Quinoa, Recipes, Sides

Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad

So, sometimes when I don’t take my beloved black bean wraps in my lunch, I like to make big salads on the weekend, filled with veggies and protein and oodles of flavor, that I can dish out throughout the week. At home I love leafy green salads, but for portability and ease, grain-based salads are my BFF. They don’t get soggy or mushy, they have tons of different flavors and textures, and the dressing is already mixed in–no need to juggle a bajillion containers! These same salads are also great for a meatless dinner or a healthy barbecue side dish for practically all the same reasons, but I just tend to eat them more for lunch!

This salad is no different from my normal grain-based salad loves, though technically quinoa isn’t a grain. But in my little world, like most of the rest of the culinary empire, it’s lumped right in. Don’t go lumping this Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad in with other quinoa salads, though!

This salad pairs the basic Mexi-grain salad components with something new, something fresh. Something sweet–some sweet potato and bell peppers, perhaps?–meets something tart. Not just the Mexi-staple tartness of lime. But the unexpected, refreshing burst of…. Grapefruit. Whaaaaat? What initially started as a scaredy-cat substitution because I realized I was out of limes and needed more liquid to mix into this salad turned into a “oh darn, I should have used more grapefruit juice” during the test tasting stage. Crazy!

See, here’s the deal. You toss together some quinoa, bell peppers, onion, black beans, and sweet potato. They’re great. Pantry staples, healthy, filling, relatively affordable. They’re filling and flavorful on their own, yet adaptable to a pretty wide range of seasonings. Then you add the Mexi-spices and flavors, including cumin, cilantro, red pepper, the typical lime juice, etc. Leave the salad alone here and it would be pretty good. But add some grapefruit juice and take it to the next level. Beyond the tang of lime there’s a familiar yet unexpected tartness. An explosion of yummy flavors that makes each bite enchanting and divine. Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad is the perfect familiar yet unexpected addition to your next lunch conundrum, meatless meal, or barbecue side dish.

And yes, if you’re wondering… “Sweet-Tart” in the dish’s name was a nod to my all-time favorite childhood candy, SweeTarts, which I would happily munch on all day, everyday if that was a nutritionally sound choice. 🙂

What’s your all-time favorite childhood candy?

Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
click to print


  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, dry
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped + more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup bell peppers, diced [I used green, yellow, and red]
  • 3/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place onion and sweet potato in a large baking dish, then sprinkle with garlic, red pepper, and cumin. Drizzle with olive oil, then use your [clean!] hands to mix everything together. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

While the sweet potato and onion mixture is a-cooking, prepare the quinoa. Boil 1 cup water, then stir in the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover, cooking for 12 minutes.

Remove quinoa from heat, then stir in cilantro, bell peppers, black beans, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. After everything is combined, cover and set aside.

After sweet potato and onion mixture is ready, add to quinoa, and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

Time: 25 minutes [10 minutes active].

Yield: 2-3 servings.

Notes: If raw peppers aren’t your thing, you can roast then with the sweet potatoes and onions. Also, feel free to use any combination of citrus juice–orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc. in place of the lime-grapefruit mixture.


14 thoughts on “Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad”

  1. oh, yum! i love quinoa + this salad looks awesome. hmm, my favorite childhood candy? randomly, i always loved tootsie rolls! and those caramel things with the white center – caramel creams, i think they’re called? YUM!


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