Quinoasalad 2

Quinoa salad with shrimp, cucumber, mango and mint

Quinoa is the new black. It is the darling ingredient of the hour, the what’s-old-is-new favorite of foodies everywhere. Ancient in its roots, quinoa has become today’s “it” grain.

I’m a fan. For years, I’ve loved quinoa’s nutty flavor and crunchy, caviar-like texture. It’s versatile, flavorful and easy — easier, in my opinion, even than rice. It’s a natural for salads, and I drew inspiration from several of my favorite bloggers:

I was also working off a salad I get occasionally from the take-away counter at Piperade, with shrimp, cucumber and herbs, with a lime dressing. The dish is well-intentioned and often flavorful, but all too often the shrimp are tough and it is overdressed and sloppy. I knew I could do better.

I wanted the combination of shrimp and cucumber to bring color and contrast to the dish, mango for gentle sweetness, just enough heat to tickle the palate, and lime and mint for a refreshing finish.

Finally, I chose red quinoa, which I have never used before. I love it. I’m not sure whether it genuinely has a nuttier flavor than its paler cousin, or whether the color simply has power of suggestion, but I thought it had a pronounced flavor that stood up well to the other players in the dish. (Like the other variety, though, you must rinse it before cooking, as all quinoa is naturally coated with a substance called saponin, which can taste bitter.)

For all its deceptive simplicity, this salad is satisfyingly complex. It’s got sweet, sour, salty and hot. It’s got crunch and chew. It’s got earthy nuttiness and herbal freshness. It’s got it all.

Quinoa salad with shrimp, cucumber, mango and mint
2 c. quinoa
4 c. chicken stock, vegetable broth or water
1 lb. shrimp, shelled and veined
1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 mango
1 small red onion
1 jalapeño pepper
bunch of mint
juice of three limes
good olive oil
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper

Rinse the quinoa well, washing off the outer layer of saponin; let drain. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the shrimp and cook until pink but still tender, just a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp; if anything, pull them when they are still just a bit translucent, and they will finish from their own heat. Set shrimp aside to cool. Bring the stock back to the boil. Add the quinoa, bring back to the boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about ten minutes. Take off heat and rest, then turn out into a bowl or plate to cool.

Have a large bowl at the ready. Cut the cucumber and mango into 1/2″ dice, cut the shrimp down into 1/2″ pieces and add it all to the bowl. Remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeño and mince finely, and add to the bowl. Finely mince the red onion, and into the bowl with it. Add the quinoa and toss everything well together. Be sure to toss or fold, not stir vigorously; you don’t want to break up the lovely grains of quinoa.

In a small container, combine the lime juice, several shakes of Tabasco, salt, pepper, sugar and a drizzle of olive oil and whisk together to combine. Taste and reseason as necessary.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and fold to mix in. Start with about half, and add as necessary, tasting as you go. You want the result to be moist and flavorful, but not soupy.

Coarsely chop the mint, add to salad and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour, up to several hours. Serve chilled or just under room temperature.


  • This looks yummy! I’ve never tried red quinoa, but the regular kind always reminds me of tiny rolled up condoms, which always makes it extra fun to eat. 🙂

  • Tea

    I think the red seems to taste nuttier as well. I like it better, but cannot seem to find it here in Seattle (grumph). This sounds super delicious!

  • Fabulous! I’m just starting to play with the red quinoa too, thanks to one of my blog readers who suggested it. Shrimp and mango is a wonderful combination.

  • I WAS a big quinoa fan; then I read Rachel’s comment, and now I don’t know if I can look at it without blushing.
    However (ahem!), next time I’m feeling racy, I’ll certainly try this recipe. It sounds fabulous!

  • I’m definitely on the quinoa bandwagon, but I’ve never had the red stuff yet. Your salad is a killer combination.

  • Rachel: Luckily they don’t *taste* like rolled-up condoms. 🙂
    Tea: I’d be happy to send some up your way…
    Lydia: I’m curious to see your reaction to the red variety. I’m hooked for sure.
    Jenn: The best things in life should make your heart race and cheeks rouge, no?
    Brilynn: As long as you keep it properly cooled, it will hopefully not kill anyone. 😉

  • Mm mm mm, love me some quinoa. So much protein! So much flavor!

  • This looks and sounds so good, I can’t wait to try it!

  • Yum . . . I haven’t jumped onto the quinoa bandwagon yet, but this just might convince me to give it a go!

  • Quinoa is pretty healthy too, isn’t it? I guess we’ll fall for anything that’s tossed around with health in word association. This salad looks great but the texture of quinoa doesn’t appeal to me so much, I’m a rice girl. Thanks for this post!

  • As Jenn notes, quinoa is very high in protein — the highest protein grain there is, so it’s healthy in that it’s not as carb-y. It also offers an almost-complete set of amino acids, so you could practically subsist on just that. But mostly I like it cuz it’s tasty.

  • Thanks for sharing Sean. Quinoa has become one of my favorite choices a make-ahead take-to-work healthy-lunch-between-meetings — both more satisfying and healthier than anything delivered through a drive-thru window. I can’t wait to try your combination!

  • When is black ever going to be the new black again?
    Anyway, love the use of kie-noah. I can’t wait to try it!

  • Was black ever the new black? Isn’t it definitionally the old black?

  • Mmm. this dish sounds ab. fab!

  • I have to admit I’ve never had quinoa, at least to my knowledge

  • Very nice combination of flavors. I have never had red quinoa, but I will definitely get some the next time I go grocery shopping. In my quinoa salad I put diced grilled tofu and roasted bell peppers. I like the texture of cooked quinoa.

  • I just tagged this recipe in my May Gluten-Free Recipe Rodeo. 🙂