Test Kitchen: Kale & Quinoa Salad

By Jay Patruno, Sargent Choice Ambassador & Freshman Dietetics Student

Nothing is better on a hot summer day than a refreshing salad. So on a muggy October evening a salad turned out to be the best snack. Sargent Choice’s kale and quinoa salad with citrus dressing is a simple, fun recipe that is sure to always be a crowd pleaser.

With two components to be created, the salad and dressing, this recipe was perfect for a big group to collaborate on. While some people worked on toasting the quinoa, massaging (yes, massaging!) the kale, and chopping walnuts and dates others squeezed citrus fruits and whisked together a sweet and sour dressing.

The sweet aroma of caramelized onions filled the room while the quinoa received a quick rinse and then a toast alongside garlic before we added more water to begin the cooking process. At the same time as these cooked, the other ingredients were chopped, sliced, squeezed, and stirred. But nothing was more unexpected than having to massage the leafy, green kale leaves.

When kale isn’t cooked it can have a rather bitter taste when raw. To avoid this, an R.A. shared an interesting fact with the group; if you massage the kale leaves it relieves the vegetable of its bitterness and even gives it a darker, more vibrant color. Who would have thought food needs some tension relief too? Sure enough once the kale was massaged and sliced into strips, its flavor was more crisp and fresh than we had experienced in prior kale dishes.

The finished product was nothing but a visual pleasure, with the deep green of the massaged kale leaves and the red quinoa mixed together. All in one bite you get a little bit of a taste of the sweet dates, the tangy dressing, the savory onions, and the complementary textures of the soft quinoa with the crunchy walnuts and crisp kale. It’s impossible to only have one serving!

Sargent Choice Kale & Quinoa Salad with Dates, Walnuts & Citrus Dressing
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients for the Salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion dicedKale-Quinoa-Salad-with-Citrus-Dressing-300x297
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ cup red quinoa, pre-rinsed
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bunch lacinato kale (¾-1 lb, with stems)
½ heaping cup whole dates
½ cup toasted walnuts

Ingredients for the Dressing:
1 clementine or mandarin orange
½ lime, juiced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sprinkle lightly with ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has darkened to a toasty brown and smells caramelized – about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.  You should have about ½ cup of cooked onions.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.  Add it and the garlic to a 2-quart saucepan set over medium-high heat and sauté for about a minute both to dry the grain and toast it lightly. Add one cup water and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn the heat to low; cook for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat but leave the lid on for an additional 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
  3. While the onions are caramelizing and the quinoa is cooking, slice off the middy bottoms of the kale stems and massage with fingers until leaves turn darker green color and wilt to relieve them of their bitterness. Then rinse the massaged leaves and slice of into fine ribbons.
  4. Pit the dates and slice them into quarters.  Roughly chop the walnuts (into 3 or 4 pieces each).
  5. Make the dressing: Peel and then juice the clementine or mandarin orange, save the pulp/innards and chop up and add to the dressing. Roll the limes against a hard surface to increase juices, then cut and juice. Whisk the juices together (you should have about ¼ cup total of juice, or a little less). Whisk in the maple syrup and olive oil.  The dressing will be emulsified but still thin.  Stir about 2 tablespoons of the dressing into the quinoa after it finishes cooking.
  6. Assemble the salad; Toss the kale with all of the still-warm quinoa and the caramelized onions.  Toss with half the dressing and taste.  Add the remaining dressing if desired, then toss with the dates and walnuts. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

The salad keeps well; it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
-Lacinato kale is also called dinosaur, Tuscan or black kale.  Do not use curly kale in this recipe.


Per serving
Calories 300
Fat 18 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Protein 6.5 g
Carbohydrates 35 g
Fiber 5 g