My quinoa asparagus and feta salad is a healthy summer side dish that will hold up better at your summer barbecue than any gloopy, mayonnaise-based macaroni salad. With fresh asparagus, green peas, ripe tomato and salty feta, this quinoa asparagus salad is fresh and light.
If you like spring and summer quinoa salads, this quinoa asparagus and feta salad should be on your To Do list. Make it for cookouts, picnics and potlucks for a deliciously different twist on the usual side dishes. This quinoa asparagus salad also makes a delicious light vegetarian main course, or skip the feta for a vegan version.
To be candid, I published this quinoa asparagus and feta salad for the first time, four years ago — back when I had a point and shoot camera , no photography skills and only a vague notion of what food styling was. When I stumbled across it recently, I was mortified that those images were still live and rather than ditch a perfectly good recipe, I decided to re-shoot it.
I start by blanching and shocking the asparagus. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that loses it’s vibrant color after it’s been cooked or steamed — and if it’s allowed to cool on it’s own, it will go from a lively forest green hue to a drab olive shade. To preserve the more vivid color, set up an ice bath (ice and water) in a large bowl and set it aside. Cook the asparagus bits for just a few minutes until crisp tender and transfer them with a slotted spoon or spider to the ice bath. This will stop the cooking immediately and help maintain the pretty green color.
Diced ripe tomato and petite peas add color to the salad. I use frozen peas because they’re more convenient than shelling and cooking the fresh and they will usually thaw by the time the other components of the salad are ready to be assembled.
Once the quinoa is cooked, remove it from the heat and take off the lid. Fluff the quinoa and let it come to room temperature. Removing the lid helps it to dry out a bit while it cools and that’s important because if the quinoa’s too wet, it will get gluey once it’s mixed with the dressing. You’re looking for loose, separate grains that have released their spirals.
A simple lemon-spiked vinaigrette adds a punch of brightness to the salad and only takes a few minutes to whisk together.
Toss the salad with a few tablespoonfuls of the vinaigrette — just enough to lightly nap the salad, you don’t want it to be soupy. Don’t worry if there’s leftovers — they’ll be great on a green salad or over steamed vegetables.
The final salty punch comes from crumbled feta cheese. You could also use a queso fresco in place of the feta if you wanted.
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Quinoa, Asparagus and Feta Salad
- 1/2 cup quinoa I used red quinoa, but plain works fine as well
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 pound asparagus tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 1 large ripe tomato diced. Beefsteak, ugly ripe or heirloom is best, but can also use 3 ripe plum tomatoes
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbled, or cut into 1" cubes
- In a small saucepan combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, until tender, but still chewy and white spirals are visible around each grain. Remove pan from heat, take off the lid allowing the quinoa cool.
- Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by placing 1-2 cups of ice in a medium bowl and adding water. Set aside. Bring another small pan of water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, scoop out the asparagus and plunge it into the ice water bath to stop the cooking and set the color. Remove the asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel or clean dish cloth.
- For the dressing: Using a microplane, remove the zest from the lemon and cut the lemon in half. Combine the lemon zest and juice from half of the lemon in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, olive oil, tarragon and mint. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine.
- In a medium bowl, combine the peas, diced tomatoes, asparagus, quinoa, scallions and feta. Toss with the dressing and serve.
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