Mint Julep Quinoa Salad

A Mint Julep Salad??? Yes, totally, and it's going to rock your summer salad world.

Every year I start getting obsessed with mint in June. Sure, Mint Juleps are all the rage during the Kentucky Derby (in May), but our mint at home doesn't really get going until a month later. All summer long, there's an epic battle between the mint (which is trying to take over our yard) and us (who are trying to consume it in as many ways and as quickly as possible).

Because of our mint overload, we love making Mint Juleps all summer long. They're a delightfully refreshing summer drink, and especially gratifying with homegrown mint.

But this year, something incredible happened: the Mint Julep Salad was born. Dave's birthday is in June, and this year we had a really lovely picnic date on his birthday. I wanted to make a cocktail and a portable picnic dish inspired by the cocktail. Since Dave, being from the South, is a huge bourbon lover, I settled on the Mint Julep as my inspiration.

This salad was so darn good that we've made it again and again. It features quinoa (cooked in bourbon, obviously), fresh homegrown mint, and a whole host of southern-inspired ingredients like peaches, corn, and pecans. The combination is magical and so summery.

Because quinoa is pretty sturdy and travels well, this is a perfect picnic salad, even if it has to hike for numerous miles to get there. But it's also a really beautiful salad, and could be nicely plated and served at a potluck or while entertaining.

And clearly, it should be made every year on Derby Day! (Paired with Mint Juleps, of course). This will definitely become our new Derby tradition.

Let this salad be your new summer best friend! I love how unique and surprising it is, and also how versatile. Cheers and happy Julep season!

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram. 

Looking for other salads that can go from potluck to picnic seamlessly? This Roasted Corn, Avocado, and Strawberry Salad is just as summery and versatile.

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)

For the Salad
  • 1 c uncooked quinoa 
  • Generous pour of bourbon
  • Small red onion
  • 1-2 c corn kernels. In season, I love to grill corn outside and then cut the kernels off the cob. Out of season, I usually resort to grilling frozen corn indoors. Trader Joe's sells bags of frozen, grilled corn which are sinfully convenient.
  • A couple peaches
  • ~20 mint leaves
  • Big handful of pecans. Roasted and salted!
For the Dressing
  • 3 tbsp peach balsamic vinegar. A lot of artisan oil/vinegar places sell this. If you can't find it, any white balsamic will work. But if you go with straight white balsamic, I'd use a little less and also increase the maple syrup.
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp bourbon. If you're not a bourbon lover, you can leave this out (since the bourbon flavor is already cooked into the quinoa). Some people are sensitive to the flavor of uncooked alcohol in food.
  • Salt and black pepper 
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Cook your quinoa. My approach is to use 2:1 water:quinoa (so in this case, 2 c of water for your 1 c of quinoa). Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a very low simmer and let it sit (with the lid on) until all the water has been absorbed, ~20 minutes. Important point: salt the water!
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, cut the red onion into rounds and grill. Once you have a nice char on both sides, chop the onions into bite-sized pieces.
  3. At the same time, prep the corn however you see fit (see options above).
  4. Put together your dressing by giving the ingredients a quick whisk in a measuring cup.
  5. When the quinoa is finished cooking and all the water has been absorbed, give it a generous pour of bourbon and fluff it with a fork to make sure the bourbon is well-dispersed. Then, leaving the quinoa on low heat but with the lid off, let it sit for a few more minutes until the bourbon has cooked off.
  6. Add the dressing into the quinoa and stir. I prefer to add it when the quinoa is warm, since it absorbs so much more effectively. It makes the quinoa so flavorful!
  7. Stir in the red onion and corn.
  8. Put the quinoa (now dressed, and with onions+corn) into a sealed container and cool it down completely. It will need at least an hour in the fridge, but up to a day or two is fine. You want it to cool so that your peaches and mint don't get wilty.
  9. After the quinoa has cooled, mix in the peaches (diced into bite-sized pieces) and the mint (cut into very fine ribbons). The salad can sit like this for a few hours, but probably not overnight since you want the peaches and mint to stay fresh.
  10. Plate the salad however works for you- maybe just in a container for a picnic, or on a bed of greens, or in a pretty bowl.
  11. Garnish with pecans at the end, so they keep their crunch. Maybe a few mint leaves too.


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