Introduction: Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Recently I visited a very good friend of mine for a week. It was awesome to get to try recipes that were new to me, and there was one in particular that I couldn't leave without a copy of - mango and black bean quinoa salad. I enjoyed her version, but I thought it needed a little something ... extra. So may I present to you my version of mango and black bean quinoa salad (hereafter referred to as mabbqs)!

As an added bonus, this recipe can stand alone as a dinner, and provided your spices are gluten free then it is also a very tasty and sharable GF recipe! Also, since it is a refrigerated dish, it works wonderfully for lunches.

Step 1: Ingredients!

Now, the best way to do this is to either prep the salad the night before you plan to eat it, or by lunchtime the day of if you are using it for dinner. Here is what you will need:

>  ~2 cups uncooked quinoa
>  1 pound bag of mango chunks (or equivalent fresh if you have the patience/can catch them in season)
>  1 ~16 ounce can of black beans (or equivalent home prepped), well rinsed and drained
>  1 large or several smaller bell pepper(s) - any color is fine though red, yellow, or orange taste a little better than green in this recipe
>  1 cup fresh or ~1/4 cup freeze dried cilantro
>  water or broth to cook quinoa in

Optional for a slightly spicy version:
>  1/4 cup white vinegar
>  ~1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
>  1 tsp cayenne pepper
>  ~1/2 tsp chili powder

Bowl for soaking quinoa (if yours is not presoaked)
Cutting board and decent knife
Large-ish pot for cooking quinoa
Bowl for marinating mango, if doing the spicy option
Bowl that is big enough to put everything in - note that quinoa expands 2-3 times when cooked
Measuring cups/spoons

Step 2: Prep Your Quinoa

This is a very important step, and by the clock the longest step (though it is largely a passive thing). If your quinoa came in a box or a bag, read it very carefully. If it is presoaked and ready to cook, you can skip this step. If you bought it in a bulk bin or you don't know FOR SURE it is presoaked, this is super important! Quinoa is coated in saponin, which if not properly rinsed off can leave a bitter aftertaste, or give you an upset tummy (depending on where you read about it).

Anywho! Obviously if you already have a routine or method for soaking your quinoa, do that! If this is your first time, here is what works for me regardless of the amount I am preparing.

Measure out the uncooked amount of quinoa (in this case ~ 2 cups) into a bowl; you don't want it to completely fill the bowl. Cover the quinoa with cool water, up to an inch or so above the solids if you have room, then give it a swish with your hand to break up any clumps and get it to settle. On your first pass you may have floaters (as seen in the picture).

Let this sit for 20-30 minutes, then carefully pour off as much of the water as you can. I use my free hand to block the quinoa from coming out. Refill with cool water, swish, and pour off again until it stops foaming up when you put in new water.

Now, fill it again to the level of your first soak and - you guessed it - soak another 20-30 minutes. The water will probably look less cloudy this time, and also fewer bubble and floaters.

Finally, give it one or two more pours/rinses just to flush everything out. Now you are ready to cook with it!

This may be a bit of overkill, but using this method I have never had a problem with aftertaste or tummy ache.

Step 3: Prepare the Mango - Regular Recipe

If you want to prepare the mabbqs (hehe that is fun to write!) as the original recipe says, this page is for you. If you want the spicy version, do this too.

Take your thawed bag of mango (you did thaw it, right?).  Open it up and remove a few chunks at a time. Slice the chunks in half, or thirds for the really big ones. Place the chunks in a bowl for holding - the bowl you will create the salad in if stopping here, or a bowl for marinating if you are doing the spicy.

Cutting the mango is not strictly necessary, but I have had it both ways and cut it more pleasant to eat.

Step 4: Preparing the Mango - Spicy Version!

If you are doing the regular version, you can completely skip this page. If you want a little adventure, read on!

Now, we are going to marinate the mango and accomplish two things: one, give it a little kick without overwhelming the entire dish and two, making a nice "dressing" to mix in the finished salad.

Ideally, do this step during the first soak of the quinoa. The finished mabbqs tastes a little better if this has an hour or more to marinate, but as little as 30 minutes does work.

Take your cut mango in the bowl you will marinate it in, and add whatever juice was in the bag. Also add any juice on the cutting board. Now add 1/4 cup of white vinegar and ~ 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar. I don't have an actual 1/8 cup measure, so I eyeball it as half the 1/4 cup measure.

Measure out one level tsp of cayenne pepper (if you try this and find it not spicy enough, feel free to up it - but I would recommend trying it this way first so you have an idea of where this is starting from). Add ~1/2 tsp of chili powder. I do have a half tsp measure but ... well for the sake of fewer dishes I eyeball this measurement too ;)

Stir this all up. You want to make sure the mango slices all get as even a coating as possible. They will not be all submerged and that is ok.

Pop this in the fridge while it sits and lets move on!

Step 5: Cook the Quinoa, Part 1

Now that your quinoa is rinsed (or if you have presoaked quinoa and are joining us at this step ;) ), it is time to cook it.

Dump your rinsed quinoa in your large pot. It will probably be clumpy and that is ok! It is not necessary to smooth it out across the bottom of the pot, but I think it makes it easier to figure out how much liquid to add.

Now you are going to add your liquid. I don't measure this out by "cups" or anything; instead, I measure it as however much liquid it takes to be about 1/4 inch above the level of the quinoa.

You can use plain water, or any kind of broth you want. I am using home made chicken broth here. I am not sure that it adds all that much to the finished product, but I like to think it does ;)

Set this, covered if you can, on the stove on medium heat. Check it about every 10 minutes. I usually find that my quinoa is cooked in 30-ish minutes.

Now that you have the quinoa set up on the stove, lets go back to prep!

Step 6: Rinse Your Beans

Open your can of beans (or pull out your pre-soaked home prepped beans). Give them a really good rinse! I like to do this step now, so I can set the strainer on a jar or cup to make sure the beans drain well.

Step 7: Cook the Quinoa, Part Two

So this is roughly the 10 minute mark on my quinoa. It has come up to heat and stuff yay!

I removed the lid to take the picture for you, NOT to stir. I find it cooks faster and more evenly if I don't try to stir until the end. Maybe I am nuts (ok probably I am but that is a different story), but it works for me.

So lets move on while the quinoa cooks down some more.

Step 8: Chop Up the Bell Pepper

Now would be the time to wash your bell pepper(s) well, cut off the top, get rid of the seeds, and chop them up. Really, there is no right or wrong size here. I shoot for maybe 1/2 inch-ish pieces, but if you have little ones or want less bell pepper-to-quinoa, you can certainly adjust the size accordingly.

Step 9: Cook the Quinoa, Part the Final

At 20-25ish minutes, this is what my quinoa looks like. It is still obviously damp but there is no liquid visible above it. At this point, I cook it without the lid.

At 25-30 minutes (or ~5 after you take the lid off, if your time is varying), give it a "scrape test" (second picture). If you stir it up, drag a spoon through it, and can see liquid "seeping" out of it, cook it longer. When you can stir/drag and not get the liquid seeping you can remove it from heat.

I like to remove it when it no longer seeps but isn't sticking yet. This gives me a softer quinoa. If you want it a little firmer, you can cook it til some stickage occurs. This will be more difficult to clean up after, but it is certainly an option!

Now that your quinoa is cooked, you can dump it in the bowl you will be making the salad in.

Step 10: Mix the Salad

Now add (in any order, really) the mango (including the vinegar marinade if you did it), bell peppers, black beans, and cilantro.You can mix after each addition or wait to do so at the end, whatever suits you!

I have not done this with fresh cilantro myself. The recipe calls for 1 cup of it, but I can't speak for whether that is not enough, just right, or too much. We are not huge cilantro fans in my house, so I do the freeze dried stuff. 1/4 cup seems to be enough to get the flavor in there without being overpowering; I don't think it would taste quite right without *something* ... if you guys play with other herbs I would love to hear how it works! I have thought of trying mint one time ...

Step 11: Chill and Enjoy!

This salad should be served chilled. If you do the spicy version, several hours at least would be ideal so that the "sauce" can really meld in with the quinoa and everything.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It does take a little planning and prep, but makes a lovely dinner and several good lunches (based on me and my husband's experience)! I think it would be a nice pot luck dish too!

If you try any variations (a spicy vinegar instead of cayenne pepper? other marinades for the mango? something I haven't even thought of?) please share!


So after I posted this, I got to thinking ... thin sliced red onion in place of all or some of the bell pepper would probably be very good! I can't eat raw onion, so if someone tries it let us know :D