entertaining/recipes/salad/sides/starters/Vegetarian Recipes

Sweet Side Dish: Holiday Quinoa Recipe

Posted December 18, 2014 by Stephanie
sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

For me, it’s always about the sides. I could make a meal out of side dishes and to be honest, I have, many times. This Christmas quinoa salad has what I think of as wintertime flavours: dried cranberries, crispy crunchy pears, toasted pecans, and oranges. It comes together quickly and is a perfect light and fresh counterpoint to all the hot dishes that are at the table at Christmas.

sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

The best part of this salad is its double duty: it can be a hearty lunch or a side at dinner. Sometimes at the beginning of the week I’ll make a big container and leave it in the fridge for those busy days when I don’t have time to make something from scratch. If there’s any left at dinner time, it goes great with roasted chicken or even Swedish meatballs. For some reason I really like quinoa with meatballs. Is that weird? One year I did a holiday dinner where everything was in ball shape: turkey balls four ways, stuffing balls, mashed potato balls, mac and cheese balls. It was equal parts weird and genius. What do you think: would you come over for some balls and this salad?!

sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

Quinoa Salad Recipe with Cranberries, Pecans, Pears and an Orange Honey Vinaigrette
inspired by this Food52 recipe
serves 6-8

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1-2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 pears, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Rinse and cook the quinoa. If you have a tried and true method, stick with it! This is how I cook mine: Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and drain well. Lightly toast in a non-stick pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the burner and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, transfer to a large bow, fluff and let cool.

In a skillet, heat up the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until tender, but not browned. Remove from the heat and add to the quinoa. Add the pecans, cranberries, pears and green onions. Toss until mixed well. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, zest and honey. Taste, season with salt and pepper and adjust if needed. Toss the salad with the dressing and let sit for 20 minutes for the flavours to meld. Enjoy!

sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com sweet side dish: christmas quinoa salad recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com


  1. Salad and balls? I’m there.

  2. Sune Moolman says:

    Love love love this combination! I can just imagine it as a side dish with some roast chicken. YUMSTERS!

  3. Heather says:

    Sounds great. I may actually make this for Christmas dinner this year!

    1. Margaret Reynolds says:

      Me too!!

  4. Side dishes reign supreme at my dinners! ;) Love the GIF, too! So cute!

  5. I ALWAYS eat quinoa and meatballs together! I don’t know why, but I always serve them together too, and it just always feels right. This quinoa looks fantastic!

  6. I just love the citrus and pears in there! This looks fabulous.

  7. todd wagner says:

    can I please eat this all freakin day?! k, thanks :P

  8. Ala says:

    Heh heh–invite me for holiday dinner and I’d devour all the balls! Erm…yeah. That sentence wasn’t going to sound right no matter how I put it. This salad does look awesomely refreshing though!!

  9. I feel like that last sentence (or, rather, invitation?) was created just for me. With my answer, of course, being a resounding YES. :)

  10. It takes a special recipe for me to comment let alone drool over Quinoa. You nailed it. :)

  11. Kyriakos V says:

    Perfect combination ! Amazing recipes ! congrats!

  12. jaime says:

    balls. i love food in ball form so much that i have a pinterest board dedicated to it. it’s the perfect party food. yum! this salad looks super tasty and festive. add balls to it and i’ll be flocking over like … balls.

  13. Nancy says:

    I just recently discovered your blog and boy am I glad I did! I made your gingerbread cardamom waffles Christmas morning and took the holiday quinoa salad to my sister in law’s for Christmas dinner. Both cooked up wonderfully and were delicious! Thanks so much for sharing! Happy New Year!

  14. this looks flippin amazing. i love quinoa but the hubs always gives me a weird look when i make it so i might have to sub some israeli couscous to get him to eat it (or use the quinoa and keep it all for myself….. yes… that sounds better….)

  15. alifemoment says:

    I never had quinoa before, it looks a great sobstitute of pasta o couscous, I love this simple and yummy quinoa recipe

  16. Maria says:

    Looks yummy! What kind of quinoa do you use?

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      it’s tri-colored quinoa :)

  17. Kris says:

    Will this hold up for a day or two? I want to make it today and serve it tomorrow on Thanksgiving.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi kris,
      yes, definitely!

  18. Amy says:

    Could you make it the day before would it still be good eaten the day after being refrigerated. I hate making stuff christmas day

    1. Stephanie says:

      it would probably be best to add the nuts and pears in the day you eat it as if you do it the day before they might not be as crunchy, but it’s not imperative. hope that helps.

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