Superfood Spinach Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Citrus Dressing
This herbaceous spinach quinoa salad is full of fresh ingredients and delivers a ton of flavor and texture due to the chewy quinoa, crunchy pistachios, the sweet and sour pop of pomegranate seeds, and the creamy blue cheese. The dressing blends citrus and pomegranate juices, bringing more cohesiveness to the dish. I always find it useful to make extra dressing, so be sure to save clean glass jars, which are a great way to store dressings. This recipe makes more dressing than you need; store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Spinach Quinoa Salad
A Mediterranean twist on your usual quinoa salad with pomegranate citrus dressing and a touch of sumac and za’atar spices. My spinach quinoa salad with pomegranate citrus dressing is a crowd-pleaser, perfect for a dinner party or an easy lunch at home. It only takes about five minutes to throw together and can be prepped in advance and dressed right before serving.
This spinach quinoa salad uses a spin on the classic vinaigrette, which is typically one part acid to three or four parts oil. In this case, I am using extra virgin olive oil with tart pomegranate and citrusy orange juice. I add in a touch of maple syrup to cut a bit of the tang along with some of my favorite spices, including Za’atar and Sumac. I suggest storing this dressing in the refrigerator because of the perishability of the fresh juices. Do not worry if your oil solidifies when cooled, this is normal. Simply leave it at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before serving and it will liquefy.
Here I am using blue cheese, but you could just as easily substitute feta or goat’s cheese. I recommend choosing a variety with a bit of a briny, salty flavor punch to contrast with the sweet pomegranates and orange juice.
If you are purchasing a whole pomegranate to make the spinach quinoa salad, watch my how-to video for removing seeds. The trick is to cut the whole pomegranate in half and gently squeeze each half in a bowl filled with water. The seeds will sink and the pith will float. If you try my spinach quinoa salad and enjoy cooking with pomegranates, try my braised chicken with pomegranate or use it in an adult beverage, such as my pomegranate old fashioned.
Let me know your favorite way to enjoy pomegranate on my Facebook page or in the comments below!
What are Za’atar and Sumac?
Za’atar and Sumac are two Middle Eastern spices that can take a dish over the edge of delicious. They are not used widely in western cooking, so adding them can impart a unique flavor.
Za’atar is a tangy, earthy mix of different dried herbs like thyme, oregano, and marjoram, along with powdered sumac and sesame seeds. Sometimes the za’atar mixture will contain salt, dried dill, dried orange zest, and the za’atar herb. Each combination will be slightly different, so find the brand or mix that agrees with your palate. The tang in za’atar comes from sumac, which is a sour dried berry ground into a powder. In my spinach quinoa salad I add single blend sumac in addition to the small amount already in za’atar.
Although we are not heating the za’atar for my spinach quinoa salad, doing so can “bloom” the spices, giving them a more robust flavor. Simply heat up olive oil or another fat in a small skillet, remove from the heat, and add the spices. Drizzle over roasted vegetables for a delicious side dish or on popcorn for a snack.
My Secret to the Perfect Salad
I have the best simple tip for making beautiful tasty salads, and I use it in my recipe for spinach quinoa salad. The sneakiest way to add depth to greens is to throw in chopped herbs- no one will ever know, but they will be asking you why your salad tastes so much better than theirs.
Some of my favorite herbs to use in salads are basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, chives, or tarragon. Basil pairs nicely with bright tomatoes, milder cheeses, and briny capers or olives. Cilantro pairs well with lots of international flavors as well as other herbs like parsley and basil. Mint adds a fresh flavor that pairs well with different vegetables and fruits. The options are endless, so get creative!
The Health Benefits of Pomegranate
Aside from being a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K, pomegranates also pack a major antioxidant punch. This powerful fruit has long been used as traditional and complementary medicine around the world. In the last few years, researchers have identified a few unique benefits of the pomegranate plant, including its use in the treatment of gut inflammation and in the management of Type 2 Diabetes.
Inflammation in the gut can be caused by a number of different chronic conditions like Ulcerative Colitis or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or by more acute infections like H. pylori. The pomegranate plant has been shown to improve gut bacteria leading to a decrease in inflammation, potentially exerting an anti-microbial effect as well. (1)
Various parts of the pomegranate plant have been shown to be effective in the management of Type 2 Diabetes. Specifically, it has been show to help with the management of blood glucose levels. In fact, pomegranates are used to treat diabetes in indigenous Indian medicine. (2)
- Colombo E, Sangiovanni E, Dell’Agli M. A Review on the Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Pomegranate in the Gastrointestinal Tract. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;2013.
- Banihani S, Swedan S, Alguraan Z. Pomegranate and type 2 diabetes. Nutrition Research 2013;33(2013):341-348.
Spinach Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Citrus Vinaigrette
- 3 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup parsley coarsely chopped
- ½ cup mint coarsely chopped
- 2 pomegranates or ~3/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
- 1 cup Quinoa cooked according to package directions swapping out water for vegetable stock and cooled (*can add how to cook quinoa directions*)
- ¼ cup pistachios shelled and toasted
- ¼ cup crumbled bleu cheese
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon za’atar
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot minced
Place spinach, parsley, and mint in a large bowl.
If using whole pomegranates: Cut pomegranates in half. Fill large bowl with water and hold a pomegranate half, cut side down. Using a wooden spoon, whack the back of the pomegranate so seeds fall into water. Immerse pomegranate in water and pull out any remaining seeds. Repeat with all pomegranate halves. Drain seeds. Set aside.
Add quinoa to bowl with greens. Toss gently.
Place all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Add approximately 1/2 cup of dressing to bowl with greens and quinoa, mix gently. Place remaining dressing in empty jam jar or container and keep in the refrigerator. Dressing can be used for up to 3 weeks; take out of refrigerator and let dressing reach room temperature before using.
Add pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and cheese to bowl and toss gently.
Serves 6 (with dressing left over for other uses) Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes (*if we want to include quinoa cooking time)