Toasted Coconut Quinoa Salad / by Chelsea Zwieg


There are few things I love more in the world than fall. Sweaters, scarves, caramel apples, anything and everything pumpkin flavored. I can’t get enough. And yet, September is a bit of tease. One day it’s warm enough to go to the pool, the next day you need a jacket and the day after that it’s pouring rain. And then somewhere in South Dakota, it’s snowing. As much as I would love to be sitting in a pumpkin, dressed head to toe in flannel, holding a bushel of apples (you know, the usual fall activities), the weather around here is still hanging in that pre-fall identity crisis that September loves so much.


This is the September of salads. The fall flavors are there, but it’s still hanging on to those last bits of summer. 

I love the idea of a quinoa salad, but usually end up finding that the quinoa itself doesn’t hold seasoning very well and is pretty bland. In the end, I wind up picking around the quinoa to get to the other stuff. So for this salad, I cooked the quinoa in coconut milk instead of water. This infuses it with flavor and a makes a richer, more complex base for all of the good things that get mixed in.  

Speaking of those mix-ins: radishes, celery and Asian pears lend a summery crunch, which is balanced by toasted coconut flakes and nuts for fall flavor. Side note, if you ever want your kitchen to smell like fall, ditch the pumpkin candles and toast up a pan of coconut flakes and nuts. You’ll see what I mean.  The whole salad is finished with a bright mango vinaigrette that binds it together and also happens to be great eaten straight out of the blender. 

While I do complain about all of these warm days intruding on my favorite season, it's probably good that things like September and this quinoa salad exist to ease all of the summer fanatics out of their beach going ways. You know, before I bombard them with a pumpkin in one hand and caramel apple in the other. 

Toasted Coconut Quinoa Salad

A few quick notes: I used this Toasted Coconut and Almond milk. It is fantastic, but any brand of coconut milk will do. I also used Asian pears in the salad, which have a much crisper and brighter flavor than regular pears. However, if you can't find Asian pears, be sure to use a slightly unripe pear so that you do not end up with mushy bits in your salad. Lastly, I choose dried cherries for everything but sometimes they are absurdly overpriced. When I feel like protesting this crime against dried fruit, I use dried cranberries and they're great. 

Serves 4


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup nuts (I used pistachios and almonds)
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • 1 Asian pear, diced
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced


  • In a saucepan, bring quinoa and coconut milk to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 15-20 minutes

  • Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coconut flakes and toast until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove flakes to a paper towel and add the nuts to the skillet. Toast until golden brown and fragrant (that toasty fall smell), about 5 minutes
  • Once quinoa has finished cooking, place it in a bowl and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, stir in the coconut flakes, nuts, dried cherries, pear, radishes and celery

  • Serve with mango vinaigrette

Mango Vinaigrette 

Notes: I use half of a jalapeño, unseeded, and it is fairly spicy. If you do not like much heat, seed the jalapeño or use about 1/4 of the pepper 

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients |

  • ½ cup mango, diced
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ½ jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Place mango, jalapeño, vinegar and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth
  • Add honey and cilantro. Blend until almost smooth, leaving just a few flecks of cilantro
  • Add salt and pepper to taste