This fresh and vibrant Easy Quinoa Caprese Salad is one of the fastest, best tasting and best looking meals you can make this summer. My gluten free Italian Tomato and Mozzarella salad combines all the flavors of a traditional caprese salad with quinoa for a nutritious and satisfying lower carb meal. Lunch or dinner in no time at all.
Juicy ripe tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are flavors my whole family love eating.
The simple extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing really lets the ingredients shine. This might just be the perfect summer salad.
Why You Should Make This Easy Quinoa Caprese Salad
- A summer favorite if ever there was one, sweet cherry tomatoes, with creamy mozzarella and the freshness of basil are a perfect flavor combination in this Italian Quinoa Salad.
- The fluffy quinoa adds protein, boosting this salad from a supporting side to a full meal. If you love a heartier salad try my sheet pan Fall Salad with Squash, Kale and Apple.
- Quinoa is also packed full of nutrients and the ideal substitution to traditional grains for anyone following a gluten free diet.
- It is so quick to make and perfect for a busy night. The only cooked ingredient is quinoa, which can be made in advance.
- This salad is so easy to pack up and keeps well, making it perfect picnic or work lunch material.
How to cook quinoa?
Or should I say, how to avoid soggy quinoa? There is definitely a knack when it comes to cooking quinoa. Here is how to ensure perfectly cooked quinoa every time.
First of all measure the quinoa in a measuring cup. Next always rinse it thoroughly under running water, until it runs clear.
Place it in a medium pan and add twice as much water to quinoa. Bring to a boil and then turn to simmer and cook, uncovered, until the quinoa has absorbed nearly all the water.
Watch the quinoa closely - it will take around 15 minutes but the cooking time will vary depending on how much you're making.
Next - and this is key - once all the water is absorbed, as with rice, remove the pot from the heat and cover it with a lid for 5 minutes. This final steaming makes sure any excess water is fully absorbed and gives that all important fluffy texture.
Why is quinoa sometimes bitter?
Many people cook quinoa, believing it to be a grain as the preparation is somewhat similar. However, quinoa is in fact a seed.
Quinoa seeds have a natural coating called saponin which can give it a really bitter taste.
How do I make sure quinoa isn't bitter?
Firstly start by placing your quinoa in a fine wire sieve and giving it a really good wash under cold running water for a minute or so, until the water runs clear. This honestly makes a huge difference.
Secondly balance the flavor by adding either a little fat or sweetness. The extra virgin olive oil, creamy mozzarella cheese, and sweet cherry tomatoes will help balance any bitterness in this easy caprese salad.
How to Make Italian Quinoa Salad?
Find a full printable recipe with measurements below.
Rinse then cook the quinoa and allow to cool.
Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until the dressing has emulsified.
When ready to serve, arrange the tomatoes and cheese on a large plate or shallow bowl.
Scatter the cooled quinoa over the tomatoes and cheese. Season well with sea salt and pepper.
Drizzle generously with the dressing, top with the shredded basil and serve.
Variations of Fresh Caprese Quinoa Salad:
You can buy white Quinoa in most stores, but look out for a blend of white, red and black quinoa for added flavor and something different.
For a different take you could replace the quinoa with brown rice.
Cherry tomatoes add wonderful sweetness, but you could also use large buffalo tomatoes and cut them up into bite-sized chunks if you prefer.
Mozzarella is the cheese traditionally used in an Italian caprese salad. Mozzarella pearls would also work here. Or you could substitute with creamy burrata if you prefer.
You could add more different herbs - dill or mint would both work nicely here.
Tips For Making the Best Quinoa Tomato & Mozzarella Salad
- Take time to properly wash the quinoa before you start cooking it. This really will make all the difference to the finished dish.
- There are only simple ingredients in this dish but for that reason it pays to get the very best quality you can. Source the ripest tomatoes you can find and the salad will taste all the better for it.
- When finely shredding the basil leaves, use a technique know as chiffonade. Roll the basil leaves together tightly to form a long pencil like shape. Then cut across the leaves into thin shreds.
- Seasoning is really important in a caprese salad and it really helps to bring the flavors together. Use a good sea salt and season fairly liberally.
- For another vibrant and tasty salad try my Winter Coleslaw, another excellent way to pack in more of those veggies.
Plating tips for Caprese Salad
This is the kind of salad which looks best on a nice wide shallow platter or plate, where you can show off those lovely ingredients.
If you're entertaining, take some time before your guests arrive to find a suitable serving dish.
Arrange the ingredients so you can see a bit of everything, season as you go and top with the quinoa and dressing. Add the basil last, just before serving, so it doesn't wilt.
How To Serve Quinoa Caprese Salad?
I like to serve this as a salad main course. The addition of quinoa really makes this a filling, balanced meal.
If you're serving it as part of a larger meal it is a great addition to a backyard BBQ or picnic and goes well with grilled meats.
You could also serve it with shredded chicken for added protein.
How long does Fresh Caprese Salad last?
If you put leftovers in an air tight container this cold quinoa salad will last for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
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More Easy Sides & Salad Recipe Ideas
Easy Quinoa Caprese Salad
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1½ lbs Cherry Tomatoes - or buffalo tomatoes, ripe, cut into pieces
- 1 lb Fresh Mozzarella - torn into bitesize pieces
- ½ cup Fresh Basil
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
Cook the Quinoa
- Rinse the quinoa very well in a fine wire sieve to make sure it does not taste bitter.
- Put it in a small saucepan and add 2 cups of water.
- Bring the water to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for around 15 minutes or until all the water has absorbed (watch it carefully).
- When all the water has absorbed, remove the pan from the stove and cover it with a lid for 5 minutes, to give the quinoa a final steam.
- Allow to cool thoroughly.
Make the Dressing
- Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and pepper to a small bowl.
- Whisk vigorously with a fork until the dressing has emulsified.
Assemble the Salad
- Arrange the tomatoes and cheese nicely on a large plate or in a shallow bowl.
- Cut the basil into a a chiffonade by rolling the leaves up together and then cutting them into thin slices.
- Scatter the cooled quinoa over the tomatoes and cheese. Season well with sea salt and pepper.
- Drizzle generously with the dressing.
- Top with the shredded basil and serve.
This recipe was shared with the #cookblogshare community, which this week was hosted by www.FamilyFriendsFood.com