Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Chutney Dressing

Sorry for the lack of posts lately on the Whole Kitchen – we’re heading into the high-season at work – the American Cancer Society in Illinois has over 200 events in the next three months, so my plate gets stacked pretty high in working with the local offices on marketing and design support so that we keep raising the funds we need to fight cancer. That, and my training for the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago is taking a lot of time too. But, the good news is that I’m learning to love running. It’s a great way to take a mental break and clear the cobwebs out. I’m still doing my 22 mile daily bike commute too, but am finding that running is much more relaxing than tangling with taxis and traffic on two wheels.  Anyway…back to the regularly scheduled food talk – and pay attention – you’re going to want to make this salad – trust me!

Indian food is definitely the “new Mexican” in our house. For the last several years, anytime I’ve been stumped about what to cook, I’ve grabbed one of the Rick Bayless books on our shelf to get a little inspiration in meal planning. Making Mexican dishes is a snap living in a neighborhood with several good hispanic markets. Lately though, I’ve been reaching for Indian flavors more and more…and why not?! The Indian/Pakistani neighborhood is a mere 3 miles away, with several good Indian groceries to select from.

After our weekend in NYC and my ensuing addiction to dosas with chutney, I found myself back in the kitchen reaching for all the things I would need to make Indian cilantro chutney for grilled chicken thighs. But as I was prepping, the heavens opened up and the rain came down, so I switched gears and decided to make a quinoa salad with a chutney-like dressing. I’m glad that the rain changed my plans, because this salad may be my new favorite way to eat quinoa. The dressing hits all the right notes for Indian chutney – a nice balance of heat and acid, a bunch of cilantro for the herbal note and a nice hit of black mustard seed and cumin for the Indian spice kick. You could drizzle the dressing over just about anything and it would taste good. I used a little of the leftover dressing to make a greek yogurt sauce to garnish lentil soup, and later as a dip for blanched asparagus spears.

The first time I made the salad, I used some broiled chicken for the protein. I made it a second time with 2 cups of cooked chickpeas and I think I like it even better with the beans, which is nice for a vegan option. Also, if you don’t have cashews on hand, peanuts work equally well. This salad is perfect for lunches, and the salad magically tastes even better the next day – give it a try.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa – share your quinoa love in the comments section below!

Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Chutney Dressing
Serves 6-7 as a main course

1 lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas to kick it vegan-style)
2 cups dried quinoa (cook with 4 cups water + 1 T of the curry powder)
1/3 c grapeseed oil
1 T brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin, whole
4 T madras curry powder, divided
1/3 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/3 cup cashew pieces, divided
1/2 cup packed cilantro
1 T honey
4 green onions, sliced
4 poblano peppers, whole
1 red bell pepper, whole
3 jalepenos, whole
1 champagne (manila) mango, peeled & diced
more cilantro for garnish

  1. Cook the quinoa: Cook the quinoa in your rice cooker (or on the stovetop) with 1 T curry powder and 1/2 tsp kosher salt. When the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. You can make the quinoa a day or two ahead if you want to.
  2. Make the salad dressing/chutney: Juice 5-6 limes, or until you have 1/3 cup juice. Add 2 T of the curry powder and 1/2 tsp kosher salt to the lime juice. Pour the lime juice/curry into a small mini-prep food processor or your blender. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it’s hot and almost shimmering, carefully add the whole cumin and brown mustard seeds to the oil. Cook for about 30 seconds until the mustard seeds just begin to pop. Pour the hot oil mixture into the mini-prep (or blender) with the lime juice. Add 1/2 cup of cilantro, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 T honey and the half of the cashews. Puree the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning – the dressing should be highly seasoned to flavor the quinoa. Store the dressing in the fridge until you’re ready to put the salad together.
  3. Preheat the broiler, setting the top shelf close to the broiler. While it’s preheating, season your boneless, skinless chicken thighs with kosher salt and the remaining 1 T of curry powder. Set aside.
  4. Roasting the peppers: When the broiler is preheated, put all the peppers on a sheet pan, and broil for 6 minutes per side until all sides are charred and blistering. Remove the peppers from the broiler and use tongs to move the peppers to a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or saran wrap and let the peppers rest/steam for a few minutes so that the skins will be easy to remove.
  5. While the peppers are resting, cook the chicken. Place the seasoned chicken thighs on the now empty sheet pan in one layer, leaving a little room between them. Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 4 minutes. Remove the pan and flip each thigh over, then broil for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broiler and turn the oven off. Set the thighs aside to cool for a minute or two, and peel the roasted peppers while you wait.
  6. Chop the cleaned peppers and chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Slice the green onions thinly, and roughly chop another handful of cilantro for garnishing. Peel and cube the mango.
  7. Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl and add the chicken, peppers, green onions and cilantro. Using a spatula, gently fold all the ingredients together. Drizzle on about half of the dressing and gently stir the salad together, adding more dressing as needed. I had about 1/4 cup of dressing leftover for later use. Spoon the salad into serving bowls and garnish with a few cubes of chopped mango and the rest of the cashew pieces.

Note: The salad is fantastic (maybe even better) as leftovers the next day. Don’t mix the mango into the salad you’ll be saving for the next day – it will get sad and mushy.

510 cal per 1.75 cups, 200 cal from fat, 23g fat, 3g sat fat, 70mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 55g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugars, 26g protein (note: cal counts are probably a little off, as this assumes that you use all of the salad dressing on the salad.)

12 thoughts on “Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Chutney Dressing

  1. This looks SO amazing. I’m all about Indian too! The last quinoa salad I made was with mango, black beans and sunflower seeds. It was SO delicious. I can’t wait to try this one!

    • Thanks, Dawn! Let me know how you like this salad! I’m not at all sad that after taking a third batch of this to a party on Friday night, that I have plenty of leftovers for lunches this week. YUM!

  2. oh, I wish I could learn to love running, but i suck at it. and i have got to get myself a good, cheap bike this summer. where should I go?

    btw – quinoa salad looks great. i don’t make quinoa dishes very often though, but i still remember your red quinoa dish for the IC battle!

    • I think I’m addicted to quinoa. I eat it every. single. day. Cooked with apple cider, cinnamon and a little ghee for breakfast, and sometimes a salad like this one for lunch. I can’t get enough of the stuff! 🙂

      I didn’t think I could ever love running either…but every other time I’ve tried running, I did it wrong. Running too far and too fast is what makes you sore. I haven’t been sore yet, and building strength gradually. You know what they say about good/cheap bikes? Pick one. 😉 I’m a big fan of going to a shop that will fit you properly for a bike – you’re going to need a men’s extra small frame or a women’s small frame. You want someone to fit a bike to your body size properly, not sell you something cheap off the rack. Go to a few shops, ride a few bikes, and see what you like and what style fits your needs. Once you figure that out, you can always check craigslist for bikes (though I’m a big fan of supporting your local bike shop).

    • Welcome, FoodZone! Let me know what you think if you make this salad…it does take some time, what with all the roasting of peppers, but it is worth it! Wish I had some of it now, on this hot June evening in Chicago!

  3. You reference to cooked chick peas – are they cooked as they come out of the can – or should something happen to them more when I open the can? Bake?


    • Hey Elna – If you’re using canned chickpeas, they are already cooked when they come out of the can. Just give them a rinse, drain them, and tumble them into the salad. Let me know how you like it!

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