Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

$4.97 recipe / $1.24 per cup
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.77 from 26 votes
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Have you ever checked out Food52.com? They have really simple, elegant recipes and I love browsing through their beautiful photographs. The other day while perusing through their stuff I saw this recipe for One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf and thought it looked like the perfect recipe to help me out with my focus on vegetables for the new year. I love that the kale and quinoa cook together in one pot, making it quick and easy, and I love just about anything with lemon, so making this Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad was pretty much a no brainer.

I changed a few things in the recipe to fit my needs (as usual) and I loved the results. I cooked the quinoa in vegetable broth instead of salted water, used a regular lemon instead of a meyer lemon, subbed walnuts for the pine nuts (and nixed the walnut oil), and lastly, used a little crumbled feta in place of the goat cheese (even though I do love goat cheese). The end product is a flavorful and filling warm quinoa salad (or pilaf) with multiple layers of unique flavors. I’m eating straight out of a bowl by itself, but it would also make a great bed for some grilled chicken or fish. #lovingit!

Quinoa isn’t exactly cheap, but because this recipe didn’t use a lot, I was still able to make it fit in my budget. If quinoa doesn’t work for you, couscous makes a great inexpensive alternative (plus it cooks in about 10 minutes instead of 15). You could even use orzo if you can’t find cous cous!

P.S. Did I mention that you can eat it hot or cold? I just had seconds and didn’t even bother heating it up. Still delicious!

Top view of a bowl of Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad sitting on a gray and white stripped napkin

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Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

4.77 from 26 votes
This brightly flavored kale and quinoa salad is a great way to work extra greens into your meal. Serve it cold like a salad or as a warm side dish.
Author: Adapted from Food52.com
This brightly flavored kale and quinoa salad is a great way to work extra greens into your meal. Serve it cold like a salad or as a warm side dish.
Servings 4 1 cup each
Prep 20 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 40 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 bunch Dinosaur/Lacinato Kale* ($0.49)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth ($0.23)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa ($2.09)
  • 1 fresh lemon ($0.69)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts ($0.59)
  • 1 oz crumbled feta ($0.56)

Instructions 

  • Rinse the quinoa well with cool water to remove the saponins, a natural coating that can taste bitter. Remove the stems of the kale leaves by running a sharp knife along both sides of each stem. Cut each leaf in half lengthwise, then across into 1/2 inch strips. Rinse the kale well in a colander.
  • Mince the garlic and add it to a large pot with the olive oil. Sauté over medium-low heat for one minute, or until the garlic is slightly softened. Add the rinsed kale and sauté for 2-3 minutes more, or just until the kale has wilted and looks dark green and glossy.
  • Add the rinsed quinoa to the pot along with vegetable broth. Stir the contents of the pot, place a lid on top, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the pot come to a boil. As soon as it does, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure the pot is simmering the whole time.
  • After 15 minutes, check the quinoa to see if it is done. Each granule should look slightly transparent with a white outer rim. If there is still a considerable amount of broth left in the bottom of the pot, replace the lid and let simmer for a few minutes more. If there is a small amount of liquid, simply remove the lid and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until the excess liquid evaporates.
  • While the pot is simmering, zest half of the lemon. Chop the walnuts and crumble the feta.
  • Once the quinoa is cooked and any excess moisture has evaporated, remove the pot from the heat. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the kale and quinoa. Squeeze the juice from half of the lemon over the pot as well. Finally, sprinkle the chopped nuts and crumbled feta on top and serve.**

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Notes

*My kale bunch was exceptionally large, so you may need more depending on the size. Luckily, the amount for this recipe is very flexible.
**If you want even more flavor, you can toast the walnuts in a dry skillet before adding them to the salad.

Nutrition

Serving: 1CupCalories: 272.23kcalCarbohydrates: 33.23gProtein: 9gFat: 12.58gSodium: 388.9mgFiber: 4.55g
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Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

Side view of a bowl of Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad sitting on a gray and white stripped napkin with a fork and half a lemon on the side

 

Step by Step Photos

Rinsing Quinoa in strainer under water

Start by rinsing 1 cup of uncooked quinoa. Quinoa has a natural substance on the outside that can make it taste really bitter, but a good rinse should wash it all away. A fine mesh strainer makes this job easiest, but it can be rinsed in a bowl and the rinse water carefully poured off afterwards.

Prepping Kale (removing leaves from middle stem)

Next you’ll need to prep the kale. This bunch of kale that I bought was not only HUGE, but it was only $0.98 cents! I’m not sure if most kale bunches are usually the same size, but this one seemed large and I only ended up using half of it. Luckily, the amount of kale you use for this recipe is very flexible, so if you feel like you can use your entire bunch, go for it. I probably used 6-8 large leaves. 

To remove the woody stems, take a sharp knife and run it along both sides of the stem. The stems of Dino kale are much more tender than curly kale, so you don’t even have to remove the stem to the very end of the leaf. Just the toughest parts. Once you remove the stem, slice the leaf in half the rest of the way (lengthwise), so you have two long pieces.

Chopping kale with knife on cutting board

Stack the halved leaves and cut them into thin strips. Place all the strips in a colander and rinse them well.

Sautéing Garlic in pot on stove top

Mince two cloves of garlic and add them to a large pot with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté over medium-low heat for about one minute. (Those little dark bits of pieces of kale that were stuck to my knife when I minced the garlic.)

Kale added to pot to cook

Add the sliced and rinsed kale (it will mostly fill the pot) and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes, or just until it wilts down and looks tender and glossy.

Quinoa and Broth added to other ingredients in pot

Add the rinsed quinoa and 1.5 cups of vegetable broth to the pot. Stir the contents together, place a lid on top, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the pot come to a boil. As soon as it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes with the lid in place (make sure it doesn’t stop simmering).

Close up of cooked Quinoa

After 15 minutes, the quinoa should be tender and most of the broth absorbed. You can tell the quinoa is done when the center is no longer an opaque white, but looks  more like a translucent bead. The outer rim will be solid white. Most of the broth should be absorbed, but if there is a good bit left on the bottom of the pot, replace the lid and let it simmer a few minutes more. If there’s just a little bit of broth hanging out, keep the lid off and let it evaporate as you stir and cook the contents of the pot.

Zesting a lemon into a small bowl

While the pot is simmering away, you can prep the toppings. You’ll want the zest from half of a lemon. I use a small holed cheese grater to get my zest, but there are also gadgets made specifically for zesting.

Toppings (three small bowls, one with lemon zest, one with feta cheese and one with walnuts)

You’ll also want a 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and one ounce of crumbled feta (that’s actually 2 ounces in the picture, but as I was adding it, I decided it was way too much. You don’t want the feta to over power the dish).

Toppings added to cooked quinoa mixture in pot

Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle the lemon zest over top. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon into the pot. Lastly, top wit the chopped walnuts and crumbled feta.

Top view of a bowl of Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad with a wooden spoon and a half a lemon on the side

Serve the Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad warm or cold! The end volume will depend on how much kale you ended up adding, but mine made four cups (plus the 5-6 spoonfuls that I shoved in my mouth before measuring). I love it!

 

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  1. Have made this many times and felt compelled to comment – this recipe is excellent! So nutritious, tasty, filling and easy!! I’ve had issues cooking quinoa in the past and this always turns our perfect. Love to pair it with the lemon pepper chicken and even made it for thanksgiving this year to great success <3

  2. I know that you mentioned quinoa is rather expensive. It’s much cheaper in the health food store in bulk. Also quinoa provides complete protein (just like meat) and is a heck of a lot cheaper than meat. It’s a great way to add protein to just about anything like soups, casseroles, and salads. Did you know that you caneven cook and service it with milk, fruit and sweetner for breakfast?

    1. Yes, I love it sweet! I actually have a recipe on here for breakfast quinoa cooked in juice with fresh apples. :)

  3. Excellent recipe! I used goat crumbles instead of feta. Fabulous. I then added some homemade lime avocado sauce I’m trying to get rid of before it goes bad and it was a delightful pairing, really brought out the bright, citrusy flavor. I did have to add extra broth to get the quinoa cooked but I’ll use a less wide pan next time.

  4. I really, really, really love this salad!!!! I’ve even tried it with herbed feta or spinach even. As well as pecans!

  5. Another hit with the family! I had a handful of leftover pecans left that needed to get used (had been hanging out for a couple months), so I went with toasted chopped up pecans but otherwise followed it exactly. Served with salmon my hubby made and they paired very well. Thanks! Another keeper!! 

  6. This looks delicious. I have a bag of pre chopped kale I’m trying to use up. About how many cups would you say you use for this recipe? Can’t wait to try it!

  7. I just couldn’t fall in love with this recipe. I’m not sure if I just didn’t care for the flavor combo or the texture but I had to try it. I also learned I really don’t like kale. Please don’t take my comment as an insult as I really do love your blog. This recipe was just not a winner for me.

    1. Try spinach next time and see if you like it that way. Just add a lot more as it really reduces.

  8. Such an amazing recipe! Have made this numerous times and always get rave reviews!

  9. Looks like the kale and quinoa salad I got at Costco, but your recipe is so easy I’ll never buy it again. I served it cold with a vinaigrette dressing. Everyone loved it.

  10. Having this for lunch now – it’s amazing! Like other commenters, I used curly kale because it was on sale. SO good when served hot but I bet it’ll be equally amazing later after it’s chilled! I went with 2oz of feta and it was good but I could see how less feta would also be good, depending on your tastes.

  11. I want to try this but am allergic to walnuts. What nut would make a good substitute? We r having Chinese chicken salad
    tonite. Great receipes

  12. Just finished making/eating this and oh my god, so good. I used goat cheese instead of feta, and doubled the batch and I’m so glad I did! I bet this would be EXCELLENT with a poached egg on top too!