forget that; you can’t bake!
So I decided to create a recipe that answers all these questions.
This Tricolour Quinoa Salad is perfect for potluck gatherings because you don’t need to reheat and it does not get soggy as a pre-made salad.
The inspiration for this vegan quinoa recipe came from flicking through my Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks. One Ottolenghi recipe included roasted lemon. I’ve never tried roasting lemons and thought it would be an interesting combination with nutty quinoa.
The end result? Layers of uber delicious flavours and textures.
I mixed nutty tricolour quinoa with sweet roasted baby peppers, caramelised eggplant and a burst of tangy citrus with the roasted lemons. Plus a scattering of peppery rocket, herbs, and pine nuts and tied together with zippy lemon garlic dressing.
A lot is going on, but this quinoa recipe is totally potluck worthy.
Five Fun Facts About Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH)
1)We eat quinoa like a grain, but it is not a grain at all. In fact, it is a protein-rich seed derived from a vegetable that belongs to a family of spinach and beets. And since quinoa is not from wheat, it is a gluten-free option for grains.
2) There are 120 known varieties of quinoa, but the most common types are white, red and black. You can cook them separately or use them together as tricolour quinoa.
3) Quinoa is widely adaptable and thrives in diverse conditions. It can grow in low rainfall, high altitudes, hot sun and freezing cold temperatures making it a very sustainable crop.
4) Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can make cooked quinoa taste bitter—rinsing the quinoa before cooking helps to reduce the saponin.
5) Fermenting quinoa can turn into a traditional Andean beer called Chicha.
What is Tricolour Quinoa?
Tricolour Quinoa is considered a superfood. The three main quinoa varieties commercially grown are white, red and black.
White quinoa is milder in flavour and has a fluffy texture when cooked, which is why it works as a substitute for rice.
Red quinoa has a more robust flavour, it’s slightly chewier and nuttier and used in our red quinoa salad. Black quinoa is considered to be somewhat more earthy, and along with red quinoa, they are preferred in salads as they hold shape better than white.
Whilst there are subtle flavour differences between the different white, red and black, they can be used interchangeably. That is the reason why you can buy tricolour quinoa.
Some people prefer not to use tricolour as there are slight differences in cooking time between the three colours. I prefer the different textures and colourful mix, especially when combining them in a quinoa salad recipe.
How To Cook Tricolour Quinoa For Salad
There are a few different methods and loads of useful tips out there on how to cook tricolour quinoa.
I normally cook my tricolour quinoa over the stove. You can also cook quinoa in the microwave, instant pot or even in a rice cooker. Always check the packaging for instructions as quantities and cooking time may vary.
Generally speaking, if you cook 1 part quinoa, you need 2 parts liquid. This can be water or stock.
The first few times I did try, the quinoa turned out a bit gluggy. So if this is your first time cooking quinoa, it may take a few attempts to get it right.
There is no need to cover the pot when the quinoa is cooking. I find this tends to make the quinoa gluggy.
Once the quinoa fully absorbs the water in the pot, I then cover the pot to let the quinoa steam for a few more minutes. To finish, use a fork to fluff it up.
Let quinoa cool down before using it in salad. You can even prep it in advance the day before.
If you like quinoa, you can also try puffed quinoa in our vegan wild rice salad.
Flavour/Texture: With the tricolour quinoa mixed with roasted vegetables, this vegan quinoa salad feels hearty and warm but also well balanced with peppery rocket and parsley.
I love the hit of zing with the lemon garlic salad dressing as well. It helps pep up the roasted vegetables and quinoa. The same way it does in our Chickpea salad.
Ease: If you are cooking quinoa for the first time, it may take some time to get the right texture. Otherwise, the other steps are not too difficult.
Time: Don’t rush the cooking process for quinoa. Having fluffy quinoa will make a difference in the overall texture of the salad.
These are the main ingredients you need for Tricolour Quinoa Salad:
Tri-colour quinoa: Tricolour quinoa is fantastic to have as a pantry staple. A versatile ingredient that you can use as a substitute for rice, mix in breakfast bowls, add to soups and stews and, of course, use in salads.
Eggplant: When choosing a good eggplant, look for one with shiny skin, that feels heavy to hold and slightly firm to touch.
Bell peppers: I used baby bell peppers in this recipe but you can also use a large bell pepper.
Lemon and lemon juice: You will need both a whole lemon for roasting as well the juice of another lemon for the salad dressing.
Rocket / Arugula: I adore rocket (AKA arugula) because I love the peppery flavours. It also adds texture to the roasted vegetable salad.
Pine nuts: Adding another dimension of texture, toasted pine nuts give crunch and buttery aroma.
Variations and Substitutions
Substitute for tricolour quinoa: If you don’t have tricolour quinoa, a single mix of white or red quinoa would be suitable. Alternatively, you could try pearl couscous like our roasted rainbow carrot salad or freekeh in our grain salad.
Roast vegetables variation: This is a great recipe to use up any leftover roast vegetables you have or make your own favourite combination. Switch eggplant or bell peppers for roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini or carrots.
Nut free option: Omit pine nuts and switch for pepitas.
Rocket/Arugula alternative: If you don’t like the peppery flavours of rocket/arugula, spinach leaves will work well as an alternative.
Step by step instructions for how to make Tricolour Quinoa Salad
How To Cook Quinoa
Rinse the tricolour quinoa through a colander.
Add rinsed tricolour quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 cup of water.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently.
Simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.
Remove the saucepan from heat and cover with a lid. Let quinoa steam for about 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and use a fork to fluff up the tricolour quinoa.
Allow quinoa to cool down.
How to Roast Vegetables
Heat the oven to 200°C or 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Cut the eggplant into 2-3 cm cubes. Brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt.
Seasoning eggplant with salt before cooking will help draw the excess water and season it from the inside.
Coat baby peppers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are using a large bell pepper instead, cut it into 2 cm thick strips and season as above.
Place cut eggplant and baby peppers in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes until golden and soft.
Cut the lemon into thick 1 cm rounds. Season with olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Place lemons in the oven and roast for 15 – 20 minutes until lemon starts to caramelise.
Once cool, cut the roasted lemon rounds into quarters.
How to Prepare the Salad
Wash rocket leaves and give it a shake to remove excess water.
Wash and roughly chop parsley.
Thinly cut spring onions (scallions) into small rounds.
Over medium-low heat, dry roast pine nuts in a medium fry pan until golden brown. Stir and frequently move to avoid burning. Once they are ready, remove quickly from the frying pan.
How to Make Lemon Garlic Dressing
Add crushed garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to a mason jar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Shake together to combine.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large salad bowl, combine rocket, tricolour quinoa, roasted eggplant, roasted baby peppers, roasted lemon, spring onions, parsley and pine nuts together.
Drizzle with lemon garlic dressing and toss so the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Season with salt and pepper if required.
Let the salad sit for 10 minutes, so the vegan quinoa salad well absorbs the lemon garlic dressing.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Rinse the quinoa: Before cooking tricolour quinoa, give it a good rinse. Rinsing helps remove the saponin which is the outside coating of the grain. Saponin can cause a slightly bitter taste.
Do not overcook quinoa: Don’t cook quinoa with a lid on the pot while cooking. I find this overcooks the quinoa and makes it gluggy. I leave the lid off when cooking and then place the lid back on after the quinoa has fully absorbed the liquid and let it steam a few more minutes with the lid on.
Let the salad absorb the dressing: This quinoa salad recipe is great to prepare in advance so the quinoa can fully absorb the lemon garlic dressing.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with tricolour quinoa salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
For our seafood lovers, you have to check out this seafood chowder. Absolutely delightful and would go perfectly with the tricolour quinoa salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, definitely can prepare the salad in advance. I would dress it too and let the flavours fully absorb.
I would recommend serving this salad at room temperature. If you are preparing in advance and have stored the quinoa salad in the fridge, remove and let it sit out so that it is not completely cold when serving.
Quinoa is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different types of recipes. Popular recipes include adding quinoa to nourish bowls, vegan burgers, stews, soups, baking bread, tacos and substituting rice.
Well, what’s not to love about this delicious and healthy roast vegetable quinoa salad? Loads of sweet charred flavours mixed with nutty tricolour quinoa for texture and zingy lemon garlic dressing all rolled into one bite.
You can easily prep this vegan tricolour quinoa recipe ahead and take it on a picnic or share with friends at a potluck meal. It’s wonderfully colourful to have in the middle of the table. Even those who are not quinoa fans will love this recipe.
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Tricolour Quinoa Salad with Roast Vegetables
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- Rinse the quinoa through a colander. Add tricolour quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently. Simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Remove the saucepan from heat and cover with a lid. Let quinoa steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and use a fork to fluff up the quinoa. Set aside for assembly.
- Heat the oven to 200°C or 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Cut the eggplant into 2-3 cm cubes. Brush eggplant with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt. Roast eggplant in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes until golden and soft. Remove from the baking sheet from the oven to cool.
- Wash baby peppers and season with 1 tsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. If you are using a large bell pepper instead, cut into 2 cm thick strips and season as above. Roast baby peppers for approximately 25-30 minutes until the skin is charred and soft. Remove from the baking sheet from the oven to cool.
- Cut lemon into thick 1 cm rounds. Season with 1 tsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place lemons in the oven and roast for 15 – 20 minutes until lemon caramelises. Remove from the baking sheet from the oven to cool. Once cool, cut the roasted lemon rounds into quarters.
- Wash rocket leaves and give it a shake to remove excess water.
- Wash and roughly chop parsley.
- Thinly cut spring onions into round slices.
- Over medium-low heat, dry roast pine nuts in a medium fry pan until golden brown.
- Peel and mince the garlic with a knife or use a garlic press.
- Add crushed garlic,extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to a mixing bowl.
- Whisk together to combine.
- Taste first and then season with salt and pepper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rocket, tricolour quinoa, roasted eggplant, roasted baby peppers, roasted lemon together, spring onions, parsley and pine nuts together.
- Drizzle with lemon garlic dressing and toss so the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if required.
- Let the salad sit for 10 minutes so the salad well absorbs the lemon garlic dressing.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl or platter and serve.
- You can substitute baby peppers with normal bell peppers/capsicums. Just cut into thick slices and roast in the oven.
- If you do find the garlic overpowering in the lemon garlic dressing, add ½ tsp of maple syrup to help mellow out the flavours.
- You can use either red or white quinoa in place of tricolour quinoa. Alternatively, you could try pearl couscous or freekeh.
- This is a great recipe to use up any leftover roast vegetables you have or make your own favourite combination. Switch eggplant or bell peppers for roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini or carrots.
- For nut free option, omit pine nuts and switch for pepitas
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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