This Mediterranean quinoa salad features greens, feta cheese, and a quinoa tomato sofrito blend. It’s a copycat of a delicious Panera quinoa salad!

Quinoa salad

This post was created in partnership with California Olive Ranch. All opinions are our own.

We got an email from a reader a few months back: Hi Sonja and Alex. I just had the most delicious Greek salad at Panera. I would love to make this at home but don’t know where to start. Perhaps you do?” ~Kathy F.” Alex and I love responding to reader requests by creating recipes. So when we read Kathy’s request, we said: why don’t we just try to make one? It resulted in this copycat Panera quinoa salad! The original salad inspired this Mediterranean quinoa salad, a seriously delicious quinoa bowl (thanks, Kathy!). Here’s how to make it!

Olive oil

Making this quinoa salad

The main feature in this Mediterranean quinoa salad is a quinoa tomato sofrito blend. What is sofrito? Sofrito is a sauce used as a base in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Latin American cooking. Typically in Spanish cuisine, it’s garlic, onion, paprika, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.  We learned about this magical sauce watching Spanish cooking shows several years ago, so we knew where to start (it’s also typical as a basis for starting a paella). Instead of an authentic sofrito recipe, this one is a simplified version to use in making this quinoa salad.

Here we’ve mixed the sofrito into the quinoa for this quinoa salad, which adds an almost meaty flavor and texture to the quinoa. Some people complain about a bitter taste from quinoa, but the sofrito makes it taste tangy and almost sweet! To make it into a quinoa salad, we’ve served it over greens, then added cucumber, Kalamata olives, feta, and a tasty vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon, and oregano. It turned out even more satisfying than we imagined!

Olive oil nutrition

There’s a healthy dose of olive oil in this quinoa salad, as with most of Mediterranean diet cuisine. And speaking of health and olive oil, there’s been found to be a correlation between the two! According to California Olive Ranch, our favorite domestic olive oil brand:

  • Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil can help you fight stress, improve mood swings, decrease mental fatigue and even manage your weight.
  • While fat in general gets a bad reputation, not all fats are bad, (in fact they are good), you just have to make the right choices. Harvard School of Public Health recommends some healthy fat intake; as a rule of thumb, out with the bad, in with the good.
  • The FDA says eating 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to its monounsaturated fat content.
  • Other health benefits can be found at over on the California Olive Ranch website!

With both health benefits and big flavor, this bowl was a win in our house. Thanks to Kathy for the challenge to create this Panera quinoa salad recipe!

Quinoa salad

Looking for more quinoa recipes?

Outside of this quinoa salad, we have many quinoa recipes on A Couple Cooks! Here are a few of our favorite quinoa recipes:

This quinoa salad recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, omit the feta crumbles.

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reek Sofrito Quinoa Bowl | A Couple Cooks

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


This Mediterranean quinoa salad features greens, feta cheese, and a quinoa tomato sofrito blend. It’s a copycat of a delicious Panera quinoa salad!



For the quinoa tomato sofrito

  • 1 ½ cups dry quinoa
  • 1 small white onion (or 1/2 large)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • Black pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

For the Mediterranean quinoa salad

  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 romaine hearts
  • 1 large bunch Lacinato kale or 5 ounces baby kale
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • ⅓ cup kalamata olives
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbles


  1. Cook the quinoa (or use our Instant Pot quinoa method): Using a strainer, rinse the quinoa under cold water, then drain it completely. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 17 to 20 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. Check by pulling back the quinoa with a fork to see if water remains. Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork.
  2. Make the sofrito: Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté for 1 minute more. Pour the crushed tomatoes. paprika, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and mix well. Simmer for about 15 minutes, with the lid at an angle, until slightly thickened. When the sauce is done, stir in the cooked quinoa, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, and kosher salt. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil until the dressing is emulsified and creamy.
  4. In a small, dry skillet, toast the almonds over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant.
  5. Chop the romaine and kale. Dice the cucumber. Slice the olives in half.
  6. To serve, place the greens in a bowl. Top with a layer of the quinoa, then cucumbers, olives, feta and almonds. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Panera Quinoa Salad, Quinoa tomato sofrito blend, Sofrito, Greek, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Healthy

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. What a great idea to liven up quinoa with the sofrito. I’ve been dreaming of all things Greek salad-inspired recently, in anticipation of the warm sunny days that will come soon to Madrid. And this bowl is a great spring to summer transition meal.

    1. Yes! Good point — it doesn’t have too many seasonal items except for cucumber, which I don’t mind buying before summer hits. I hope sun comes to Madrid soon!

  2. Is it really 1.5 cups of quinoa? Makes quite a bit then! I have seen this at Panera and it looks delicious. I’m always looking for new ways to cook and flavor quinoa. Thanks.

    1. It is 1.5 cups quinoa! We’ve found that when eating a vegetarian main, we like to load up the protein to make it filling enough. It does make quite a bit of quinoa — which you can use in the bowl or for leftovers.