This Ancient Grain Salad is fresh and flavorful with a Mediterranean twist. Made with quinoa, farro, and chickpeas, this healthy salad recipe is ready in just 30 minutes. It’s perfect for a light lunch or an easy side dish.
When I was earning my undergraduate degree in nutrition, grain salads were a staple in my meal prep rotation. Not only are they good for you, but they’re also easy to make, store well, and are highly customizable.
This Mediterranean-inspired version is one of my favorite grain salad recipes.
Made with nutty whole grains, crunchy vegetables, and a tangy homemade vinaigrette dressing, this recipe is my go-to summer salad and healthy, packable lunch.
Today, I’m walking you through how to make the best ancient grain salad, including which ingredients to use, tips that guarantee it turns out right the first time, and some of my favorite dishes to serve with this healthy side dish.
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Healthy- Packed with fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals, this Mediterranean farro and quinoa salad is wholesome and balanced.
- Quick & Easy- While the grains cook, you can get the vegetables and dressing ready, meaning this easy grain salad is ready in just 30 minutes.
- Mediterranean Flavors- From the tangy homemade vinaigrette dressing to the fresh and crunchy vegetables, this Mediterranean-inspired salad is bursting with flavor.
- Versatile- Serve this ancient grains salad alongside dinner, or enjoy it as a satisfying light lunch on its own.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Farro- Chewy and nutty in flavor, this recipe makes use of pearled farro due to its shorter cooking time.
- Quinoa- Quinoa has a shorter cook time than farro, which is why it’s added to the cooking pot a few minutes after the farro.
- Chickpeas- Drain and rinse the chickpeas before adding them to the salad to remove excess liquid, sodium, and starch.
- Feta- Crumbled feta cheese adds a creamy, salty, and slightly tangy flavor to the dish.
- Vegetables- A combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives, and parsley is used to give this salad recipe a Mediterranean flavor.
- Red Wine Vinegar- Tangy and slightly fruity, red wine vinegar acts as the base for the red wine vinaigrette.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- A classic oil for salad dressing, extra virgin olive oil pairs well with the other flavors in this recipe.
- Dijon Mustard- Dijon mustard emulsifies the vinaigrette and adds a subtle tanginess.
- Garlic- Grating or finely mincing the garlic prevents large, overpowering bites.
- Italian Seasoning- A blend of dried herbs, such as oregano, basil, and thyme are common in Mediterranean cuisine.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can customize this easy ancient grain salad recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Ancient Grains- Substitute the farro and quinoa with any grains you enjoy! Try couscous, bulgur, rice, barley, wheat berries, or freekeh.
- Chickpeas- Swap chickpeas with cannellini beans, red kidney beans, black beans, or brown lentils.
- Feta- Use goat cheese, blue cheese, or mini mozzarella balls in place of feta cheese.
- Vegetables- Swap out different vegetables to give this salad a customized flavor profile. Try zucchini, roasted red peppers, arugula, spinach, asparagus, and shallots.
- Parsley- Replace parsley with fresh mint, basil, or cilantro.
- Red Wine Vinegar- Substitute red wine vinegar with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- Use any oil you typically have in your pantry. Avocado oil and walnut oil are also good choices for salad.
- Dijon Mustard- Yellow mustard or whole grain mustard can be used in place of dijon mustard.
- Garlic- Use ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder in place of fresh garlic.
- Italian Seasoning- Swap Italian seasoning for a blend of dried oregano, basil, and thyme.
- Gluten-Free- Replace farro with quinoa or brown rice to make this grain salad gluten-free.
- Vegan- Swap the feta cheese for dairy-free feta cheese or additional olives to make a vegan and dairy-free version of this ancient grain salad.
- Protein- Add another source of protein, like grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak, for a more hearty and satisfying meal.
- Roasted Vegetables- Roast the tomatoes and red onion to give this ancient grain salad a sweeter, slightly smoky flavor. You can also add roasted red peppers.
- Herbed- Add a variety of fresh herbs, such as mint, dill, basil, oregano, and thyme, for a more herbaceous flavor.
- Spicy- Mix red pepper flakes into the red wine vinaigrette to give this salad a spicy kick.
Here are some notes on any special equipment I used to make this recipe.
- Fine Mesh Sieve- A fine mesh sieve is helpful for rinsing small grains like quinoa and farro.
- Mixing Bowls- Having a few mixing bowls of various sizes on hand is helpful for this recipe.
- Cutting Board & Knife- Use a sturdy cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife for dicing the vegetables to make it easier and safer.
How to Make Ancient Grain Salad
Here is how to make this Mediterranean ancient grain salad.
Step 1: Cook the grains. Rinse the quinoa and farro separately under cool running water. In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and the farro. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the quinoa to the same pot. Cover and continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Keep an eye on it to prevent it from drying out. Cooking times may vary, so refer to the package instructions.
Step 2: Dice the vegetables. While the grains are cooking, dice the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and olives. Add them to a large bowl along with the chickpeas and feta cheese.
Step 3: Make the red wine vinaigrette. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, and black pepper.
Step 4: Assemble the salad. Once the quinoa and farro have finished cooking and cooled for a few minutes, add them to the mixing bowl with the chopped vegetables, chickpeas, and feta cheese. Pour the prepared vinaigrette over the mixture and stir well to combine. Enjoy the salad warm or refrigerate to serve chilled.
Ancient Grain Salad (Video)
Tips for Success
- Rinse grains thoroughly. Rinsing the grains removes any bitter coating or debris that may be present.
- Monitor cooking times. Keep a close eye on the grains while they're cooking to ensure they don't dry out. Cooking times may vary depending on the brand and type of grains used.
- Multitask. While the grains are cooking, prepare the vegetables and vinaigrette to save time.
- Deseed vegetables. Removing the seeds from the cucumber and tomatoes prevents excess moisture in the salad.
- Allow grains to cool. Let the grains cool for a few minutes before adding them to the vegetables to prevent wilting of the fresh ingredients.
- Toss together gently. Mix the salad ingredients together gently to avoid crushing or mushing them too much.
What to Serve with Ancient Grain Salad
This Mediterranean ancient grain salad can be served on its own, but is even better when paired with other dishes for a more complete and satisfying meal.
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Freezer- Freezing this ancient grain salad is not recommended as some of the ingredients do not freeze well.
How to Reheat
This salad recipe is intended to be served chilled. If you don’t enjoy this salad straight from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before eating.
This ancient grain salad with quinoa and farro is perfect for making ahead and refrigerating. In fact, the flavors often meld together nicely after it chills for a few hours.
Plus, leftovers make a convenient packable lunch for work or school because you don’t have to worry about heating them up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Ancient grains are full of fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re an excellent choice because they’ll keep you feeling full and satisfied long after eating them.
Not all ancient grains are gluten-free. While quinoa is gluten-free, it's important to note that farro is a type of wheat and does contain gluten.
Absolutely! Feel free to substitute quinoa or farro with other ancient grains like barley, freekeh, or even wild rice.
Yes, you can use pre-cooked or microwavable quinoa or farro to speed up the process. Adjust the recipe accordingly.
Ancient Grain Salad
For the Ancient Grain Salad
- ½ cup (dry) quinoa rinsed
- ½ cup (dry) pearled farro rinsed
- 1 whole cucumber peeled, deseeded, and diced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes quartered and deseeded
- ¼ large red onion finely diced
- ½ cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
- ½ cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
For the Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ clove garlic grated or finely minced
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Rinse the quinoa and farro separately under cool running water. In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and the farro. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the quinoa to the same pot. Cover and continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Keep an eye on it to prevent it from drying out. Cooking times may vary, so refer to the package instructions.½ cup (dry) quinoa, ½ cup (dry) pearled farro
- While the grains are cooking, dice the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and olives. Add them to a large bowl along with the chickpeas and feta cheese.1 whole cucumber, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, ¼ large red onion, ½ cup Kalamata olives, ½ cup fresh parsley, 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, and black pepper.2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon dijon mustard, ½ clove garlic, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Once the quinoa and farro have finished cooking and cooled for a few minutes, add them to the mixing bowl with the chopped vegetables, chickpeas, and feta cheese. Pour the prepared vinaigrette over the mixture and stir well to combine. Enjoy the salad warm or refrigerate to serve chilled.
- Quick Tip: Keep a close eye on the grains while they're cooking to ensure they don't dry out. Cooking times may vary depending on the brand and type of grains used.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead: This salad is ideal for making ahead and makes a wonderful lunch.