A fresh twist on a classic combination, this cranberry quinoa salad with cranberries, orange, mint and kale is an easy Thanksgiving side dish for your holiday turkey or weeknight chicken! Sponsored by Whole Foods. Find more of my pomegranate recipes.
One of my favorite meals of all time is the classic American Thanksgiving menu. Every year I look forward to it. I think I’m more excited about the leftovers, as I get to savor the meal days later. The flavor combinations, the colors and just having everyone together (if only for one meal) makes this holiday more treasured to me than Christmas.
No gifts are exchanged on Thanksgiving. It is not about presents, toys or the other materialistic things that bombard our holidays. It is about family, love and being thankful for what we have.
I do not always host the Thanksgiving feast, but I welcome the job when I do. I love cooking everything from scratch, and everyone notices the difference a fresh, homemade meal tastes.
Thanksgiving does not have to come from a box or can. And this quinoa salad with cranberries, orange, mint and kale is a prime example of a healthy and delicious dish.
Why this recipe is so awesome
If you haven’t noticed, quinoa has taken over the food community by storm. It is not a grain, but the edible starchy seed of a flowering plant in the amaranth family. Quinoa comes in assorted colors like white/tan, red and black.
They also come in purple, pink, grey, orange and green. The different varieties of quinoa vary in texture and flavor. The white quinoa cooks the fastest. But don’t fret. The difference is only in a few minutes.
Quinoa, no matter what color, still cooks up faster than rice.
The low-carb enthusiasts love that this is fiber rich and high in protein. And vegetarians love quinoa because it’s a complete protein source. Quinoa is also rich in Vitamin B, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
So why not make a delicious quinoa pilaf with my favorite fall flavors?
You can cook the quinoa a day or two before you are going to serve it. Then assemble the ingredients right before serving. This pilaf salad has bright colors and vibrant fresh flavors.
And if you are cutting the fat and carbs during your Thanksgiving feast, this quinoa recipe is perfect.
Ingredients you need
- Quinoa: You can use any color of quinoa you want for this recipe. I used the multi colored.
- Kale: I am always sneaking something healthy into my dishes. The chopped kale softens in the warm quinoa. You can also use spinach, chard or collard greens.
- Fresh cranberries: I use raw cranberries in this pilaf. It has great tang to the dish.
- Pantry staples: Extra virgin olive oil and honey
- Oranges: You will use the zest and the fruit of the orange
- Mixed nuts: I added chopped nuts to this pilaf to give it some crunch. You can use mixed nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts or pecans. Use whatever you have available.
- Pomegranate arils: We love pomegranate and add it to everything during the fall months. Another way to add color, flavor and nutrition. Read this to learn how to seed a pomegranate. This can also be done several days before serving.
- Fresh mint: Again, fresh mint is best for flavor. You can use dried mint, if you can’t find any fresh.
1. Rinse and cook the quinoa. Once cooked, remove lid and use a spoon to fluff up quinoa. Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl and allow it to cool.
2. Wash, remove stems from kale. Finely chop kale and add to the warm quinoa.
3. Add cranberries, olive oil and honey in a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. You do not want it to be a puréed or turn to mush. When quinoa is cooled completely, gently stir in the oranges and cranberry mixture. Stir in orange zest in with the quinoa.
4. Peel and coarsely chop oranges and mix in with the quinoa. Stir in nuts, pomegranate and mint. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipes tips and FAQs
Like rice, you can add a dash of salt in the water as you cook the quinoa. You can always season it after the quinoa is cooked, as well. You can also cook quinoa in vegetable, chicken or beef broth. You can also cook quinoa in milk or coconut milk for a breakfast option.
Quinoa has a mild nutty flavor and once cooked, resembles tiny bits of rice. A simple substitute of rice for quinoa, and you’ve got a healthier and more satisfying meal. You can grind the quinoa to make a flour for gluten-free baking. (click here for even MORE quinoa recipes!)
Now this cranberry quinoa salad is really something unique and different to show off on your Thanksgiving table. There is still the classic orange and cranberry combination we all love, but without the toothache from all the sugar that most cranberry sauces contain.
Need some more beautiful side dishes to brighten your Thanksgiving table?
Many complaints about quinoa I get from readers is that it turns out mushy. This is usually because it was cooked for too long and/or with too much water. Also, once the water is absorbed and the quinoa is done, remove the lid from your pot to release the steam. Continual steaming will also cause your quinoa to turn mushy.
This Cranberry Quinoa Salad is unique because it features raw cranberries. And YES, you can eat raw cranberries! Cranberries are naturally tart and you typically see recipes that cook the cranberries or use dried cranberries. I chop them up raw and add a touch of honey and oranges to balance the tartness with some sweetness. Raw cranberries are rich in phytochemicals that protect your body from sickness. They are also rich in antioxidants, fiber, calcium and Vitamins C, A and K.
Quinoa naturally has a coating around it that produces a bitter taste. Most quinoa that we purchase in stores today has this coating removed. Some people think you still need to wash your quinoa before cooking it, to remove the bitter flavor and to aid in digestion. I have found that most varieties of quinoa sold today does not require the extra rinsing. I personally, do not rinse my quinoa before cooking it and I have never had any issues with bitterness or digestion troubles. If you prefer to give it a rinse, feel free to do so. It doesn’t take up much extra time or effort to do this.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cup water
- 2 large leaves of kale
- 2 cup fresh cranberries
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 TBS grated orange zest
- 6 small oranges
- ¼ cup mixed nuts
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- Rinse quinoa with water and strain.
- In a small pot, add quinoa and 2 cups water to boil.
- Once water is boiling, cover pot, reduce heat to low and continue to cook until the water is gone and quinoa is cooked, about 12-15 minutes.
- Remove quinoa from heat, remove lid and use a spoon to fluff up quinoa. Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl and allow it to cool.
- Wash, remove stems from kale. Finely chop kale and add to the quinoa.
- Add cranberries, olive oil and honey in a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. You do not want it to be a puréed or turn to mush.
- When quinoa is cooled completely, gently stir in the oranges and cranberry mixture.
- Stir in orange zest in with the quinoa.
- Peel and coarsely chop oranges and mix in with the quinoa.
- Stir in nuts, pomegranate and mint.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 212Total Fat: 7.4gSaturated Fat: 1.1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 27mgCarbohydrates: 32.1gFiber: 5.3gSugar: 11.2gProtein: 5.2g
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Disclosure: As part of the Kitchen PLAY Community, I was paid a stipend to develop a Thanksgiving recipe for Whole Foods Market. All of the opinions I expressed here are my own. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t blog about it!