This pretty vegan Ancient Grain Salad is so versatile, it goes from holiday table to working lunch without skipping a beat, and it’s as healthy as it is stunning.
It’s all about the texture! This healthy ancient grain salad is made with wild rice, farro, and red quinoa, livened up with lots of colorful extras. And you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to appreciate the the satisfying chew of the grains and the crunch of the celery and nuts. Dried cranberries and juicy pomegranate seeds guarantee that every bite finishes with an explosion of sweet. Reserve a spot for it on your Thanksgiving table for sure, everyone is going to flock to it.
Ancient grains are ‘in’ right now, but they’re definitely not just a fad, and they’re not going anywhere. There are lots of solid reasons why we should be eating them. The name ancient grains covers a whole host of very old varieties of grains, seeds, and grasses. They’re super healthy and offer an important diversity that we’ve lost in our modern diets. Even if you’re gluten intolerant, you may be able to eat ancient wheat varieties like emmer and farro, so they can be game changers for lots of people. And these grains bring new tastes and textures to our tables. Besides the wild rice, farro, and red quinoa that I used for this salad, here are some other ancient grains to look out for…any combination of them can be made into an ancient grain salad like this one ~
TIP: Don’t be intimidated by these unusual names, the cooking process is totally straightforward — prepare them just like you would pasta, by boiling until tender in lots of water, and then draining. There aren’t any specific measurements to keep track of so you can feel confident giving them a try.
Grain salads are perfect for holidays and working lunches alike because they can be made ahead with no worries ~ they’re sturdy and hold up well in the refrigerator even after they’ve been dressed. The dressing will slowly soak into the grains and the flavor will improve.
If you like this idea, my WILD RICE SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES AND NUTS is a similar recipe with a slightly shorter ingredient list.
I went a little crazy with this salad and used quite a variety of fruits and nuts, but you can certainly scale it down to just a couple of your favorites. (Make sure the nuts are fresh and that you toast them first.) I always like to include some type of onion, either green or red, because I like their ‘bite’, and I always use some of the inner stalks of celery, with the leaves, for the crunch and fresh flavor. If you’d like, I think some finely diced crisp apples or pears would work in place of some of the dried fruit. Toss them in lemon juice to prevent browning.
TIP: Toasting nuts is an important step that increases their crunch and their flavor…do it in a 350F oven, or in a skillet on the stove, but watch them carefully and stir often! It should take about 15 minutes and you’ll know they’re done when they start to turn golden and you can smell them.
Here in Southern California we always have some sort of salad on our holiday tables, and it’s always one of the most popular dishes. If you like wild rice, you might also like my HARVEST SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE ALLSPICE DRESSING (the dressing is to-die-for.) And if you love Brussels sprouts like I do, my BRUSSELS SPROUT SLAW WITH MAPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE is another favorite.
Ancient Grain Salad
- 1 cup cooked wild rice
- 1 cup cooked red quinoa
- 1 cup cooked farro
- 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup pistachios rough chopped
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup dried apricots finely chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup brown raisins
- 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds plus extra for garnish
- 4 scallions thinly sliced, green and white parts
- 1/4 large red onion minced
- several small inner stalks of celery finely diced, with the green leafy parts
- extra pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sweet mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toss all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together and add enough to the salad to moisten everything. Reserve any unused dressing for adding right before serving if needed.
- Cover and refrigerate until serving. The salad can be made up to a day ahead. Sprinkle with more pomegranate seeds just before serving.
- If you want to start with uncooked grains, use 1/2 cup of each, uncooked, and follow the cooking directions below.
- To cook the wild rice, boil 6 cups of water and add the rice, simmer until just tender, but still firm, about 30 minutes. Add more water to the pan if necessary. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- To cook the farro, boil 6 cups water and add the farro, boil until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- To cook the quinoa, rinse well, then boil 6 cups water and add the quinoa. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the little ‘tails’ have sprouted. Drain and rinse with cold water.
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