Big Protein Beet & Quinoa Salad (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free)

Even though my interest in leafy green salads has started to wane with the arriving seasonal chill, my favourite kinds of salads, whether cold or hot, are still the ones with more vegetables than anything else.

The vegetables may be diced small and evenly or they may be chunky, big, wild pieces that say in no uncertain terms: this is a salad for vegetable lovers. I am one of those, and this is one of those salads.

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In this hearty fall/winter salad, the ratio of beets to quinoa sways in favour of the vegetables. Tossed gently together, the rosy beets lend a pink glow to the quinoa, which assumes a somewhat translucent, ethereal quality.

To get this hue, you’ll want to use the standard white quinoa but red or black quinoa could be used in a pinch if that’s what you have.

The key here is not to overmix the salad. Overmix it and you’ll end up with bright red quinoa, rather than my preferred delicately rose-coloured quinoa.

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Quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all essential amino acids. It is especially high in one called lysine, which is important for tissue repair and growth, and one that is rarely found in grains. 

It has good amounts of calcium, phosphorus and iron and although some classify quinoa as a grain, it is in actual fact a seed. If you’ve never cooked quinoa before or if you have cooked it but it always seems to turn to mush, check out my handy tutorial on How to Cook Quinoa Like a Pro (it includes extra health info about this superseed).

But to save you some time, I’ll let you in on a little secret: the key to perfectly cooked quinoa is the ratio of water to grain. I

like (and I recommend to all!) a ratio of 1:1, despite what the product packaging usually says. A ratio of 2:1 (water to grain) often leaves me with sad, waterlogged quinoa. No bueno.

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To boost the protein count of this protein-packed vegetarian salad even further, I top it with some extra toasty, spicy, protein- and zinc-powered pumpkin seeds.

Made and enjoyed as written, this salad is vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free and nut-free. Technically, it is also grain-free because quinoa is a seed but it may or may not be appropriate for your grain-free diet so be sure to ask your health care practitioner.

I enjoy it as a side salad or as a main meal for lunch or dinner, usually with some eggs, beans or a small amount of fish or meat to accompany.

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If you regularly make leftovers of extra vegetables, grains or beans, this is an easy salad to put together: just make extra beets and quinoa and shop for the ingredients to make the simple balsamic, thyme and lemon vinaigrette.

Because the ingredients are so simple, I urge you to buy the highest quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil you can afford. A high-quality organic brand I like is Acropolis Organics. I’ve regularly bought it at both Zehrs and Sobeys.  

Here’s the recipe for this Big Protein Beet and Quinoa Salad:

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Big Protein Beet & Quinoa Salad (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free)

Total Time 15 minutes


For the Salad:

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 4 cups cooked beets trimmed and cut into cubes

For the Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar use the best you can find
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme about 1 1/2 Tbsp, chopped finely
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil use the best you can find
  • 1 tsp sea salt or to taste

For the Topping:

  • 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Extra lemon zest optional
  • Extra fresh thyme optional


  1. Place the cooked beets and quinoa in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients until well blended. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Pour over the quinoa and beets.
  3. Gently toss to combine and then serve.

Life is a plate… Eat up!


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