Last week, my boyfriend and I were eating this Thai-inspired peanut quinoa salad for dinner and watching an old episode of Modern Family. In the episode, Jay is trying to convince Manny to try pickles, and Gloria jumps in and suggests that in exchange, Jay should try blood sausage. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat in the first place (and who has always been somewhat of a picky eater), I find blood sausage rather unappealing, to put it mildly. So as Gloria unceremoniously dumps the sausage onto a plate for Jay, I make a face, and my boyfriend goes, “Mmm…it’s really good!” I turn to him and narrow my eyes to make it clear that if this is something he’s going to encourage me to try, he’s barking up the wrong tree. He looks at me, surprised and a bit confused, and that’s when I realize that he’s referring to the peanut quinoa salad, and not paying much attention to the TV at all.
Oops. Please excuse the stink eye I just gave you.
This quinoa salad is a great light(er) meal for spring, with its rainbow of veggies and its peanut-y, ginger-y sauce. It’s similar to one of my favorite noodle dishes, but swapping quinoa for pasta helps makes this recipe gluten-free (if eating gluten-free is important to you, be sure to buy gluten-free soy sauce!), and I also reduced the brown sugar and oil in the sauce to make it a bit healthier.
Now that the weather has finally started warming up—here in Michigan we’ve enjoyed a few glorious days of 70 degrees and sunny in the past week or so!—I’ve been craving lighter dishes packed with fresh ingredients, and this peanut quinoa really hit the spot. You can serve this dish warm or at room temperature, so I bet it would be a welcome contribution to a spring-time picnic or barbecue!
How is spring treating you all? Have you had a chance to enjoy a meal outdoors yet?
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
- 10-12 ounces chicken breast tenders
- 1 bell pepper, cut into strips (I use 1/2 red, 1/2 yellow, but feel free to use whatever you prefer)
- 1 cup snow peas, ends trimmed
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup chopped or crushed peanuts
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. This will most likely call for 1 part quinoa to two parts water.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Place the chicken in the skillet and cook until no pink remains, flipping at least once partway through the cooking time. Set aside to cool.
- In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, except the water. Heat over medium-low, stirring periodically, until smooth and slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to turn the heat too high, or the sauce will begin to sputter! After removing the sauce from the stove, stir in up to 3 tablespoons of water to thin it to the consistency of a salad dressing.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, chop or shred it into bite-sized pieces. Pour half of the peanut sauce over the chicken and stir until all surfaces are coated.
- Cook the vegetables. You may do this however you prefer: steaming, stir-frying, parboiling, etc. I sautéed the bell pepper strips and snow peas with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for about 2-3 minutes, until just slightly softened, and steamed the broccoli in the microwave. To do this, put the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl, place 1/3-1/2 cup water in the bowl, and microwave, covered, for about 2 minutes (the time will vary, depending on the power of your microwave).
- Pour the other half of the peanut sauce over the quinoa and toss to combine. Add in the chicken and cooked vegetables. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro, green onions, and sesame seeds as desired.
- If you are aiming to make this recipe gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.