Sweet potato quinoa salad is a delicious hearty salad with wonderful taste, texture and color contrasts topped with a rich maple balsamic dressing.
The salad is a feast for the palate and eyes. And definitely company-worthy.
The idea came from a dish I ate at a recent fund raising event. The food was catered by Oliver and Bonacini. I loved the multi-layered salad and decided to create my own version.
This quinoa and sweet potato salad is hearty enough to be served as a main dish, perhaps for lunch with a crusty bread. Or as a first course or a side dish.
Ingredients – Tailor to your taste
This delicious salad has a lot going on with its many colors, textures and tastes. It makes a beautiful addition to holiday tables or special occasions. Feel free to add your own twist with a few of these variations and substitutions.
- Sweet potatoes: Yams would be fine too.
- Quinoa: This can be substituted with other grains like a nutty, chewy farro or even wild rice.
- Cheese: The goat cheese adds a creamy, tangy taste. Try feta cheese (stronger) or ricotta (milder) if you prefer.
- Nuts: The cashews add a crunch. Try different nuts like toasted crunchy pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
- Toppings: Dried fruits like cranberries add tang and sweetness. Dried apricots and raisins work well too. Other great options are roasted beets, cherry tomatoes and mango. Thinly sliced red onion or green onion are also nice additions.
- Dressing: The homemade salad dressing is rich and complex and easy to make. It includes maple syrup, good-quality balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
- Extra protein: Add grilled chicken or shrimp.
- Fresh fruits: Sliced Granny Smith apples, fresh strawberries or a sliced juicy pear would add little bites of natural sweetness.
- Fresh herbs: Try fresh parsley, basil or cilantro.
Step by step instructions
- Instead of roasting the sweet potatoes, microwave them until fully tender (4-6 minutes depending on size). Peel and cut them into small cubes, then drizzle with 1-2 tsp oil. Sprinkle on sugar (or maple syrup) and salt and toss.
- Buy packaged fresh roasted beets in the store – whole or in slivers – if you decide to use them in your salad.
- Homemade salad dressings are best, but you can use store-bought if you’re short on time.
The recipe can be made ahead and assembled. Just drizzle on the balsamic vinaigrette right before serving. You can also prepare the sweet potatoes and measure out the other ingredients in advance. Store them in separate containers in the fridge until ready to assemble.
What to serve with this quinoa salad recipe
I consider this hearty salad as three sides in one – with fresh greens, creamy sweet potatoes, beets and quinoa. So, all you have to do is add a protein.
Other hearty salads
- broccoli and cauliflower salad with avocado dressing
- butternut squash salad with warm cinnamon dressing
- roasted vegetables and quinoa salad
- quinoa avocado salad with roasted beets and carrots
- roast pumpkin salad with couscous (or use sweet potatoes instead)
If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks very much!
Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad With Maple Balsamic Dressing
Roasted sweet potatoes
- 2 sweet potatoes or yams
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Quinoa, rinsed
- 1 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoon oil (canola or olive)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 cup greens (baby spinach, spring lettuce, Mesclun)
- 2 ounces goat cheese (60 grams or 1/4 cup crumbled)
- roasted or candied nuts, seeds, dried cranberries; and/or roasted beets cut in cubes or slivers
- Preheat oven to 425F/218C. Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
- MAKE THE ROASTED SWEET POTATOES: Pierce sweet potatoes with a knife. Microwave for 3 minutes. Stand up each yam on a cutting board, peel with a knife, then cut into 1/2 inch/1.3 cm cubes. Place on a prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt. Roast, stirring half way through for 15-20 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Set aside. Note 1 for shortcut.
- MAKE THE QUINOA: Place the rinsed quinoa in a medium pot with the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Set heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes covered, then fluff with a fork. Cool.
- MAKE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the first 5 dressing ingredients. Slowly add the oil while whisking until smoothly blended. Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon salt should be about right).
- BUILD THE SALAD: (on individual salad plates or on one larger shallow bowl): Spread about 1/2 cup/14 grams per person of quinoa on the bottom. Drizzle a little dressing on the quinoa. Add a layer of greens. Sprinkle on crumbled goat cheese. Add the garnishes you are using. Drizzle more of the maple-balsamic dressing over the salad – you may not need it all.
- Shortcut for sweet potatoes: Instead of roasting them, pierce with a sharp knife, microwave until soft (4-5 minutes depending on size). Peel, cut into small cubes, drizzle with 1-2 tsp oil, sprinkle on sugar (or maple syrup) and salt. Toss.
- Quinoa: Substitute with couscous or a nutty, chewy farro.
- Cheese: Try feta (stronger) or ricotta (milder) if you prefer.
- Nuts: Options are cashews, toasted walnuts, pecans or pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or any other nut. Even candied nuts.
- Add-ins: Cranberries, dried apricots, raisins, roasted beets, cherry tomatoes and mango.
- Make Ahead: Make all components ahead. When ready to serve, assemble and drizzle final dressing just before serving.