This savory-sweet summer quinoa salad is mixed with fresh corn, blueberries, and green onion and is tossed with a tangy cilantro lime vinaigrette. Diced avocado lends a creamy, rich texture to this salad which can be a side dish or vegan/vegetarian main dish. It’s gluten-free and dairy-free too!
Be sure to check out more of my summer salad recipes including my summer fresh green bean salad with corn, cold roasted potato salad (no mayo or eggs) and my summer peach mint salad with a lemon dressing.
Should You Rinse Quinoa?
Quinoa is a seed which has a an outer layer of saponin – a slightly bitter substance that some people don’t digest well. This layer can easily be removed by rinsing under cold water for 30 seconds. Being very impatient, this is a step I prefer to skip so I use quinoa brands that are pre-rinsed.
Some of the brands that are pre-rinsed are Kirkland Signature (Costco brand), Tru Roots and Ancient Harvest. Lundberg uses a mechanical process to remove saponins. Use one of these and the dry quinoa can go straight to the pot.
What makes a summer salad? For sure, fresh summer produce is a must. Corn and blueberries are both in season during the summer. Sure, they can be found year round, but the flavor and sweetness are not the same when they are flown from South America during the winter. Frozen corn is not a bad option but frozen blueberries would get too soft.
A summer salad should have fresh cooling ingredients like citrus. Lime is my favorite way to add that coolness. Also fresh herbs, cilantro in this case, add another fresh, cooling element.
Salads are a great way to mix different flavors. In my cooking 101 flavor tutorials, I discuss how combining sweet, salty, bitter and sour is a way to make a dish delicious. This quinoa salad is a perfect example of that.
This salad is tossed with my tangy-fresh cilantro lime vinaigrette. It’s a super simple vinaigrette that is mixed up in the blender in just a few minutes. It can be made while the quinoa is cooking.
Quinoa – I prefer white quinoa for this summer salad (mostly for looks) but red quinoa or tri-colored quinoa can be used too. Instructions for cooking the quinoa are included below, but for more details, see my post How to Cook Quinoa.
Fresh corn – In my opinion fresh summer corn right off the cob is the best way to eat corn. You could certainly use frozen corn if you’re making the salad during the winter.
To safely remove the corn from the cob place a towel on the counter and hold the corn from the stem end vertically at a slight angle. Use a sharp knife to remove the corn from the cob. The towel holds the cob in place and also makes it easy to transfer the kernels.
The corn will be cooked by stirring into the cooked quinoa. The heat from the quinoa will soften it just enough.
Fresh blueberries lend an unexpected pop of sweetness to this salad. Blueberries are also excellent with the lime juice and vinaigrette that flavor this salad.
Green onions add a pungent slightly bitter flavor adding yet another layer of flavor. This balances and enhances the sweet blueberries and corn and the tangy vinaigrette.
Avocado is one of my favorite ingredients in a salad. It’s creamy and rich and adds wonderful texture alongside the other elements.
To bring out the vinaigrette flavor even more, I garnish the salad with a good amount of fresh cilantro leaves.
Summer Quinoa Salad with Fresh Corn
- 1 c quinoa (white preferred)
- 1¾-2 c water
- heaping ¼ tsp salt
Veggies & Mix Ins
- 2 medium sized ears of fresh corn
- 1 c fresh blueberries (8-9 ounces)
- 3 stalks green onion
- 1 medium sized avocado
- 1 medium sized lime
- ¼ c packed, fresh cilantro leaves, thick stems removed
- salt to taste – optional
- ½ c cilantro lime vinaigrette – can be made while the quinoa is cooking
Cook the Quinoa
- Note: While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients (section below).
- If not using pre-rinsed quinoa, place it in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 30 seconds.
- Place the quinoa and salt in a 2-3 quart pot. If you rinsed the quinoa, add 1¾ c water. If using pre-rinsed quinoa, add 2 c water.
- Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat as low as it will go and cover the pot.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer sounds, take a peek at the bottom of the pot to be sure that all of the water has been absorbed. If not, cook another minute or two.
- Turn off the heat, stir in the corn and let the pot sit for 5 minutes covered.
- Then place the quinoa and corn onto a large platter or pan to cool it quickly.
Prepare the Veggies & Mix Ins
- Remove the husk from the corn cob and cut the kernels from the cob. As soon as the quinoa is fully cooked, stir in the kernels. This will cook the corn.
- Make the cilantro lime vinaigrette.
- Chop the green onion.
- Dice the avocado and transfer to a small bowl. Cut the lime in half and juice half onto the avocado. This will keep it form turning brown.
- Remove the stems from the cilantro. Do not chop.
Assemble the Salad
- This salad can be tossed together with all of the ingredients. Or for a pretty presentation, hold back about ⅓ of each of the mix-ins and garnish the salad.
- Place the cooled quinoa and corn into a medium sized bowl. Add ½ c of the cilantro lime vinaigrette, the remaining juice from the lime and stir thoroughly.
- Add the blueberries, green onion and avocado and gently fold in.
- Fold in the cilantro.
- Taste. You should taste the tang of the vinaigrette and the sweet corn & blueberries. If it seems a little blah, stir in 3 pinches of salt.