Fresh, Bright Cilantro-Citrus Quinoa Salad with Pickled Onions

This fresh, bright salad utilizes seasonal produce to help you make it through the winter doldrums. Plant-based pantry staples quinoa and black beans provide a double dose of protein, purple cabbage gives the salad a nice crunch, pickled onions offer a piquant note, and vibrant oranges add refreshing juiciness.fresh cilantro citrus quinoa salad

This salad keeps well and makes for an easy, wholesome lunch option. Since it’s vegan and gluten- and nut-free, it’s a great choice to share at potlucks and other gatherings.

Warning: Quick-Pickling Can Be Addictive 

You can use this quick-pickling technique can be used to transform almost any fresh vegetable into a tangy condiment in less than 30 minutes’ time!  Pickled onions are a special favorite—these zesty, jewel-toned onions beautifully compliment a wide range of dishes. The basic recipe for pickled onions is to simply marinate quick-pickled-onions_faceboonion slices in a mixture of vinegar … sugar … and salt. However, you can mix into additional spices as you please to customize the flavor of the onions.

Cutting the onions into ¼-inch rings makes it easy to scoop them out of the jar, and gives them a pretty look. It’s best to use a pale-colored vinegar, such as rice or white wine vinegar. We find that using the gallon-containers of industrial white vinegar yields harsh-tasting onions. Be sure to use a glass or ceramic container to avoid possible reactions with the vinegar or absorption of the flavors.

To make our go-to quick-pickled onions, you will need:

  • 1 medium red onion (approximately 5 ounces)
  • ¾ cup light-colored vinegar of choice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 10 peppercorns (optional)

How to Make Quick-Pickled Onions

  1. Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a kettle.
  2. Peel the onion and slice into ¼-inch rings.
  3. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns (if using) to the container you’ll be using to marinate the onions, and stir to dissolve.
  4. Place the onions in a sieve, and holding the sieve over a sink, slowly pour boiling water over the onions. Let drain.
  5. Place the onions in the container with the vinegar mixture and stir to distribute flavorings.

The onions will be ready in just half an hour, but we find letting them marinate for at least three hours results in even better flavor. They will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, Enjoy within one week for optimal deliciousness.

Cilantro-Citrus Quinoa Salad with Pickled Onions

To make this cilantro-citrus quinoa salad with picked onions, you will need:

  • 1/1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup waterlate-winter-salad-closeup_f
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 ½ cups purple cabbage
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz.)
  • ½ cup pickled onions
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce of choice (we love using a habanero-based sauce!)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

How to Make Cilantro-Citrus Quinoa Salad with Pickled Onions 

  1. Begin by placing a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Rinse and drain the quinoa, then add to saucepan. Toast until the grains separate and release a slightly nutty aroma.
  3. Add water to saucepan, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, and the quinoa is tender, cover saucepan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. If you’re planning to assemble and serve the salad right away, spread the quinoa on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
  6. Next, prepare the oranges and lemon. Zest one orange and ½ lemon into a small bowl, then juice the lemon half and peel and segment both oranges. If you’re feeling fancy, try you can supreme them!
  7. Chop the cilantro, then add it to the small bowl containing the zest, along with the lemon juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Wisk together and adjust seasonings to taste.
  8. Rinse and drain the black beans.
  9. Shred the cabbage and dice the pickled onions.
  10. Place the quinoa, beans, cabbage, oranges, and pickled onion in a large bowl and gently mix until evenly dispersed.
  11. Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss to coat.

Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator. This salad keeps will keep well, and flavors will become more pronounced as the ingredients mingle.