Easy to make in advance, and highly portable, this simple Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is perfect for picnics and potlucks. Great as a vegetarian main or a hearty side salad, and ideal for lunchboxes.
Total Time Investment: 1 Hour 20 minutes
I think there is something magical about a tray of roasted vegetables. Take raw vegetables, subject them to a hot oven, and be rewarded with deeply flavourful nuggets that have infinite uses for the imaginative cook. Eat them on their own as a simple side, tuck them into tarts, quiches or frittatas, blitz them quickly with a little stock into velvety soups or toss them through cooked grain to make this hearty Mediterranean quinoa salad.
With very little effort, you can quickly have the base for an easy meal. Roughly chop your favourite vegetables, toss them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and slide the tray of vegetables into the oven. The vegetables sweeten in the oven, the heat concentrating the flavour and lightly caramelising the edges, enabling you to put your feet up whilst the oven does the hard work.
This simple Mediterranean quinoa salad appears quite regularly on our dinner table during the summer months. Whilst I prefer to roast my vegetables in the oven, I have also successfully used the BBQ when the summer becomes far too hot to even contemplate switching the oven on. It’s not just a summer salad though, and is just as good served warm during the cooler months.
The quinoa in the salad enables it to be served either as a great vegetarian main or a hearty side salad for a simple piece of grilled chicken or a steak. If the number of people at your dinner table suddenly increases, just cook more quinoa or roast more vegetables.
Easy to make in advance, and highly portable, this roasted vegetable salad is perfect for picnics or potlucks, it is also perfect for tucking into lunchboxes through the week. Magic I tell you.
Tips & Tricks to Get Ahead
Both the vegetables and quinoa can be prepared up to three days in advance and assembled just before the salad is required.
My Mediterranean quinoa salad will also keeps for ages (up to five days) once assembled in the fridge. I have packed it into lunchboxes for The Princess on Sunday, and she just removes a lunchbox each day to take to school.
Roast double the amount of vegetables required, or cook twice the amount of quinoa, and use the leftovers for other meals during the week. Any extra vegetables and quinoa can also be frozen separately for other meals.
The lemon dressing can also be made up to three days in advance and kept separately in the fridge. The dressing is also great used in grain bowls or on other salads, so consider making extra to help out with other meals through the week.
This Mediterranean quinoa salad is easily customised to suit your family’s tastes, so I really want you to consider this more a template than a recipe. Use any herbs and vegetables you have on hand.
Not a fan of beetroot or squash? Try slow roasted tomatoes, fennel, pumpkin or zucchini.
Don’t like quinoa? No problems; use your favourite grain instead. Try farro, wheat, or cous cous.
Mix up the herbs according to what is is season. Use loads of basil and parsley in summer, or chives and coriander in winter. Or try dill, fennel or chervil for an aniseed twist.
If you can’t find fresh lemon juice, use red wine vinegar instead.
Simple Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Easy to make in advance, and highly portable, Mediterranean quinoa salad is perfect for picnics and potlucks. Great as a vegetarian main or a hearty side salad, and ideal for lunchboxes.
To roast the vegetables
- 1 bunch of baby beetroot leaves removed and scrubbed
- 1 bunch of baby carrots leaves removed and scrubbed
- 3 (approx 450g) small sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
- 1 medium red onion peeled and cut into eighths
- 10 (approx 250g) baby yellow squash halved
- 1 red pepper cut into 2cm pieces
- Olive oil for roasting
- Salt & pepper
For the quinoa base
- 180 g (1 cup) uncooked quinoa
- 5 - 6 Tablespoons chopped herbs (I used parsley, basil and chives)
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- Salt & pepper
To roast the vegetables
Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced).
Place the baby beetroot into the centre of a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and scrunch the foil to enclose the beetroot. Place in the oven.
Toss the sweet potato with olive oil, salt & pepper. Spread on a baking tray, and place in the oven. [See note 1]
Toss the red onion with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a tray in the oven.
Toss the carrots with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a tray in the oven.
Toss the baby squash with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a tray in the oven.
Toss the red pepper with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a tray in the oven.
Cook the beetroot for approximately 45 minutes, or until a skewer easily pierces the beetroot. Remove from the oven, and open the foil packet to allow the beetroot to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the beetroot and cut them into quarters. Set aside.
Cook the remaining vegetables until softened and lightly browned. My approximate cooking times are:
sweet potato - 45 minutes,
baby carrots - 30 minutes,
red onion - 30 minutes,
baby squash - 25 minutes,
red pepper - 20 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from the oven once cooked. Some vegetable pieces may cook faster than others, so remove them individually during the cooking time if necessary to prevent them overcooking.
For the quinoa base
While the vegetables are roasting, cook the quinoa according to the packet directions.
Place the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk together. Set aside.
Place the cooked quinoa and the chopped herbs into a large bowl.
Season with salt & pepper, then toss the herbs lightly through the quinoa.
To finish the salad
Add the warm vegetables to the quinoa.
Pour the lemon dressing over the vegetables.
Toss the vegetables through the quinoa to combine.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note 1: I use two large baking trays for this recipe. I place the vegetables that take the longest time to cook in the oven first, and then prepare the next round of vegetables.
I use a portion of the baking tray for each type of vegetable, keeping like vegetables together to make it easier to remove them when cooked.
The quantities of vegetables are not extremely important here. The salad is highly flexible and will work well with both fewer or more vegetables. Feel free to swap out the vegetables and herbs I have used for your favourites.
The dressing is extremely tart when tasted on its own. This is deliberate, and the sharpness of the dressing will be balanced out by the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.
I can only provide approximate cooking times in this recipe. Exact cooking times will depend on the type and freshness of your vegetables, and the size of the cut vegetables.
Beetroot will turn your quinoa pink. If this bothers you, use more sweet potato and carrots instead.
P.S. If you are a fan of quinoa salads, then check out my Grilled Zucchini & Feta Quinoa Salad.