Mexican quinoa salad is bright, zesty, incredibly flavorful, packed with protein, and good for you! It’s an easy and affordable one-pot meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes. It tastes even better the next day, which makes this is a perfect make-ahead recipe.
What is Quinoa
Generally thought of as a whole grain, quinoa is actually a seed that comes from the Chenopodium quinoa plant. It is high in nutrients such as fiber, iron, and b vitamins. It is also a complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids our bodies don’t naturally produce. On its own quinoa has a very mild taste, making it perfect for pairing with other food flavors.
How to Cook Quinoa:
1. Add uncooked quinoa to a fine-mesh strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. *Why rinse quinoa? Rinsing removes its natural coating saponin, which some people find to have a bitter or soapy taste.
2. Add one-parts quinoa with two-parts liquid to a pot, bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed and the seeds have opened up. Stir and taste to check for doneness, it should be soft but not mushy.
Mexican Quinoa Salad Ingredients:
- Vegetable broth: Cooking the quinoa in broth infuses it with flavor. I use vegetable broth to keep this a vegetarian dish. You can use a different type of broth or water and adjust the salt you add as needed.
- Chopped onion: I use red onions but use any you prefer or have on hand.
- Tomatoes: I usually use grape or cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Other good options would be Roma, beefsteak, or on the vine tomatoes, seeded and diced.
- Corn: Canned, drained and rinsed is easiest.
- Black beans: Canned, drained and rinsed.
- Cilantro: About ¼ bunch, chopped
- Cotija cheese: A salty Mexican cheese that is similar in texture and taste to feta.
- Olive oil: Just a couple of tablespoons is perfect.
- Lime juice: Two limes, juiced. This addition adds so much brightness to the quinoa salad.
- Salt & pepper: If you used regular sodium broth you won’t need a lot of salt. Taste and season as needed.
- Diced avocado: One of my all-time favorite toppings for any salad. Add it just before serving. If you add the avocado too early or keep it with any leftovers it will quickly become brown.
Refrigerating helps the flavors fuse together and makes this Mexican quinoa salad taste even better. If you have the time I recommend refrigerating for at least 1 hour before serving.
Mexican Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup canned black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup canned corn drained and rinsed
- ¼ bunch cilantro chopped
- 1 cup cotija cheese crumbled
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 limes juiced
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- diced avocado, for serving
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer until water runs clear.
- Add the rinsed quinoa and vegetable broth to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the quinoa is soft and has absorbed all of the liquid. About 15-20 minutes. Cook times may vary depending on the size of your pot.
- Add the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
- Toss the quinoa with the remaining ingredients. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
- Serve warm or cold. Add the avocado just before serving.
- Keep refrigerated (without avocado) for up to 4 days.