Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad
November 5, 2015

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

This roasted beet, baby spinach, and toasted quinoa salad is a perfect vegan salad recipe for the holiday season, which is what I had in mind when I put it together. What I like most about it, though, is that it’s given me a new way to prepare and think about quinoa…which I didn’t really think was possible, given how often I eat quinoa on a weekly basis!

It all began when a colleague at the wellness space where I work told me about a quinoa salad she’d recently had at a bachelorette party dinner; she said that the quinoa was oven-toasted and crispy, which gave the salad crunch and a toasty flavor. It sounded great to me, but all of my experiences toasting or popping raw quinoa (either in a dry skillet or on a baking sheet) have resulted in quinoa that was way too crispy for my taste–in other words, downright hard.

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

For this recipe, I cook the quinoa using the normal, stovetop method, allow it to cool, and then toss it in a bit of oil, low sodium tamari, and maple syrup before toasting it in the oven. It results in a topping that’s crispy without being gritty or hard. And it has a lovely, toasted flavor that’s complemented by the addition of pecans toward the end of the quinoa’s oven time.

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

I can imagine this topping being delicious over many different types of salads, over a smoothie bowl in the morning, or as a topping for non-dairy yogurt and fruit. The nuts are optional, of course, and you can trade them for walnuts or almonds or another nut or seed you love.

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

As for the salad itself, it features a simple vinaigrette that I’ve been enjoying on lots of fall salads this month and last: apple cider vinegar, a nutty oil (like walnut, hazelnut, or flax–but olive oil works, too), shallot, maple syrup, and salt. So simple, but flavorful and perfect for the season. I also love the way the sweet, tender roasted beets contrast with the crispy, toasted topping. Here’s the recipe.

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad (gluten free)

Author -
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized red beets about 1 bunch, washed, stems remove and ends trimmed
  • 3/4 cup dry red quinoa
  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed or melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons walnut hazelnut, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 5 heaping cups baby spinach about 5 oz.

Instructions

  • First, roast the beets: Preheat your oven to 400F. My favorite method for this is to wrap each beet in a small piece of aluminum foil and roast till they're all tender (about 30-40 minutes). When they're cool enough to handle, run them under cool water and slip the skins off; they should come off really easily. Cut them into 1-inch pieces and set them aside till you're ready to use. You can also peel the beets prior to roasting, chop them into 1-inch pieces, and toss them in a little oil, salt, and pepper, and roast till tender (25-30 minutes).
  • While the beets roast, rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve for about a minute. Transfer it to a medium sized pot and add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring the quinoa to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, cover it again, and let it rest and cool for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce oven heat to 325F after the beets are ready. Toss the cooked quinoa with the grapeseed or melted coconut oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and the tamari. Spread the quinoa on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the quinoa from the oven, stir, and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. 5 minutes before it's done, add the pecan pieces to the sheet, so that they can toast in the oven with the quinoa.
  • Whisk together the nut or olive oil, cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, shallots, and the remaining 1 teaspoon maple syrup.
  • Mix the roasted beets, baby spinach, most of the toasted quinoa + pecan mixture (save a little for topping each salad plate), and the dressing in a large mixing bowl. Divide the salad onto four plates and top each with a little bit of the remaining toasted quinoa. Serve.

Notes

To save time, try roasting the beets in advance, cooking the quinoa in advance, making the toasted topping in advance, or all three. The salad can then be easily thrown together when you're ready to eat! Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.

As you’ll see, I give two options for roasting the beets. I personally like to wrap them in foil, roast them with the skins, and then slip the skins off under running water because peeling them can be a drag. But it’s perfectly fine to peel, chop, and roast them, too, and it’s slightly less time intensive than roasting them whole.

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad | The Full Helping

This salad would be a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving or holiday dinner spread, or to serve as a first course for autumnal entertaining. It’s pretty to look at, and you’ll be surprised at how the quinoa topping gives it character. I hope you enjoy it!

Happy Thursday, and I look forward to weekend reading in a couple days.

xo

Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach, and Toasted Quinoa Salad -- perfect for holiday meals and entertaining!| The Full Helping

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    9 Comments
  1. I have been a follower or years, and one of my favorite salad ever is beetroots with your balsamic fig dressing. This dressing is clearly a staple. Also, I think it’s a good idea to change your name. It seems the «raw » period is behind you now… now your cooking perspective is broader and has evolved, I am still a follower, as your comments and attitude are still intelligent and inspiring. I think your blog is different and stand apart among the multitude of vegan blogs, xxxxx

    • Dear Catherine,

      That white balsamic and fig dressing is one of my all-time favorites, too! I am so glad you like it, and your comment actually is a good reminder for me to make it. I also so deeply appreciate your kind words about the name change and my own growth/change. The support means a lot to me.

      Thanks for your compassionate, intelligent engagement with this blog!

      Gena

  2. I tried your method of roasting beets for the first time after reading this post. It was so easy! Thanks for the tip. And the salad sounds delish!

  3. Such beautiful colours!! What a great seasonal salad. I am trying to love beets because of all the good things that they have to offer. I like them, but don’t crave it yet but with this salad, I may be ringing a different tune.

  4. This recipe is definitely what I was looking for. Especially in the colder month I have a craving for grains and nutty flavors. So I will give this quinoa recipe a try. And I can imagine the salad dressing perfectly on a salad with red endive and different root vegetables. Thanks for sharing!
    Greetings, Hanna

  5. I haven’t tried toasting quinoa after cooking it! I’ve toasted grains prior to cooking (especially millet), but this sounds like it would work really good. And you can’t go wrong with roasted beets.