Mexican quinoa salad- Mixing together fire roasted corn, salty and rich cotija cheese, creamy mayonnaise, and the nutritional flavor powerhouse of quinoa! This unique side dish is easy to make, and makes a great salad or side dish, warm or cold.
This quinoa dish is really interesting and unique in so many ways. Have you ever had Mexican street corn, also known as elote? It is a street food tradition of taking smoky fire roasted corn on the cob, slathering it with creamy mayo, lime juice, chili powder, and salty cotija cheese. When you combine those fresh summer time flavors with the nutritional powerhouse of quinoa, you'll have this quick and easy Mexican quinoa salad!
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is the seed of a flowering plant closely related to amaranth. It has it's agricultural origin in Peru and Bolivia, where it is known as the "mother of all grains". It is gluten free, and contains quite a bit of protein and nutrition in comparison to most other grain varieties. It is in the family known as "ancient grains".
In the field, quinoa grows with a natural coating over the seeds called saponin. This is beneficial for the farmer, as this coating is very bitter, making it naturally unpalatable to birds. For the consumer and purveyor, this means that it must be rinsed before cooking, or it will retain this very bitter property. Most distribution companies pre rinse the grain, but it's always a good step to do at home also. Better safe than sorry, right?
- Quinoa - if you can find the tri-color variety that we did, use that for sure, but it tastes great in any hue.
- Mayonnaise - this adds a creamy texture to the finished salad.
- Corn - using fresh corn that's been grilled and cut from the cob is ideal, but frozen will work in a pinch.
- Cotija Cheese - this is the Mexican cousin of Feta, if you haven't tried it, you're missing out!
- Cilantro - the fresh, green, punch that cilantro gives to this recipe is vital, use garden fresh if possible.
- Lime Juice - freshly squeezed, please.
- Poblano Chilies - a mildly hot and "fleshy" chili pepper, think of it as the bell pepper's stronger cousin from down south.
- Chili Powder - try to source true chili powder, not chili seasoning, which contains salt and spices other than just dried chilies.
- Cumin - ground.
- Salt and Pepper - to taste, of course!
- Chicken Bouillon Base - we suggest Better than Bouillon brand.
Step One - Prep
Rinsing the quinoa. As mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to rinse this product in cold water to make sure that the bitter coating on the outside is completely removed. This will be boiled as it states in the recipe below.
dissolve the chicken base in water completely before boiling the quinoa in it.
While the quinoa is cooking, we will do some of the "chop-chop", as I've always called it.
Roasting the corn on the grill really brings out a beautiful, smoky flavor. Cut it off of the cob and into a mixing bowl, as shown.
Step Two - Make the Sauce
Mix the fresh squeezed lime juice with the rest of the dressing ingredients.
The finished sauce.
Step Three - Combine
All of the cooked ingredients together.
Mix it all up, top with the crumbled cheese and cilantro, and dig in!
This is truly a "make ahead" type of salad. Not only is it super convenient to do so, but it will taste better once it sits overnight in the refrigerator anyway!
- Vegan - sub the mayo with a vegan type, as well as the cheese.
How do you know when the quinoa is done? It can be quite a quandary cooking something new, especially grain. When quinoa gets tender, it ruptures open and presents a little "tail" sticking out of the outside, bran coating. Look for it, and you'll see it, I guarantee.
Mexican Street Corn Quinoa
- 1 4 quart sauce pan
- 1 fine mesh strainer
- 2 Mixing Bowls
- 1 whisk
- 1 Rubber Spatula
- 1 Cutting Board
- 1 Chef Knife
- 1 outside gas or charcoal grill or a grill pan
- 1 tongs
- 1 Measuring cup set
- 1 Measuring Spoon Set
- 1 cup quinoa any color works fine, we used tri color for this recipe
- 1 tablespoon chicken base we like Better Than Bullion
- 2 cups water
The Main Ingregients
- 2 ears of corn grilled
- 1 tablespoon vegetable for grilling the corn and charring the chili
- ½ cup charred, peeled, and diced Poblano chili you could use any green roasted chili you would like, even canned.
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 limes juiced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 5-6 oz cotija cheese you could use feta if you can't find it at your local store
- 2 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
- Rinse the quinoa through a fine mesh strainer with cold water
- Place the rinsed quinoa in the 4-quart sauce pan and cover with water and dissolved chicken base, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes until tender
- When the quinoa is cooked, strain the liquid off and place it in a large mixing bowl
- Preheat your grill or grill pan, peel the corn and coat with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Rub a bit of oil on the Poblano chile
- Place corn and chili on the heated grill and cook on all sides until the corn starts to brown and the chili chars on both sides.
- Remove the corn and chili from the grill, set aside to cool
- As the chili cools the skin will separate from the flesh of the chili. Remove the skin, the stem, and the seeds, and discard them. Chop the remaining chili into a uniform dice
- When the corn is cool enough to touch, place it straight up into a bowl and using a knife carefully remove the kernels.
- Add the diced chili and the corn to the mixing bowl with the quinoa, season with salt and pepper
- In a separate mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, cumin, chili powder, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste, whisking until smooth
- Mix the dressing into the bowl containing the quinoa, chili, and corn using a rubber spatula. Garnish with the cotija cheese and cilantro and enjoy!