Years ago, Nathan and I went to a health fair. We had tons of fun and a lot of the booths were giving out healthy recipes and food samples. We tried a sample of a Mexican Quinoa Salad and both loved it! I grabbed the recipe and knew I wouldn't want to lose it with all my other papers from the fair so I snapped a picture of it. The thing is, we never got around to making that salad. (There was an unrelated quinoa incident soon after that turned me off to the grain for a long time.)
Lately, I've been on the hunt for new, healthy dishes we can incorporate into our routine that the whole family will enjoy and I immediately thought about that Mexican Quinoa Salad. The picture pops up in my Timehop app every year so I hadn't forgotten about it and enough time had passed that I had warmed back up to quinoa again. I started to scroll through my phone looking for the pic, but despite keeping basically ALL the pictures I take forever, I couldn't find it. I spent far too long looking for it on my phone, Nathan's phone, my computer, until I finally had to give up. No Mexican Quinoa Salad for us after all.
But as fate would have it, guess what showed up in my Timehop the very next day? Maybe I subconsciously knew the anniversary of that salad was coming up (I had been getting reminders about it that day for the last five years) or maybe it was a sign to open my heart to quinoa again. Whatever the reason, I quickly re-saved the pic and make a physical copy to add to my recipe book. And then, after five long years, we made a Mexican Quinoa Salad.
It was just as amazing as we remembered! Fresh, delicious, and super versatile. We made a decent amount of it and weren't tired of it by the time we finished our leftovers. We tried it cold like the recipe suggested, but we also heated it to serve as filler for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more! There were a few modifications we made to it based on what we had/could find at the store which I'll include below. This dish was super easy to make and left everyone feeling full and energized. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a new meal to add to your family's repertoire.
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 t salt
2 cups water
1/2 a red onion, finely diced
2 T lime juice
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cobs of boiled corn OR about 1-2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
3 cups grape tomatoes, chopped
1 bell pepper of any color OR one jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 5oz jar of queso
1/4 cup chopped, packed cilantro including tender stems OR a few teaspoons dried cilantro
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Add one cup of quinoa to two cups boiling, salted water. Immediately cover and reduce to a simmer. Let your pot sit for about 15 to 20 minutes until there is no water in the bottom of the pot when you fluff up the quinoa. If you're serving this dish cold, let your quinoa cool completely as you prep your other ingredients. If you plan on serving it hot, you can add your quinoa to your mixing bowl now.
Finely, and I mean FINELY, chop half a red onion and let it soak in lime juice. This will cut some of the spice from the onion and give the dish a nice flavor overall.
In a large bowl, mix together a can of drained black beans, chopped grape tomatoes, and a chopped bell pepper (whichever color you like best) or a jalapeño if you like a little heat.
Boil two cobs of corn for a couple minutes. Once they've cooled, slice the corn off the cob in strips from top to bottom and add it to your bowl.
The original recipe called for 5 oz of vegan queso fresco cut into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch cubes. We ended up using a jar of Taco Bell queso and it tasted great so use about 5 oz of whatever queso you like if you’re not making the vegan version of this.
Add 1/4 cup packed, chopped cilantro (I just used a few teaspoons dried cilantro). Top with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Mix up all your ingredients including the quinoa if you kept it separate and serve.
Tips for Serving
One of the great things about this dish is there are so many ways to enjoy it! If you need some ideas, here's our favorite ways to serve it:
Hot or cold just on its own
Filler for tacos or burritos
Add whatever additional toppings or sauces you normally enjoy
Trust me on this one. Just add some fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and this quinoa to a tortilla and you're good to go!
Over chips like Nachos
Again, with whatever other toppings you want and probably more cheese
As a dip for chips
This is definitely a new family favorite of ours. I love how quick and easy it is to make and I love that there are so many ways to enjoy it. I get tired of eating the same thing over and over, but this feels like something totally new as leftovers! The best part of this meal is honestly how I feel after though. Its a very filling, comfort-type food, but doesn't make me feel over-stuffed or tired after eating it. I eat however much I want and feel energized and totally guilt-free knowing I fed my body good, nutritious fuel. Ok, except for the Taco Bell queso. That's probably not the healthiest choice.
I hope you enjoy this Mexican Quinoa Salad as much as we have been!