Quinoa-Kale Salad with Kefir-Cumin Dressing

Of us Three Many Cooks, Sharon is the one who frequently gets funny tummy when she eats dairy. That Green Valley Organics sour cream, yogurt, and kefir are lactose-free is a plus for Sharon, but Maggy and I just love the quality of the Green Valley Organics products. Their sour cream is the best we’ve ever tasted.

Recently Green Valley Organics asked me to develop a kefir recipe for the New Year. Since I often equate kefir with breakfast-y sweet dishes, I decided to take this ingredient a savory direction as a cozy cool weather lunch or dinner.

The result was Quinoa-Kale Salad with Kefir-Cumin Dressing. I was thrilled when I got word the folks at Green Valley loved the salad. I was even more thrilled when I got the evaluation back from their dietitian, Tamara Duker. Here’s what she said.

“If ever there was a Platonic ideal of a superfood salad, this would have to be it.  Its composed primarily of the food world’s most nutrient dense plant (kale) paired with one of its most nutritious grains (quinoa) – both loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. I love this salad for vegetarians especially – a salad that delivers protein AND iron from the beans and quinoa, as well as calcium from the kale and kefir dressing… is a rare salad indeed!  For those folks trying to choose more whole foods with anti-inflammatory benefits, this salad also fits the bill: it’s got unprocessed whole grain quinoa, complex carbs from beans, inflammation-taming probiotics from the kefir dressing, and a medley of anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.”

So there you have it. A salad so good you can’t stop eating it, that also happens to be good for you.

Quinoa-Kale Salad with Kefir-Cumin Dressing
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons course grain Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup plain Green Valley Organics kefir
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 cups finely chopped washed kale
  • 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) kidney beans, drained
  • ½ cup apricots, thinly sliced
  • ¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Heat a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium heat. Add quinoa and toast until fragrant and slightly darker in color, a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups of water, cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is fully cooked, about 20 minutes longer. Cool quinoa to lukewarm.
  2. Meanwhile make dressing by whisking garlic, cumin, mustard, kefir, pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Slowly whisk in oil to make a thick, flavorful dressing.
  3. Place remaining ingredients—kale, kidney beans, apricots, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add warm quinoa and the dressing; toss to coat. Serve!
Between the beans, quinoa and kale, this is an uber-superfood salad! If you’re lactose intolerant, Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free kefir.


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  1. Sharon Sucher says

    This salad looks delicious and I e-mailed it to my sister who is lactose intolerant. Question…..I thought that quinoa always had to be well rinsed so it would not have a bitter taste. Yours is not rinsed, but toasted. Is there a slightly bitter taste???

    • says

      Hey Sharon, I don’t notice quinoa’s bitter flavor, so I don’t rinse. I do think toasting brings out its nutty flavor. If you decide to rinse, however, you can skip the toasting step. Good luck and I hope you and your sister enjoy this salad.

  2. Disa says

    I made it and loved it, and so did my husband. I wasn’t sure he would go for the flavor combos, but he really liked it. Full disclosure, I was super lazy and made a few substitutions to avoid actually leaving the house to buy ingredients. I used thinned yogurt instead of kefir…honey mustard…red beans instead of kidney…but it was still really tasty. Thanks!

  3. says

    Pam – We LOVED this salad! We shared a big bowl here in the office right after New Years, when we all were searching for something healthy to eat! Some thought it could use more dressing; I added pomegranate seeds to the leftovers the next day, and it was wonderful. Another idea was garbanzos instead of kidney beans – the variations are endless. We love the flavorful way you used our kefir – this will become a standard home-made dressing from now on!
    Many thanks for developing it!

  4. Diana says

    The salad sounds very good but I have 2 questions. Did you use fresh or dried apricots? Does it matter what type of kale?

  5. Donna says

    Thanks for a great recipe! I read all the helpful comments before making it as I too had to make some substitutions: plain yogurt for kefir, Craisins for apricots, and used a honey grain Dijon. I’m not fond of raw kale, so I lightly sautéed the kale and cilantro in 1 T butter for about 2 minutes which took the bitterness of the kale away. (I have never cooked with quinoa, kale, cilantro or Kefir so this was a stretch for me.)Your recipe was the first dish I cooked on our new path to gluten free and eating to prevent cancer, a lifestyle change recently forced upon us. It was very tasty & filling! Thanks for the great start!

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