Ribboned Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

Gluten-free ribboned asparagus and quinoa salad - cookieandkate.com

When the temperature hit a muggy ninety on Saturday, I declared that it is officially salad season in Oklahoma. Sure, it’s still spring, but soup weather ended last month and swimsuit weather is fast approaching (eeks!). Adrienne picked a delicious-sounding asparagus and white bean soup for this week’s Food Matters Project recipe, so I took it as an opportunity to perfect the asparagus salad concept I’ve had in mind.

how to store asparagus

Over the weekend, I tried asparagus salad every which way—with and without Parmesan, goat cheese, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and quinoa. I tried to incorporate white beans, both pan-fried and regular, but I ultimately decided that they are too earthy for this bright and nutty salad. Today, after eating asparagus for days and getting smacked on the chin by countless ribbons of asparagus, I present to you my favorite iteration.

shaved asparagus and quinoa

This salad comes together pretty quickly. The only ingredient that requires turning on the stove is quinoa, which takes about 20 minutes to make. To save time, you can make the quinoa advance. Once your quinoa is cooked and your asparagus ribbons are ready, the rest comes together very quickly. The dressing couldn’t be easier; it’s just lemon juice and olive oil.

ribboned asparagus and quinoa salad

Asparagus, sliced super thin, tastes mild and fresh, and doesn’t need to be cooked or steamed. Quinoa contributes nutty flavor and turns this salad into a full meal. Parmesan and pine nuts add welcome savory notes that really make this dish, so please don’t skimp on them. I was almost hesitant to recommend pine nuts because they are expensive, but I assure you that they are worth their weight in gold here. If pine nuts are not an option, toasted sunflower seeds are a fine substitute.

how to shave asparagus

Before we get to the recipe, though, I want to talk about the most underrated and versatile of all kitchen tools: the vegetable peeler! It’s like a cheap, hand-held mandoline. I use my vegetable peeler to peel sweet potatoes for sweet potato fries, obviously, and also to create super thin slices of carrots (seen here, here and here), radishes (seen here), zucchini (seen here) and asparagus. I’ve even found that it’s easier to create Parmesan shavings with a peeler than my grandmother’s cheese plane.

asparagus quinoa salad with lemon and parmesan

Any vegetable peeler will work, but Deb of Smitten Kitchen recommended using a y-shaped peeler in her ribboned asparagus salad post. Thus I spent six bucks on this sharp little Kuhn Rikon (free shipping!) and it’s my new favorite thing*. I’ve found that the best way to get the most shavings from long, skinny vegetables like asparagus is to hold the vegetable near the end of the cutting board, parallel to the edge. Slightly angle the y-shaped peeler down over the edge of the board so the tips of the peeler don’t stop me from getting the last few shavings.

*Update: this peeler is great, but don’t wash it in the dishwasher! Wash it by hand and dry it with a towel, otherwise it tends to rust. I think I’ll eventually invest in a stainless steel Y-peeler, like this one by OXO.

shaved asparagus, quinoa and pine nut salad

Ribboned Asparagus and Quinoa Salad
4.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • ¾ to 1 cup cooked quinoa (see step 1 below)
  • 6 to 7 stalks of asparagus (almost a handful)
  • 1 small lemon
  • olive oil (the good stuff), to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 to 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved
  1. Cook the quinoa (I like to make extra for more salads and for breakfast, 1 cup of dry quinoa yields over 3 cups cooked quinoa). Combine rinsed quinoa with twice as much water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
  2. Shave the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. To do so, hold the touch end of the asparagus against a cutting board, and peel from the tough end toward the tip. (See tips above)
  3. Toast the pine nuts. I prefer to do this in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, but you may get more even results by baking at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes (stirring often). I use the skillet method because I tend to get distracted and forget about them in the oven! You want the pine nuts well toasted, meaning golden but not burnt.
  4. Zest the lemon (if desired) and slice it in half.
  5. In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa and shaved asparagus. Squeeze in most of the juice of half a lemon (add more to taste later) and a good drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Use your vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan directly onto the salad. Don't skimp on the cheese! Top with lemon zest. If necessary, add more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt and pepper to taste.


  1. says

    I’ve never paired asparagus with quinoa, but I bet the nutty flavor of quinoa would compliment this spring vegetable nicely. I’m a big fan of those simple y shaped peelers too. It’s just a beautifully designed tool that’s perfect for the job.

  2. shelley says

    So simple, but packed with flavor. I have been told my farmers with have asparagus next week at the farmers market and I can’t wait! I will surely have this on my to-do list.

  3. Kelsey says

    I just made this and it’s awesome! Next time, though, I’ll add just less than half of a lemon because it kind of overshadowed the other flavors, but not by too much so it’s still delicious. I also did not have pine nuts on hand so I substituted sunflower kernels. Thanks for the idea!

    • says

      I’m amazed that you already made the recipe, Kelsey! That’s really neat. Was your lemon a large one? I just modified the recipe to specify a small lemon. I love tart flavors, though, so maybe it’s me! :)

      • Kelsey says

        Yeah, the post came in my Bloglovin’ feed via email in the middle of the day and it sounded too good. Honestly, the lemon had been sitting on my counter for just under a week so it had sort of shrunk, so, I guess you would call it a small :)

  4. says

    This looks amazingly delicious. I’ll definitely have to make this before asparagus season is done! So refreshing and nutritious.

  5. Mireya@myhealthyeati says

    Wonderful! I have a new way to eat asparagus. Love your creativity with this beautiful, earthy salad.

  6. says

    What a gorgeous salad. I love using the vegetable peeler to make things look fancy in nice thinly peeled slices :) I did that over Easter with an asparagus and zucchini salad (dressed in lemon & olive oil too actually) and people kept asking how it was done.
    I cringe when buying pine nuts but they last forever and are always worth it no matter what you throw them into with their unique delicious flavor.

  7. says

    Love adding quinoa to salads – it gives it a fun texture, and I love that slight nuttiness…We don’t have much of a ‘salad season’ in San Francisco (thanks to the fog!) but this past weekend was as brilliant as it gets (75 and sunny!). I’m waiting for the next gorgeous weekend to whip something like this up.

  8. says

    This looks so nice! I am very much into asparagus these days, I include it into every meal. And that’s a great tip about the peeler! I have a good cutco peeler and I love making raw zucchini fettuccine with it. I’ll try to use it for parmigiano shavings as you said – I always use my grater which it’s pretty annoying.

  9. says

    This salad is almost too pretty to eat. I’m in a fava bean place of mind these days (I can’t help but buy a kilo (or two!) when I see them at the farmers market), so I’ll probably throw some into the mix. Quinoa is such a wonderful base for salads…it’s easy to get carried away and throw everything that has been hiding in the crisper drawer right into the bowl. I will try and restrain myself because your version looks beautiful. Great post. and, um, 90º ?? come again? that is crazy! time for some sorbet posts.

  10. amber says

    This was so lovely – I made it with a few tweaks because of what was around / greed & added really wide zucchini ribbons (so pretty) and tragically used up sunflower seeds that were around, though I can totally see why it’d be better with pine-nuts. Also, added a dash of sherry vinegar to the quionia. IT WAS ALL DELICIOUS! Thank you, cos i’m far (very far) from an asparagus junkie & i actually liked it this way xx

  11. says

    Summertime is the epitome of simplicity and refreshment, providing time and energy to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. This sounds perfect to that end. :)

  12. Keenonquinoa says

    I have never had raw asparagus, but I think I would enjoy it fixed like this. I am a huge fan of tart flavors too.

  13. says

    I’m putting this on the menu asap! Looks like a perfect food for this hot weather we’ve been having in New England lately…

  14. Steven says

    Made it tonight!

    Very successful. I flipped the asparagus after a couple of initial peals so I ended up in the middle rather than at the end with a thicker end slice. Also, next time I will cut the asparagus into bite sized bits.

    I’m looking for something to give it extra zing.

    • says

      Thanks, Steven! Glad you liked the salad. More zing—maybe more lemon zest or a splash of white wine vinegar would do the trick.

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