Chicken Quinoa Salad in Basil-Lemon Dressing

Chicken Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing
A to Z Challenge (Letter Q): Quinoa

Yes, quinoa, the kale of the grain world. It found its way into your cupboard because you heard somewhere it was healthy, and then you cooked it. Goodbye, quinoa. The trick to cooking quinoa is that is should be extremely well-rinsed. Quinoa is also a staple grain in south american countries such as bolivia and peru (though this dish is not south american).

I’ve made this salad more-or-less a million times, and I’ve sub or excluded most of the ingredients, so it’s pretty flexible. It’s my go-to party salad during the summer, and sometimes I make it for myself when I want to pig out on basil.

If you’re simply NOT fan of quinoa, make this with couscous. Couscous is nice because it absorbs more of the delicious dressing than quinoa. Quinoa keeps this salad pretty dressing-prominent, which is a plus when I want to basil-binge, but it’s not for everyone. I’ve also made this with orzo and acini di pepe pasta which do not absorb as much dressing either.

I first tried this in 2007 at my friend Jessica’s house. She used to host Souper Sundays, where she would get together with friends and try out a new soup each week, accompanied with side dishes. She is an amazing cook. Want proof? Look at one of her dinner party menus:


Okay, now that I got you hungry, here is the recipe:

Chicken Quinoa Salad in Basil-Lemon Dressing

Adapted from Epicourius 

Special Ingredients: (currants if you don’t want to use raisins)
Special Tools: food processor/blender(it needs to hold about 2-3 cups of product and still blend)

The dressing

In a food processor, add:

  • 1 shallot, skin removed and cut in half
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed…mmm basil)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    (or 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, let set 5 mins)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Blend until smooth. Set aside until needed. You can also make this one day in advance.

The salad

In a large bowl, add:

  • 2 grilled chicken breasts, cubed
    (I “grill” on a pan on my stove…)
  • 2 ears of corn, cooked and kernels cut off
    (or about 2 cups of cooked frozen corn)
    > For a 4-minute corn-cooking method click here
  • 1 cup (or more) of cooked quinoa
    How to: 1 cooked cup = 1/2 un-cooked quinoa + 1 cup water, boil about 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

    : Make up to 4 cups of cooked grain/pasta of your choice (quinoa, couscous, orzo, or acini de pepo) depending on how much salad you need/want. 1 cup of grain is good for a dinner side dish, and up to 4 cups is good for potlucks, larger gatherings, or multiple meals. The salad will be less dressing-prominent, but still have a wonderful flavor.

If any of the cooked items are still warm, wait until they cool to room temperature before adding:

  • 1 package (16oz) Arugala, half-heartedly chopped
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes (de-seeded, and finely chopped)
  • 1/3 cup asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds (de-shelled, salted or unsalted is fine)
  • 1/3 cup raisins, roughly chopped (or currants)
  • all of the dressing (above)

Mix until well-blended.



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