This tempeh quinoa salad is satisfying, nutritious, and colorful! A zesty salad of quinoa, beans, and crispy vegetables is topped with high protein slices of seared tempeh. The salad features a simple cumin vinaigrette.
Have you ever tried to convince somebody that salad can be a meal?
Not a side dish, not a garnish, not an appetizer. A whole meal, nutritious and varied and satisfying. Dinner, served.
I love salad in all of its forms, from light and appetizer-sized to hearty and meal-sized. I lean more toward the meal-sized salads, which channel the meal planning principle I wrote about in Power Plates: inclusion of a protein, a starch, a healthful fat, and plenty of vegetables.
Summer is an especially wonderful time for big, hearty dinner salads. They’re filling without demanding a lot of cooking. This tempeh quinoa salad is one of my all-time favorites.
This salad was inspired heavily by a salad at Candle Cafe, a New York City restaurant that is sadly no longer. That salad, which I ordered nearly every time I went to Candle for lunch, was a mix of quinoa, corn, black beans, red onion, cumin dressing, seared tempeh, and greens.
My tempeh quinoa salad is a little less complex, but it channels the primary ingredients and vibe of Candle’s original!
Still enchanted with last week’s quinoa and black bean salad with quick cumin vinaigrette, I decided to make a few modifications, to add some scrumptious (and filling) seared tempeh, and to top it all with a thick heap of fresh avocado. The overall effect was a perfect tribute to the Candle salad I love so much!
I prepare quinoa for grain salads the same way that I prepare it in general.
I’m a big believer in a 1 cup dry quinoa to 1 3/4 cups water ratio. 1 cup grain to 2 cups water will work, too, but I think that the quinoa is a little fluffier when the ratio of grain to water is slightly higher.
I place the rinsed quinoa and water in a medium sized saucepot and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, I lower the heat to low. I cover the pot and simmer the quinoa for 13 minutes. Then, I remove the pot from heat, still covered, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
I fluff the quinoa with a fork, then I re-cover the pot. And I allow the quinoa to sit for 5 more minutes.
At that point, the quinoa is ready to eat, store, or use in grain salads like this one.
It’s no big secret that I love tempeh. It’s probably my favorite plant protein, ever!
I use tempeh in so many ways. I marinate it and bake it simply. I use it in tacos, meatballs (and meatball subs), stuffed peppers, pasta bowls, easy lunch salads, a higher protein vegan ratatouille, and more.
Tempeh can be grilled, seared, sautéed, baked, or stewed.
Before any of these cooking preparations, it’s a wise idea to steam tempeh. This helps to reduce some of tempeh’s natural bitterness. I think it also helps to make the tempeh absorb flavors and marinades.
There’s a lot going on in this salad—in a good way! Here are the main ingredients:
Any tempeh you like is fine for the recipe. I tend to go for a simple soy tempeh, but 3-grain tempeh and flax tempeh have a fun texture.
The recipe calls for black beans or kidney beans, but you can use any bean you like! Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and white beans are also great options.
I like to use cucumber, pepper, and cherry tomatoes in the tempeh quinoa salad. However, you can improvise with the vegetables and add some personal touches. Green beans, summer squash, broccoli, and cauliflower will all be good additions.
Quinoa is a starring ingredient of the salad, but you don’t have to use it if you prefer another grain. The salad would be great with cooked brown basmati rice, couscous, barley, or millet.
You’ll see a recipe for a simple, cumin-spiced vinaigrette in the recipe. It calls for apple cider vinegar and lime juice, which is a nice balance of acidity.
Yes! As written, the salad is gluten free. Be sure to purchase tempeh and quinoa that is GF certified if you have celiac disease.
The tempeh quinoa salad is a good candidate for meal preparation and make ahead storage.
The quinoa itself can be cooked up to three days before tossing the salad ingredients together. The quinoa salad will keep, minus the avocado (which browns!) up to two days before you add the tempeh.
The cumin vinaigrette can be stored for up to one week in an airtight container in the fridge.
If you prepare the tempeh quinoa salad ahead of time, I recommend allowing the quinoa salad portion to mingle overnight before serving. Add the tempeh and avocado just before you sit down to eat it.
This tempeh quinoa salad will satisfy all kinds of eaters: vegan, omnivore, gluten-free diners, and more. You can give thanks, along with your loved ones and friends, for the joys of a good dinner salad.