This very easy Quinoa and Spinach Salad is so delicious. As well as being nutrient-dense, it has vibrant colour and the flavoursome tang of citrus. It has a base of nutritious quinoa, with flavour, colour and nutrients added by spring onions, baby spinach, mandarin segments, pomegranate arils and slivered almonds. Enjoy it as a side dish to meat, poultry or fish or a nutritious, meat-free, light meal.
You will love this Quinoa Spinach Salad because:
- It is made from ingredients which are readily available.
- The salad is suitable for many people with specific dietary requirements as it is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. To make it nut-free, simply omit the almonds.
- It is a great, nutritious alternative to rice, potatoes, or pasta.
- There is a perfect balance of sweet and tart flavours and great textural contrast from the crunchy almonds.
Ingredients in this recipe:
Please see the recipe card further along in the post for exact quantities of ingredients and the full method.
Quinoa – pronounced keen-wah, it is considered a super food. It is a complete protein, which means that it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa originated in Peru and although often thought of as a grain, it is actually a seed which belongs to the same family as spinach, beets and Swiss chard.
The three most widely available varieties of quinoa are white, red, and black. I have used white quinoa as it perfectly offsets the colours of the salad ingredients. Also, it is fluffier than the others and the flavour more delicate. You can, however, use the different colours interchangeably in recipes; the flavour and texture differences are subtle.
Water – we use filtered water to cook the quinoa.
Mandarin – we use the separated segments of fresh mandarins, with the white membrane removed.
Spring/green onions – we use the white and a little of the green part.
Baby spinach leaves – another superfood. The leaves add colour, flavour and nutrients. We remove the stems; they are a great addition when making stock or soup.
Flaked almonds – add textural contrast.
Pomegranate arils (seeds) – they are a beautiful addition to many dishes. Not only do they add vibrant colour and texture, but they are also full of valuable nutrients.
Olive oil – for the best flavour and nutritional benefit, we use extra virgin olive oil. Use the best olive oil that you have.
Lemon juice – freshly squeezed lemon juice combines with olive oil to make the dressing and adds acidity which brightens the flavours in the salad.
Maple syrup – to keep the salad vegan, we use a small amount of pure maple syrup to add gentle sweetness to the dressing.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – are added to season the salad.
How To Make Quinoa and Spinach Salad:
1 – Cook the Quinoa:
To begin, prepare the quinoa. Place it into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse vigorously under cold, running water. Drain the quinoa well.
Add the water to a medium-sized saucepan, then add the drained quinoa.
Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes, until the seeds are tender.
2 – Allow the steam to absorb:
Remove the pan from the heat, place a clean tea towel or 3 layers of paper towel over the saucepan, place the lid back on and stand for 5 minutes for the steam to be absorbed.
Turn the quinoa into a bowl and leave it to cool.
3 – Toast the flaked almonds:
In a dry, non-stick frying pan, toast the flaked almonds.
4 – Add your ingredients to your serving bowl:
Add the halved mandarin segments, sliced spring onions/scallions and spinach leaves to the cooled quinoa.
5 – Make the dressing and toss the salad:
To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup in a small bowl. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
Toss the salad with the dressing, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and pomegranate arils.
6 – Serve:
Serve the Quinoa and Spinach Salad and enjoy!
Tips for success and FAQs:
To ensure your salad looks and tastes fresh, cool the quinoa before adding the spring onions and spinach.
As with all savoury recipes, it is important to check that the seasoning is to your liking. For this recipe, ensure that the dressing is balanced to your taste.
We recommend rinsing quinoa before cooking as the seeds have a coating called saponin. It is a naturally occurring coating which deters insects, but it does have a bitter flavour. Although some quinoa is now sold pre-rinsed, I still recommend this process just to be sure. Details of how to rinse the quinoa are in the recipe.
I simmer until the water is absorbed. This time will vary with different varieties. However, there is one tell-tale sign – when they’re cooked you will notice that the quinoa seeds will have little curly “tails”.
Yes, you can do that, but to maintain a fresh appearance I suggest that you add the spinach shortly before serving so it doesn’t wilt. Also, the flaked almonds are best added at the last minute too, or they will lose their lovely crunch.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. However, if the salad has been at room temperature for two hours, it should be discarded.
You will find many ways to serve this delicious, nutritious salad and I recommend that it be served cold or at room temperature. Some ways to enjoy it are:
- As a side dish to meat, poultry or fish.
- Enjoy it as a meat-free meal. To make it a more substantial meal with additional protein, add chickpeas or feta.
- Serve it when entertaining – it is easy to increase ingredients if catering for large numbers of guests.
- As a packed lunch for work or school.
- It travels well, so it’s ideal to take on picnics or to potlucks.
My Quinoa, Spinach and Mandarin salad is bursting with flavour. It is refreshing, colourful and extremely good for you. This salad is perfect in that it is suitable for almost every diet, being gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. I do hope that you enjoy it.
More delicious recipes for you to try:
Quinoa and Spinach Salad
For accuracy, when weights are provided, we recommend weighing your ingredients. This will produce the best results.
For the Salad:
- 1 cup (175 g) white quinoa – rinsed well See Note 1
- 2 cups (500 ml) water – for cooking the quinoa
- 4 mandarins – segments separated, and white membrane removed
- 5 spring/green onions – finely sliced – the white and a little of the green part
- 1 1 /2 cups baby spinach leaves
- ½ cup flaked almonds
- ½ pomegranate – arils removed See Note 2
For the dressing:
- 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil See Note 3
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice – freshly squeezed, or to taste
- 3 teaspoon maple syrup
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste See Note 4
- Place the quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse vigorously under cold, running water, swishing the quinoa with your fingers. Drain the quinoa well – I sit the sieve on several layers of paper towel; it helps absorb excess moisture.
- Pour 2 cups of water into a medium-size saucepan and add the drained quinoa.Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes, or until the seeds are tender. Different varieties of quinoa cook at different times. Check the quinoa after about 8 minutes to see if it is cooked to your liking. One indicator is that the cooked grains will have little curly “tails”.
- Remove the pan from the heat, place a clean tea towel or 3 layers of paper towel over the saucepan, place the lid back on and stand 5 minutes. The tea towel/paper towel will absorb excess moisture.
- Place the quinoa into a serving bowl and leave it to cool.
- Cut the mandarin segments in half. If the mandarins contain seeds, simply flick them out with the point of a small, sharp knife. Add the halved mandarin segments, sliced spring onions/scallions and spinach leaves to the quinoa.
- To toast the flaked almonds I add them to a dry, non-stick frying pan. Over medium heat, I toss or stir them frequently until they are golden. Be careful, they will burn easily.
- To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and maple syrup in a small bowl. Test the dressing to ensure it is to your taste.Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
- Toss the salad with the dressing. Check that the seasoning is to your taste adding more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if required.Sprinkle the toasted almonds and pomegranate arils on top.
- Quinoa: it is important to thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Rinsing helps remove the outside coating of the grain, called saponin, which can cause a slightly bitter taste. The saponin is a naturally occurring chemical which is there to deter insects. It is vital that the quinoa is thoroughly drained after rinsing so that all the water is absorbed during cooking.
- Pomegranate: to remove the arils from the halved pomegranate, I hold it cut-side down in my hand with my fingers splayed, over a bowl. I vigorously and firmly hit the top of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon and the arils fall into the bowl.
- Tablespoon: we use a standard Australian tablespoon which is 20 ml (4 teaspoons).
- Seasoning: adjust the seasoning to your liking – we recommend using freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes for the best flavour.
- Storage: leftover salad can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. However, if the salad has been at room temperature for two hours, it should be discarded.
The nutritional information is an estimate only, and is derived from online calculators. For accurate results, we recommend calculating the nutritional information based on the ingredients and brands you use.
This post was originally published in June 2019. It has been updated with more information and new photos. The recipe remains the same.