This summer grain salad is full of fresh vegetables and herbs. Whole grains provide a satisfying, chewy texture to this salad, while the vegetables give it great crunch. It is dressed with an easy, flavorful red wine vinaigrette. This salad is naturally vegan, so it is perfect for those who eat a plant-based diet.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Why you should make this recipe
If you love hearty grain salads with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables, this salad might be for you.
- Nutrient dense – This summer grain salad is full of nutrient rich vegetables, grains and herbs.
- Make ahead – Cook your grains ahead of time, then simply toss everything together before serving.
- Versatile – Use the ingredients as a starting point. You can make it your own with whatever you have on hand.
Summer Grain Salad
Hearty salads with healthy grains and vegetables fill you up and give you fuel for the day. This fresh and light salad is dressed with a simple vinaigrette and is naturally vegan.
Perfect for summer picnics, beach days or weekday lunches, this healthy grain salad will leave you feeling satisfied.
Spring and summer see an abundance of fresh produce. This is a great way to get more vegetables into your diet, or to use what you might have growing in your garden.
You might have many of these things in your kitchen right now. You can always swap out ingredients for items you already have.
- Quinoa – Naturally gluten-free and a complete protein.
- Barley – Great source of fiber and protein.
- Farro – Delicious, nutty flavor and chewy texture.
- Parsley – Flat leaf Italian parsley, it is the unsung hero of herbs.
- Chives – Mild onion flavor.
- Dill – You could substitute with fresh thyme, if you don’t like dill.
- Tomatoes – Use whatever tomatoes you like. I’m fortunate to grow most of mine, so that’s what I use.
- Carrots – I buy rainbow carrots to get more color into this summer grain salad.
- Cucumber – Hothouse or English cucumbers are my favorites.
- Bell peppers – Red, orange and/or yellow are perfect.
- Red wine vinegar – Provides some zing to our salad.
- Olive oil – I really like this arbequina olive oil, but use what you like.
How to make it
Here’s a quick summary of how to make this grain salad. Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
First, cook the grains and set them aside to cool. They need to be completely cooled before adding to the vegetables and herbs, otherwise the herbs will wilt.
This can be done a day or two ahead of time. If you like to batch cook, you can cook all of the grains and store some in the freezer for later.
While the grains are cooking, chop the herbs and vegetables. Add them to a large mixing bowl, and set aside until you are ready to mix the salad.
When the grains have cooled, mix them with the vinaigrette, then gently fold in the vegetables and herbs until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
Summer grain salad FAQ’s
Absolutely. Swap out the barley and farro for gluten-free grains like quinoa and this summer salad is suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.
Fully dressed, the salad will last 3 – 4 days. After that, the vegetables and herbs start to get soggy. To make it last longer, mix everything and leave it dry. Put into a container with a tight-fitting lid and toss with vinaigrette right before serving.
Yes! Here’s how I do it – Cook the grains the day before and let them chill in the fridge overnight. You can also grate the carrots, chop the peppers and cucumber ahead of time and store in airtight containers in the fridge.
Fresh herbs can be washed and dried (if needed), then chopped and stored in containers with a piece of paper towel to absorb any moisture.
When you’re ready to serve, all that is left to do is mix it all and finish any last minute chopping.
You can freeze the grains. Cook and freeze the grains, then portion them out and put in zip-top bags and stack in the freezer.
This makes it much easier to throw together a quick lunch for the next day, I just toss a bag from the freezer into the fridge before I go to bed.
Variations and substitutions
The grains and vegetables change every so often, giving the salad plenty of variations. Try grains that are unfamiliar to you, you might just find your new favorite thing!
Swap out vegetables and herbs with the seasons to make this all year. In the fall and winter, use a variety of root vegetables and squashes in place of summer tomatoes and cucumbers.
Helpful tools and equipment
- First, you’ll need a large cutting board. I like to have plenty of room to work instead of trying to chop on a small surface.
- Next, you’ll need a sharp knife. I love my Wüsthof Chef’s knife, it’s been my go-to knife for over 20 years.
- You’ll also need a couple of good-sized mixing bowls, a pot or two to cook the grains, and a colander to drain them. Just the basics!
Grain salads for summer
- Mediterranean couscous salad
- Freekeh salad with fruits and nuts
- Mediterranean quinoa salad
- Mango lime quinoa with black beans
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- 1 cup barley, cooked // 240ml
- 1 cup farro, cooked // 240ml
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked //240ml
- 1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced //360ml
- 2 cups, grape tomatoes, halved or quartered // 480ml
- 1 cup bell peppers, diced // 240ml
- 1 cup rainbow carrots, shredded // 240ml
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped // 60ml
- 1/8 cup fresh chives, finely chopped // 30ml
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped // 120ml
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal, if using table salt or Morton's kosher, reduce by half)
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar // 80ml
- 1/4 cup olive oil // 60ml
- zest and juice of 1 lemon, optional... for extra zing!
- Cook grains according to package directions, set aside to cool completely. (Can be done ahead of time)
- In a small bowl: mix vinegar, oil, salt & pepper together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix grains with vinaigrette until thoroughly combined. (If making ahead, stop here. Then proceed to step 4 when you are ready to serve.)
- Fold in vegetables and herbs until evenly distributed.
- While your grains are cooking, chop up the veggies and herbs. As they are cooking and cooling, you are getting all the vegetables prepped and ready to toss in.
- Use what you have. Freekeh, brown rice, wheatberries, and amaranth are all great options.
- Time-saving tip: Batch cook grains and freeze some for future use. You can add grains to soups, green salads, making stuffed peppers or making more grain salads.
- Making this salad in the fall? Swap out the summer produce for fall produce. Things like squash, root vegetables, etc. fit well here. Swap out dill for thyme or rosemary.
- No red wine vinegar? Swap it out for apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar.
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 146Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 205mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
Thanks for stopping by! Have a delicious day 🙂
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Originally published 5/29/16.
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