Red Quinoa and Bacon Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Red Quinoa and Bacon Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I’m pretty open minded when it comes to cooking with an ingredient I haven’t used before. So the first time I saw a recipe listing an ingredient called ‘quinoa,’ I was curious and looked it up.

Interestingly, I read that it was a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.  “Okay,” I thought, “That’s not so bad.”  Reading further, I saw that quinoa is related to a species of tumbleweed.  What? No way! That had to be a joke.

So the skeptic within me tried another search, asking the internet universe, “Is the grain quinoa, related to a tumbleweed?”  Surprisingly, there were many results indicating that it was true.  Huh. (I still think it’s a joke.)

All kidding aside, that didn’t stop me from trying it.  After a few experimental test runs using the mysterious little seed, I discovered that not only was it really tasty and had a nice texture, it had great versatility.  And it pairs exceptionally well with smoky flavors like bacon, smoked paprika and ground chipotle.

If you’re an adventurous cook, and you haven’t tried quinoa yet, give this recipe a try and see what you think.


1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
8 pieces of bacon, chopped
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

1) Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Gently simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (there may still be some water not yet absorbed). Remove from the heat.

2) Keeping the pan covered, let it stand for 5 minutes, or until the remaining water is absorbed. Gently fluff the quinoa with a fork and set it aside to cool.

3) Using another pan, cook the bacon on medium-high until it is browned and crispy. Remove the pan from the heat, drain the bacon and set aside.

4) Whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

5) In a large serving bowl, add the quinoa, bacon pieces, red onion and parsley, gently mixing them together. Stir in the dressing until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

6) Serve the salad at room temperature.

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