Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans

Quinoa salads are one of my favorite things to serve when entertaining large groups for a number of reasons. The Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans can be prepared up to two days in advance which saves a lot of time on the day of the party (and it even tastes better after the dressing has had time to soak in!)

As quinoa is a complete grain-free protein, it’s a great option to have available for vegetarians or those avoiding grains and starchier carbs. And because this dish can be served hot, cold, or even room temperature, it’s a great option for buffets, potlucks, or anytime you’re trying to save on stove space.

It also doesn’t hurt that the combination of warm spices, tender apples, and toasted pecans makes this one a perfect match for all your favorite winter mains.

The star of this dish is the Ras el hanout dressing. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that combines cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, ginger, and other warm spices. It can be found at some well-stocked grocery stores like Whole Foods, and also online.

If you can’t find it, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

There are also lots of DIY Ras el hanout recipes available online--the components are likely things you already have in your spice cabinet, but the combination of them together is just amazing.

And if you do buy or make it, you should also try my ras el hanout-spiced carrots and this amazing spicy chocolate popcorn recipe with it!

Moroccan-Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans
Serves 8 - 10

12 cups water
2 1/2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed

For the dressing
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice (see below for note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

3 large tart apples, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
3 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, peeled and sliced (or use ½ small red onion)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Bring water to boil and add the quinoa. Boil about 10 minutes, or until the small curls on the quinoa are released. Drain well and add to a large bowl.

Make the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, honey, garlic, ras el hanout, salt, and black pepper in a blender. Puree until smooth and set aside.

Melt three tablespoons butter in a large skillet and add the shallots, cooking just until soft (about 3 minutes). Add the apples and cinnamon and cook about 7 minutes, or until apples are slightly tender.

Add the cooked apples, pecans, and parsley to the quinoa along with about half the dressing. Toss well to coat, then taste and add more dressing as needed (you may not need it all). Adjust seasoning with additional salt and/or pepper, as desired.

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