(Note: this post was originally published on July 18, 2019 and the photos were updated on August 30, 2020. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
A Mint Julep salad??? Yes, totally, and it's going to rock your summer salad world. This salad is unique, unexpected, loaded with southern-inspired seasonal ingredients, wonderfully versatile, and just so darn fun.
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, and even into the early fall. They're a delightfully refreshing summer drink, and especially gratifying with homegrown mint.
But this year, something incredible happened: the Mint Julep Quinoa 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 is everything I've ever wanted in a quinoa salad: fluffy quinoa, ripe juicy peaches, sweet succulent corn, charred red onions, hearty sweet potato, cozy black-eyed peas, and even some crunchy pecans. It's a symphony of flavors, colors, and textures.
This salad is incredibly versatile, so I'm confident it will work for all your summer get-togethers and picnics. For that reason, it's one I turn to again and again.
Are you grilling and chilling on a summer weekend? If so, this salad can work great as a side dish. Going on a picnic? Bring it along! It travels great since all of the ingredients are quite hearty. Having a party? Plate it on a platter with some fancy peach garnishes and let it shine. This salad can even as a main course thanks to the protein from the peas, quinoa, and nuts.
Thankfully, this salad is make-ahead friendly, and you have a few different options for how to do that. At the least, make the quinoa in advance and store it in the fridge overnight or for a couple days; that's one less thing to worry about, and the texture is actually better if you cool the quinoa completely before adding the dressing.
Alternatively, you can do all the grilling in advance too! Your grilled sweet potatoes, onion, and corn can happily sit in the fridge overnight in their own sealed containers. That means all you have to do on the day of is assemble. You can easily make the dressing a day or a few days ahead too.
When you're ready to serve, just add the chopped peaches, pecans, and mint. I don't suggest adding those items more than a couple hours in advance since they'll get soggy and wilty. If you're bringing this salad to a picnic or potluck and will need to pull it together more than a couple hours ahead, at least keep the pecans and mint separate and toss them in at the last minute.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this salad is designed to accompany some mint juleps (I've shown some strawberry mint juleps below to inspire you). It would of course excel on Derby Day, alongside other southern-inspired fare.
As of Derby 2020, this recipe is now part of a Derby + Bourbon compilation assembled by Alyssa of the Wine a Little Cook a Lot Blog (@WineALittleCookALot on Instagram). Check out our Kentucky Derby Party Food post for a whole array of bourbon-themed recipes contributed by foodies around the country. It has everything from hearty proteins to fun side dishes and appetizers to cocktails and even desserts (all made with a healthy pour of bourbon!).
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Let this salad be your new summer best friend! I love how unique and surprising it is, and also how versatile. Salads like this are really such a salvation for summer get-togethers; I especially love options that are make-ahead friendly, colorful, and can serve as a main course for herbivores who might end up with limited options at a BBQ.
Cheers, happy Julep season, and happy Derby Day!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Boozy Nicecream Guide (see the Kentucky Mule flavor in particular!)
A mint julep goes salad-style with hearty quinoa, colorful grilled veggies, crunchy pecans, and fresh mint. Serve it as a side dish or main course all summer long! This surprising summer salad is loaded with southern flair.