Aztec Grain Salad

Aztec Grain Salad
Makes: 6 Servings
Total Cost:
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Aztec Grain Salad combines a South American, high-protein grain called quinoa with aromatic roasted butternut squash, crisp apples, and dried cranberries to make a delicious and colorful side dish.


1 1/2 cups Quinoa, dry
1 3/4 cups Fresh granny smith apples, peeled, cored, cubed 3/4"
1 3/4 cups Fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed 1/2"
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 dash ground black pepper
1 dash ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Fresh cilantro, chopped (Optional: use additional cilantro as a garnish)
1/3 cup Dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup Golden raisins, seedless, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 400 °F. 
2. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until water runs clear, not cloudy. Combine quinoa and 3 cups water in a medium pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until water is completely absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. When done, quinoa will be soft and a white ring will pop out of the kernel. The white ring will appear only when it is fully cooked. Fluff with a fork. Cover and refrigerate. A rice cooker may be used with the same quantity of quinoa and water.
3. Combine apples and squash in a large mixing bowl. Add canola oil, 1/8 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Toss well to coat. 
4. Pour apples/squash mixture onto a large baking sheet and place in oven at 400 °F. Roast for 15 minutes or until squash is soft and slightly brown on the edges. Do not overcook. Remove and set aside to cool.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, combine orange juice, olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt, peppers, cilantro, and remaining ginger and cinnamon. Whisk together to make dressing. 
6. In a large mixing bowl, combine quinoa, apples/squash mix, cranberries, raisins, and dressing. Toss well to combine. If desired, garnish with additional cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Serve chilled. 


Our Story 
Novi Meadows, an upper elementary Blue Ribbon Exemplary School, drew on the talents and hard work of students, staff, parents, and the community to create their unique recipe. The school’s School Nutrition Action Committee (SNAC) brainstormed recipe ideas that would not only fulfill the nutritional requirements of the contest, but would also be appealing to the students. The SNAC wanted to come up with something that was different and chose quinoa as the whole grain to feature in the recipe. Quinoa was then paired with traditional American fall produce to create a unique flavor experience. Aztec Grain Salad was named by the students, and it is a fantastic side dish to offer children.
Novi Meadows 6th Grade Upper Elementary School 
Novi, Michigan

School Team Members

School Nutrition Professional: JoAnn Clements 
ChefIna Cheatem (Natural Food Chef, Fresh Delights) 
Community Member:Michelle Thompson
Students:Cory G., Bryan T., and Jackie D.


No votes yet
Amazing! This recipe is so good. Everone loved it, and its packed with nutrition.
No votes yet
While I like this salad, I am pretty sure I would not have eaten it as a child. The quinoa is something I was not familiar with and its texture is "different." Kids don't usually go for "different." One suggestion to make it more acceptable to kids is for it to be more of a pudding-like texture with the grains complimenting the texture (like rice pudding). If some kind of low-fat congealing agent, it might make the rough texture of the quinoa less noticeable. Another suggestion would be to serve it warm, such as one would serve apple crisp (consider this suggestion together with the former). Of course, both suggestions make this more of a grain-based dessert than a "salad." Although, gelatin with fruit in it is sometimes referred to as a "salad." Thanks!
No votes yet
Love the flavors together and the extra protein kick I get. Its' a good dish for breakfast lunch or dinner. I would have preferred it warmed up but still good cold. Great for the whole family.
Find tips and resources for safe food handling and proper cooking temperature guidance.