Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad

~ A healthy, beautiful and wildly delicious quinoa salad! Quinoa and confetti greens are accented with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, cheese and a fabulous balsamic vinaigrette. ~

This Recipe Is:     Make Ahead    Vegetarian    Gluten Free  

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

I’ve been making various versions of this salad for years, and it’s always, always the showstopper.

As in, everyone at the party asks for the recipe and volunteers to take home the leftovers. (Ummmmm … no … I kinda wanted them for myself …)

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

And as in, my husband stands at the refrigerator, shoveling forkfuls into his mouth and incoherently mumbling, “This is so good … I can’t stop eating it … you have to post this …”

Ok – I have to post this.

It’s like a party in a bowl (and in your tummy).

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {Two Healthy Kitchens}

Chopping a head of radicchio couldn’t be easier! Simply cut it in half vertically, remove and discard the core, slice the radicchio into thin strips, then rotate the strips and finely chop!

Colorful confetti-bits of greens, veggies and cheese make it eye-catching. A delicious balance of bold flavors makes it sensational. Quinoa (our friend the protein powerhouse) combines with salty parmesan and feta, tangy sun-dried tomatoes, sunny fresh basil, rich pine nuts, and kicky radicchio.

Super-healthy spinach hangs out quietly in the background, and nobody even realizes how many healthful ingredients are piling onto their plates. It all comes together with a simple balsamic dressing.

Fabulous.

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

And for those who are not olive-impaired … you must add the kalamatas. They put this salad completely over the top on the taste-o-meter.

Now, Gretchen and I do both understand that olives are not for everyone. Try as they might to overcome it, both our husbands harbor strong, incurable olive aversions. It’s sad. We feel sorry for them.

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

But since our Romeos have so many, many other wonderful qualities, we have eventually come to accept what we just cannot change. They swear this salad is awesome without the olives, but we just laugh, comfortable in the knowledge that it’s even better yet if you add the kalamatas.

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

You be the judge … stirred in or served on the side … (pssssst … include the olives!).

THK By Shelley

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We want a head count here … how many of you like olives???

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Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad

Preparation 17 min. 2017-04-27T00:17:00+00:00 Cook Time 10-12 min. to cook quinoa (plus cooling) + a few min. to toast pine nuts 2017-04-27T00:00:00+00:00
Serves About 9 cups     adjust servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 small- to medium-sized head radicchio, cored and finely chopped (to yield about 2 cups)
  • 6-ounce bag baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (see note)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped kalamata olives, optional
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or white balsamic – see note)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. After cooking, allow to cool completely and fluff with a fork.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, radicchio, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan, basil, feta, pine nuts, garlic, and olives (if using). Stir to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
  4. Chill until serving.

by

Recipe Notes

Parmesan: The flavor profile and assertiveness of parmesan can vary notably depending on the brand and quality, and that can really impact the final flavor of this salad. Depending on the flavor of your parmesan and whether you're including the olives, you will likely need just ½ cup of parmesan. However, if your parmesan isn't quite as flavorful, you might need the extra bit of salty-tang from the full ¾ cup of cheese. We recommend that you start with the more modest ½ cup and see how you like the taste – you can always add more if you choose.

Balsamic Vinegar: For the purposes of presentation, white (or golden) balsamic yields a prettier and more vibrantly colored salad because it doesn't tinge the other ingredients with the brown color of typical balsamic vinegar. If regular balsamic is all you have on hand, though, definitely just use that – the salad will still be lovely and will taste just as fabulous.

Make-Ahead Option: This salad can easily be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated until serving.

We'd love to see your photos of this recipe! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and tag @TwoHealthyKitchens!

 

This salad is inspired by the flavors of the Orzo with Everything recipe I found years ago in America’s Test Kitchen “Cook’s Country” magazine. I’ve made a lot of changes, both to make my version healthier (by subbing quinoa and adding spinach, and upping the sun-dried tomatoes while cutting back on the fat from the parm, pine nuts, olives and olive oil) and also played with the aesthetics (adding reduced-fat feta to help provide a salty kick for those who don’t like olives and using white balsamic for a prettier presentation). Still, the original recipe is fantastic in its own right and definitely deserves a nod as the recipe that inspired me.

Our Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad recipe has been mentioned or featured in:
31 Different Quinoa Recipes | Meatless Monday Inspiration at Happy Deal Happy Day
60 Summer Sides at Family Food And Travel
Vegetarian Meal Plan for the Year: May and June at Slap Dash Mom
25 Refreshing Summer Salad Recipes at This Mama Loves
Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
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Comments

Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad — 52 Comments

  1. This salad looks delicious. My husband and I are just beginning our clean eating/weight loss journey and definitely want to incorporate quinoa. Any chance of getting the nutritional information for this dish?

    • Hi Carrie! First off, I’m so excited for you and your husband on your new quest to eat healthier, and I’m honored that you’ve turned to some of our recipes to help! 😀

      Here’s the scoop about nutrition information on our site:

      We’ve debated since the beginning of this blog whether or not we should supply nutrition info (and we address it in our FAQ section here:http://twohealthykitchens.com/about/). Especially with Gretchen’s master’s degree in nutrition, she could easily have calculated that manually – plus there are loads of online calculators to use. However, for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided over and over again not to do that. One big reason is that we generally don’t specify exact brands (although on some occasions we need to), so the final nutritional profile of a recipe can vary widely, depending on the purchasing decisions our readers make. In the end, it could almost be a bit misleading to quote nutritional info, if readers make significantly different purchasing choices than we did in testing. Although that problem wouldn’t be a big issue with this specific quinoa salad recipe, it could be for a lot of other recipes on our site. For example, the final nutritional profile of our most popular recipe ever – our very simple 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos – could vary tremendously (particularly, in this case, the sodium) depending on which taco seasoning and which salsa someone purchases.

      My best suggestion would be to use your favorite online nutrition calculator, and plug in the exact brands you use to get the most accurate information. Also – do you subscribe to our newsletter? We recently sent out a whole list of different recipe calculators in our newsletter, a few weeks ago. Too long to publish here (this is already such a long answer! 🙂 ), but shoot me an email if you’re interested, and I can send that along for you!

      Also … having said all of this … I want you to know that we get questions like this from readers fairly often. We conducted a reader survey at the beginning of this year, and one of the questions we asked was about whether readers would like to see nutrition information – and based on the responses we got from that survey, we are once again re-evaluating this very good question and exploring how we may be able to offer nutrition information in a way that we can feel good about – a way that’s helpful and not potentially misleading. So stay tuned …

      Thanks so much for reaching out to us! And good luck to you and your husband on your healthy eating and weight loos journey! I hope you both have a wonderful week! ~Shelley

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    • Hi Lyn! So you are on the ‘non-olive-loving’ side with our hubbies! Lol! No problem! We found that most people are pretty definitive about how they feel about olives in general! That’s the beauty of this yummy salad … they can be left out for you, but offered on the side for those who are on the ‘olive-loving’ side! Hope you give it a try – it’s soooo good! Have a great day! 😀 ~G&S

    • Mmmm … we’ve both made this for dinner in the past week – and yes! – everyone sure did dig right in! And we loved making such a fun and flavorful dinner! It’s really so simple! Have a great day! ~G&S

  4. Wow this sounds great although I’m one of those olive impaired people although I might not mind them finely chopped. Do you think I could sub red cabbage for the radicchio? I’ve never seen radicchio in my store. Seen on Tasty Tuesday. Pinned.

    • Ah, olive-impaired, huh? It’s ok … we understand! And it’ll still be awesome if you leave them out altogether (although if you could be happy having them in there finely chopped, that burst of salty, briny olive flavor will definitely add a little extra yum-factor! 😀 ).

      Now, about the radicchio. Red cabbage is a great thought for its pretty, similar-to-radicchio color, but it won’t give you the pleasingly-bitter notes that radicchio lends to this salad. Nonetheless, there are so very many flavors here, and other slightly bitter-salty notes, that I think you’ll probably be ok subbing it in, and could maybe even just leave the radicchio/red cabbage out altogether. Alternately, I did a quick search for you and found some other suggestions, although I haven’t tried any of them myself and can’t vouch for them personally. Anyway – some other ideas I found that can yield a slightly bitter flavor for you in this salad are: Belgian endive, curly endive, arugula, watercress, escarole or chicory. However, most of those are a little tougher to find, too, and if you’re having trouble tracking down radicchio, you may not have much luck finding these either. Hope these ideas help, though!

      I’d truly be interested in what you try and how it works for you, so don’t hesitate to pop back and let me know how it goes! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Hi! This salad is delicious in the summer (well, actually, it’s good any time of year!) and is totally perfect to bring to a party with friends! You’ll be the hero with this stunning and fabulous salad! 🙂 ~G&S

  5. Gorgeous recipe Shelley! Healthy, delicious and colourful! I always like to incorporate as many colours into my recipes as possible (for both health and aesthetic reasons… we do eat with our eyes first, right?) and this one fits the bill perfectly. Loving the gorgeous Mediterranean flavours! xx

    • Thanks so much, Laura! I totally agree! 😀 This is so beautiful … you just have to take a bite. And then, you realize the flavors are just as vibrantly wonderful and it’s every bit as delicious as it looks (and shhhhhhhh … every bit as healthy, too!). What a perfect combination! Can’t wait for you to try it! ~Shelley

  6. wow this salad looks so good, I’m not surprised everybody loves it! I would definitely volunteer to take the leftovers home 😉 seriously, I love all the ingredients and I bet they taste amazing together. Your husbands hate olives? Is that even possible? You poor things, I feel for you 😉

    • So glad you’ve joined us on Team Olive, Abbe! 🙂 And you are 100% right – there are so many delicious ways to enjoy them! We really hope you try this salad soon, it’s so good! We’ve both been enjoying it with lunch the past few days – yum!! ~G&S

  7. Love this fabulous spring salad Shelley, and I would have a hard time to put my fork down too! This is indeed a showstopper with all the vibranct colors, just in time for Easter Brunch. (with olives of course…)
    Hope you are having a lovely weekend:)
    Judit

    • Yay! Another olive fan! 😀 Thanks so much for all your kind words! Seriously – with all the gorgeously fresh produce and vibrantly colored landscapes that you guys are able to feature pretty much year-round … that’s high praise! ~Shelley

    • Amen, Consuelo! We totally agree! But, we understand everyone has personal tastes, and we can’t force anyone to like certain foods. (We’ve tried to make our husbands love olives – no success yet!)
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! ~G&S

  8. Yum! You know how much I love quinoa and I can’t wait try this. It would be perfect for my lunch.
    My husband loves olives…blah. We were at his parents house and his Mom set a bowl of big black olives at dinner. My kids and I look at each other with scrunchy faces. His Mom says, “I thought all kids loved olives.” Haha! Not mine nor me. I’ll gladly pass that bowl to the next person.

    • Lol Cindy! Maybe all kids love putting olives on their fingertips and pretending they’re monsters?? 🙂
      Olives or not, this salad would be ideal for you – it packs a ton of nutrition in a little salad! It’s perfect for a busy teacher between classes! (But let your hubby have olives in his!) 🙂 ~G&S

    • Hi, Helen! High-five for joining Team Olive! 😀 And you’re right – orzo is a delicious option, too – just be sure to search out whole-wheat orzo if you can find it. Thanks for stopping by! ~G&S

    • Wow, Mireya! Thanks so much – I’m so excited this inspired you! That’s really saying a lot, considering all the amazing recipes you dream up for your own blog! And thanks a million for the pin! 😀 ~Shelley

  9. I’m on your husbands’ side! Olives are super gross! 😉 Everything else looks amazingly delicious and fresh for spring. We just need the weather to start co-operating here in Ontario! Have a great weekend ladies! 🙂

    • Lol, Sharon! This olive haters vs. olive lovers debate is so fun! You’re right, though – either with our without those olives, this salad is just what we need to kick off spring (although we’re still kinda waiting for it to actually arrive here in Ohio, too!) 😀 ~G&S

  10. Gorgeous dish! Great post! Wonderful, healthy lunch to pack for work/school My daughter will love this. Must go right now and pin this right now to my “Brown Baggers” board so that others can share its yumminess. (Is that a word?) Have a great weekend!

    • Yes, yes, yumminess is most definitely a word! And the perfect way to describe this salad!

      Thank you so much for pinning and sharing … we’re gonna have to check out that ‘Brown Baggers’ board! Sounds like it’s full of fantastic lunch ideas!

      Have a great weekend, Lori! ~G&S

    • This sounds like a salad designed just for you, Kara! Quinoa and olives! 😀

      We love this salad as a light lunch or as a side salad with dinner – it’s perfect anytime! And yes, add those olives! They add an amazing new level of flavor to the salad. So delicious! We think it’s a keeper, too! ~G&S

  11. This salad is right up my alley. Love it and will be making it for sure soon! I am, sadly, NOT an olive person. I try them once or twice a year just to be sure…but I just can’t get behind them. I always feel like sort of a food-blog-failure because I’m not an olive fan…or mushrooms for that matter 🙂

    • Liz, you are the furthest thing from a food-blog failure! Your recipes are genius (and super delicious!!)! Kudos for continuing to try them – and who knows? Maybe one of these times you’ll love ’em! ~G&S

  12. This is my kind of party salad and definitively a showstopper! I love the addition (of well everything) but especially the subtle “background” spinach and the kalamata olives. I learned to love olives a couple years ago and I could honestly eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I know eating olives for breaky sounds a bit odd but after visiting Turkey I was hooked on the Mediterranean olive breakfast 🙂 I will for sure be making this recipe next week – can’t wait to try it! Oh, and thank you for the “how to cut raddichio” tutorial because until now I had no idea and also bought it pre-cut. Have a great weekend ladies!

    • Thank you for your sweet comments, Ceara! We’re so happy to hear you’re ‘Team Olive’ along with us! Lol!

      Glad the ‘How To’ pictures helped you! It really isn’t too hard … but that gorgeous purple head can be intimidating at first! Now you’ll be a radicchio chopping champ! 😀

      Have a fabulous weekend! ~G&S

    • Haha Chris! No, no, we won’t think less of you! And truly, our husbands have told us this salad is phenomenal without the olives … you could always offer them on the side and olive lovers can help themselves. That way, everyone is happy! 😀 ~G&S

    • Yes, Katie! This salad is SO fresh and delicious – YUM, indeed! And it is just beautiful on the table – a showstopper for sure!

      Thanks for your sweet comment … and have a great weekend! 😀 ~G&S

  13. I was lucky enough to get a sample of this last summer and have been waiting for the recipe! This is so good!! I already printed the recipe and forwarded it to a few people in my family that I know will love it as well.

    • Marrie, I am so absolutely flattered that you still remember this salad from almost a year ago – that you loved it that much!!! 😀 Honestly, though – people beg for this one and pester me for the recipe once they’ve tried it! I’m just so happy to know that I can make something so jam-crammed with nutrition, and people will just go crazy for it because it’s so addictively delicious! My mission is complete … 😀 Hey – thanks a million for taking the time to leave us a comment and tell our other readers how much you like this – means the world to me, really! Have an awesome day, friend! ~Shelley

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