Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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 and wondered if you have any recipes that are similar to it. I would love to make this at home but don’t know where to start. Perhaps you do?” ~Kathy F.”

Alex and I absolutely love responding to reader requests by creating recipes (like How to Eat More Vegetables and this BBQ Bean Tacos recipe)! When we ready Kathy’s request, we were inspired to try our own take, and we were able to create it into a recipe! Here’s our copycat Panera quinoa salad. We used the original salad as inspiration to create our own version, which turned into this Mediterranean quinoa salad.

Related:25 Best Salad Recipes

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 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 blrand:

  • 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.

Print
reek Sofrito Quinoa Bowl | A Couple Cooks

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 4.25 out of 5)

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

Description

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


Scale

Ingredients

For the quinoa tomato sofrito

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 1 small white onion (or 1/2 large)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

For the Mediterranean quinoa salad

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 romaine hearts
  • 1 large bunch Lacinato kale or 5 ounces baby kale
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

Instructions

  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 1/2 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, 1/2 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

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

5 Comments

  • Reply
    Analida's Ethnic Spoon
    April 30, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Mediterranean flavors and sofrito sound like a lovely combination for a summer day. Cannot wait to try this one.

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    May 2, 2017 at 9:33 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      May 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

      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!

  • Reply
    Amy
    May 2, 2017 at 10:02 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      May 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

      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.

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