Sweet Heat Quinoa Salad With Balsamic Reduction (Gluten-Free)


There isn’t a whole lot to say about this dish other than, it was devoured. I’m not even kidding, I had to hurry to take the photos before inhaling it all. We all have different opinions of what is delicious, but if you like the flavor of rich balsamic vinegar, you will inhale this too!

I created this amazing, rich, sweet and slightly spicy reduction to drizzle over hearty vegetables. The chili powder gives a nice depth of heat that hits the back of your throat that is just the right amount of heat. The great thing about this dish is you could use your favorite vegetables…the sauce will adapt beautifully with most. I personally think this combo is just perfect. I chose my favorite ones and also ones with beautiful colors. I chose red quinoa for its protein and amazing texture and bite. You could use white but I definitely prefer the texture (less mushy) of red quinoa. Look for it in the bulk section of your grocery store or whole foods. If you don’t like quinoa, just use slow cooking brown rice and let me know how it turns out. Sweet potatoes are a must here and the avocados lend a creaminess, complimenting the other vegetables. Feel free to add any others you like, mushrooms would work great too. It is so filling, it is hardly a salad!

Warning though…you will be back for seconds and maybe even thirds. I sure was. It is packed full of nutrients, protein and healthy fats, so no need to feel guilty either! It makes a beautiful presentation as well for your guests.

Recipe:  Serves 4-6  Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 25 mins

Print recipe

Gluten-free (Make sure all ingredients are labeled to be in a gluten-free facility if you’re gluten sensitive, in case of cross contamination)

Quinoa ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder


3 heaping cups sweet potatoes cut in bite size chunks

1 medium zucchini diced (similar size as potatoes)

1 avocado sliced

Few cups of spinach as a bed for the vegetables (optional)

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (for oil-free, just simply roast them without any oil and they are still moist and delicious)

Salt and pepper

Balsamic Reduction: (Sauce reduces down quite a bit, so double the ingredients if serving multiple people)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used Alessi Balsamic Vinegar, because it contains red wine vinegar and grape musts. Make sure to use a quality balsamic, it WILL make a difference)

1-2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar (or 1-2 teaspoons organic light brown sugar)

1 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard spice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Note: For oil-free, just roast the vegetables without any oil!


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, prepare the quinoa. Add all the quinoa ingredients into a small pot, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to simmer and cook for about 25 minutes or until all the water has evaporated. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. While the quinoa is cooking, roast the vegetables. Dice the sweet potatoes and zucchini in bite size chunks and place them on two separate cookie sheets lined with foil. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the oil (if using) on the sweet potatoes, massage with hands and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on the zucchini (if using), massage with hands and season with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes for 20 minutes and then turn to broil just to brown and crisp the tops just for a couple of minutes. Watch closely so they don’t burn. Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes and turn to broil the tops as well.

Directions for the balsamic reduction:

Add all of the ingredients into a small pot and whisk well. Turn to the lowest heat setting and let the sauce cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you want it. If you are doubling the recipe, it may take a bit longer to reduce and become thick. It is incredibly easy, you don’t need to stand over the stove…just stir it every now and then to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides or bottom of the pan. Once it reaches your desired thickness, and taste, turn off the heat. That’s it! Easy as pie!

Tip: This has an intense, rich flavor so if you prefer a less tart taste from the vinegar, just whisk in a bit of water at the end to dilute it a bit. Keep in mind, the longer you cook it, the thicker it becomes, producing a more intense flavor.

Make a bed on a large platter with the spinach. Add the quinoa, cooked vegetables, sliced avocado and drizzle all over with the balsamic reduction. Or, if you are not serving a whole platter, just serve each individual plate with the vegetables and drizzle as much sauce as desired.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Gluten Free, Party Platters, VEGAN, VEGETARIAN


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35 Comments on “Sweet Heat Quinoa Salad With Balsamic Reduction (Gluten-Free)”

  1. September 8, 2012 at 3:49 AM #

    Absolutely gorgeous and looks delectable too!!

    • September 8, 2012 at 4:39 AM #

      Aww I just smiled big! Thank you for that wonderful compliment Lauren!! It’s all gone…time to make another platter! Nom, nom, nom!

      • September 8, 2012 at 2:54 PM #

        Oh good! Save that one for me! : )

  2. Crista
    September 8, 2012 at 2:40 PM #

    I think I’ll make this today – looks easy & delish!

    • September 8, 2012 at 5:25 PM #

      Oh awesome Crista!! I hope you like it as much as we did! Thank you 🙂

  3. patrickshine
    September 8, 2012 at 11:59 PM #

    Hi Honey, I just read your recipe and I can hardly wait to try it. It looks and sounds absolutely delicious!. Is there a whole foods market in this area? The only ones I know of are on Westheimer and over off San Felipe. I really have a difficult time finding some of the ingredients you use and have to substitute which I don’t like to do. You are doing an amazing job. I can’t wait for you to put Gilda out of business. Love, Mom

    • September 16, 2012 at 5:36 PM #

      Mom, thank you so much! All ingredients are pretty basic with just a couple that are at whole foods like nutritional yeast or coconut sugar. You definitely can just use regular light brown sugar and that would be fine!

  4. September 8, 2012 at 11:59 PM #

    This looks so amazing! A bunch of my favourite things all together! I will definitely be trying this

    • September 9, 2012 at 12:14 AM #

      Thank you so much!! I’m so glad…please let me know if you do! It is my new favorite dish!!

  5. September 11, 2012 at 6:03 AM #

    I love your combination of flavours in this salad and look forward to someday making it myself 😀


    • September 11, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

      Thank you Uru!! You better be studying hard in your classes haha! 🙂

  6. September 11, 2012 at 4:20 PM #

    Oh I want some

  7. September 11, 2012 at 11:08 PM #

    mmm so happy to have found another delicious looking recipe for quinoa, can’t wait to try this one out!!

    • September 12, 2012 at 1:35 AM #

      Thank you so much and for following my blog!! Yes, I’m a huge quinoa fan! 🙂

  8. September 14, 2012 at 11:03 AM #

    i am a quinoa fan too…. thanks for the sharing the recipe 🙂

  9. September 16, 2012 at 3:31 PM #

    So pretty with all of those colorful veggies on a bed of greens! I’m printing this one.. it is my favorite kind of meal, such a great change from the usual dinners I make! xx

    • September 16, 2012 at 5:32 PM #

      Thank you so much for that Barbara!! We absolutely loved it and especially the tang from the balsamic! Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  10. September 22, 2012 at 11:21 AM #

    I have made your tasty quonoa salad for my hubby & he & I loved it so much: so colourful, so tasty & healthy too! xxx

    Fabuliscious food!

  11. September 28, 2012 at 11:24 PM #

    You have got to try this salad! Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but it will give your tastebuds the most delightful treat they have ever experienced. This salad is so full of wonderful flavors from tart and a little spicy to mellow and sweet, The dressing really sets off all the other flavors and gives it that special “pop.” My husband just inhaled it. His comment was “now that’s a keeper and repeater.”

    • September 29, 2012 at 4:05 AM #

      I’m so glad y’all loved it so much Mom!! Thanks so much for leaving me such wonderful feedback!! I agree…the tart, sweet and spicy just has an amazing reaction on your taste buds!!

  12. October 2, 2012 at 2:35 PM #

    Oh my goodness all your recipes look so good!! This has such an abundance of great ingredients and it looks so. Tasty.

    • October 2, 2012 at 4:44 PM #

      Thank you so much for the compliment Erika! I appreciate that! It really has got to be my favorite meal!! 🙂

  13. October 24, 2012 at 1:50 PM #

    Yum! This looks and sounds sooo good. These are some of my favorite flavors and ingredients, so I know I’ll love it. : )

    • October 25, 2012 at 12:57 AM #

      Thank you so much! It truly is one of my favorite alltime meals…the tart with the sweet..yummy!! Hope you enjoy it!

  14. December 18, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

    What a great combination of flavors! Can’t wait to make this:)

  15. February 3, 2013 at 11:03 PM #

    I just commented on one of your other posts but… this salad looks delicious. My husband and I are really into eating quinoa at the moment and I’m always looking for new ways to dress it up. I’ll be trying your dressing, thanks!!

  16. March 30, 2013 at 9:18 PM #

    Absolutely DIVINE!! ❤

  17. June 12, 2013 at 2:05 AM #

    Yum! This looks delicious!!!! Look forward to reading more of your blog!

  18. October 9, 2013 at 10:18 PM #

    Rich balsamic vinegar is exactly my speed. Looks fantastic!!

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