We’re in love with this healthy gluten-free Cranberry Quinoa Salad!
While I love a good bowl full of Summer, festive Fall salads have a special place in my heart and, quite frankly, my stomach! I’m thinking it’s the change of pace that gets me all riled up. By the end of summer I’m so positively over salads that I eye-roll at the thought of having one for anything other than a side dish to a more exciting main course. Of course those last few weeks of Winter leave me craving a fresh cucumber salad so badly I might die.
If you’ve been reading long enough you’re probably used to my end-of-season whine fest and how quickly I throw myself into the next season out of sheer exasperation over the last. I’m a sucker for tradition.
(and dramatics apparently)
Now that it’s fall all I want are my favorite comfort foods! Of course I still want salads too… There’s also the fact that I need to get creative if I want to partake in the holiday cookie chomping spree that happens ever year, and that means throwing some lightened up fare into the mix.
Now I know you kids are still cuckoo for pumpkin puffs, but I’m all about
that bass those cranberries.
and I’m allllllll about those candied walnuts:
I’ll never shell out [hah!] for pricey candied nuts again. It’s far to easy to make them fresh AND I get to crack [ha ha!] cheesy nut jokes while I make them. It’s a win-win situation of nutty proportions. Now I’m going to go hide under the bed until I learn how to behave myself.
That… may take a while. You should make this salad to help pass the time.
Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 + 1/4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries [or frozen!] or 1 cup dried
- 1/2-1 cup fresh broccoli florets
- 2 TBSP chopped green onion
- salt and pepper to taste
- for the candied walnuts:
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 TBSP honey or sugar, if vegan
- the teeniest pinch of salt
- for the dressing:
- 2 TBSP light olive oil or grape seed oil
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced [1/4 tsp]
- 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
- 1 TBSP orange juice
- a pinch of salt
- a dash of black pepper
- notes and such: If you're using fresh berries, the dish will have an extra burst of tartness that those juicy little buggers are infamous for! For those of you who find cranberries to be super tart when served straight up, grab a bag of dried cranberries. They're sweeter and still deliver amazing flavor to this dish! Both will result in some serious deliciousness! Going vegan? Skip the honey and substitute with white or brown sugar.
- First rinse + drain your quinoa using a mesh strainer/sieve
- Bring a medium saucepan to medium heat and lightly toast the quinoa to remove any excess water. Stir as it toasts for just a few minutes. This step is optional but really adds to the fluff factor of the quinoa!
- Next add your broth and bring pot to a boil.
- Once it's boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 12-13 minutes.
- If you're using frozen cranberries, add them to the pot after 6-8 minutes; if you're using dried or fresh cranberries add them in around the 9-10 minute mark and recover.
- Test the cranberries before pulling from heat to make sure they've had enough time to cook, then remove from heat.
- Once your quinoa and cranberries are done, season with a teeny bit of salt and pepper, fluff gently with a fork, and set aside.
- Add a little water to that same pot and bring to a boil. Gently blanch your broccoli florets until bright green and al-dente [you want it to still be a bit firm yet tender, not mushy] which should only take a few minutes.
- Drain, chop into bite-sized bits, and add to the quinoa along with chopped green onion.
- Place quinoa in the fridge while you prep your dressing and walnuts.
- DRESSING: Smash and mince garlic into a paste and combine with all remaining dressing ingredients. Whisk well and set aside.
- CANDIED WALNUTS: Heat a skillet or saucepan to medium heat and butter to melt. Next add in your chopped walnuts, honey, salt, and sugar. Saute for 5-6 minutes and pour over parchment paper, using a spatula to separate the nuts. Otherwise you'll have yummy walnut brittle that you'll want to break apart over your salad, which is no big deal either! Yum! Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and your walnuts have officially been candied! Woot! Try not to eat them all before they hit the salad.
- Grab your bowl-o-quinoa and top with the walnuts. Drizzle with dressing just before digging in! Serve this up as a salad for lunch [I ate the entire thing myself, ha! It can easily serve 2 if needed] or serve it up as a colorful side dish to stretch it to 4 servings. Serve it chilled or at room temperature, it's great both ways! Enjoy!
walnuts adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen and salad inspired by Juan-Carlos Cruz
swaps and such
vegansaurus chefs: To whip up a vegan-friendly version of this salad, simply skip the honey in the candied walnuts and use a little extra sugar or maple syrup instead! POOF! Vegan + delicious!
t-rex chefs: Feel free to add some chopped or shredded chicken to this salad. It also makes a great use for thanksgiving leftovers, so save a little turkey and use it to make this!
Whatever you do, make this salad!
In other news, I wanted to DRINK this dressing! I stole a spoonful while I was taste testing and might have dove back in for seconds or thirds. The combination of juicy lime and orange juice with the subtly fruity undertones of the olive oil and the punch of raw garlic? I just love it. You should probably go ahead and double the recipe so you can pour it on your veggies all week long. Assuming you don’t indeed drink it.
I won’t tell if you do, pinky promise.
Actually, while you’re at it, you may want to double the recipe for the walnuts too.
If you’re anything like me you’ll start shoving them in your face the second they’re cool enough to handle. Or while they’re still molten… We live life dangerously around here. 🔥
And in case you’re crazy enough to save some for the following day…