Sweet and Tangy Summer Squash Quinoa Will Freshen Up Your Weeknight Meal

Summertime, summertime, you are so darn fine.

Vertical close-up image of a white plate with a colorful veggie side dish, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I have been so excited for summer this year. Why, you ask?

Well, the spring in Colorado this year was kind of a long one. The weather turned gorgeous and sunny, getting me all excited to spend time outside and finally be warm. And then it snowed.

Then it started to get nice and warm again. The snow melted, and the sun came out.

But it snowed again, with the weather flip-flopping back and forth from spring winter in the blink of an eye, 70 degrees out one day and 30 degrees the next.

Vertical image of a quinoa and vegetable side dish in two white bowls next to glasses of white wine and basil leaves.

When that up and down ping-pong game the weather was playing was finally over, I became a sunny and happy person again. I could finally sit out on the patio at the end of a long day to enjoy a cold beer, and watch the pups play in the backyard.

Whenever I think of summer, I think grilling. That’s always the first thing on my mind. But if you’re like me, after trying this sweet and tangy quinoa recipe, that is about to change.

When I think about eating homemade quinoa dishes, my mind usually goes to winter or fall, sides and mains made with hefty amounts of roasted root vegetables or hearty savory spices that bring the pseudograin to life in a comforting way.

Vertical image of two white dishes with a colorful grain dish, with forks, glasses of white wine, napkins, and basil leaves.

But this has reminded me that quinoa is even more versatile than I thought. It’s easy to lighten up when you pair it with the right ingredients, perfect for enjoying year-round.

This recipe brings together such a wide variety of flavors, all harmoniously blended together. The overall taste is sweet and tangy, with bursts spice and nuttiness throughout.

Toasted slivered almonds give the dish an added crunch and toastiness that elevated the fresh flavors of the summer squash, jalapeno, and bell pepper. Of course you get that little zing of spice from the jalapeno, with a burst of brightness from fresh lemon juice.

Vertical top-down image of two white bowls with a vegetable and grain dish on top of square tan napkins surrounded by peppers, yellow zucchini, and basil leaves.

The raisins bring a deep sweetness that’s unique to dried fruit. You can use regular raisins, but I also tested this recipe with golden raisins and it tastes just as good.

You can serve this grain salad as a vegetarian main course with tons of summer-seasoned brightness. It won’t weigh you down, so you can feel light and ready to take on those summer nights on the back patio without being too full.

This also makes for a great dish to bring over to a friend’s house to chow down on during those extra long summer nights. It’s one of those recipes that will have everyone oohing and ahhing over the unique flavor combinations.

Vertical image of two white bowls with a colorful vegetable and grain dish, with a fork holding up some of the ingredients.

You can even eat it at room temperature, and it’s just as tasty as it is when served warm. That means it’s perfect for transport to a party, or you can pack it up and bring it with you as a surprise meal for a friend or family member in need this season.

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Horizontal image of two white bowls with a squash and quinoa dish on tan napkins.

Sweet and Tangy Summer Squash Quinoa

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 as an entree; 4 as a side 1x


A sweet and tangy quinoa dish flavored with almonds, summer squash, and sweet and sour ingredients like raisins and lemon juice makes for a complex flavor profile with a touch of spice and crunch.


  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped summer squash
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 23 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 small green sweet pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt + more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 10 basil leaves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)


  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add almonds and toast until fragrant and golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add squash, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and green pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves. Stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer cooked vegetables, toasted almonds, and cooked quinoa to a large bowl.
  4. Stir in raisins, lemon juice, and basil until combined. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian

Keywords: quinoa, summer squash, basil, side dish, vegetarian, almonds

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients

Horizontal image of a pot with three neatly divided ingredients.

Chop enough summer squash until you have 1/2 cup total. You can use yellow crookneck squash, which is what I used, or pattypan squash, depending on what’s available in your area. Zucchini makes another nice addition to this recipe.

Check out this article on our sister site Gardener’s Path for more information on the various types of summer squash that you can grow in your garden, or find at the farmers market.

You can also read about the major differences between summer squash and zucchini.

Peel and dice one small onion. You should have about 2/3 cup total.

Peel and smash a few cloves of garlic.

Remove the seeds from one jalapeno, and chop it with a sharp chef’s knife on a sturdy cutting board.

Remove the seeds from a sweet green pepper and chop it as well. You could use a green bell pepper like I did, or a Cubanelle.

Juice one lemon so you have about 2 tablespoons total, and discard any seeds.

Rough chop about 10 basil leaves.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Toast Almonds

Horizontal image of a pan with toasted slivered almonds.

Place a small skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the almonds and toast until they are fragrant. The almonds should be golden brown when they are ready, and this will take about 3-4 minutes.

Keep an eye on them, and give them a toss occasionally so they don’t brown too much on one side.

Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Step 3 – Cook Vegetables

Horizontal image of a mixture of yellow, green, and white chopped vegetables in a black pot.

In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. If you prefer, you could also use olive or avocado oil for this recipe.

Once it’s hot, add the squash, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the garlic cloves, or transfer them to a cutting board and chop them up before adding back to the vegetable mixture, to give the dish a more powerfully garlic flavor.

Stir in the salt and pepper.

Step 4 – Combine Ingredients

Horizontal image of a metal bowl with assorted ingredients, and clumps of herbs and dried fruit.

Add the cooked vegetables, toasted almonds, and cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Stir in the raisins, lemon juice, and basil leaves until combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Horizontal top-down image of a grain and vegetable dish in white bowls on tan napkins surrounded by a green pepper and basil leaves.

Serve immediately, or chill before serving. This recipe can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.

Can I Serve This as a Side Dish?

This dish can totally be served as a side dish instead of a vegetarian main course. And it goes great with lighter proteins.

Horizontal image of two white bowls with a squash and quinoa dish on tan napkins.

I recommend pairing this recipe as a side dish with chicken, white fish, or even your favorite turkey burger.

The brightness of the salad provides a light side that makes the most of your favorite summer vegetables. Bring it to your next backyard barbecue for a surprising dish that’ll wow everyone.

For more quinoa recipes, check out the following:

Will you serve this summery dish as a main or a side? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you try it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on September 25, 2013. Last updated: September 20, 2022 at 11:42 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

8 thoughts on “Sweet and Tangy Summer Squash Quinoa Will Freshen Up Your Weeknight Meal”

  1. I made a quinoa and butternut squash and apple combo not too long ago, was amazingly good.. It’s funny how you and the rest of North America are bidding farewell to summer & its produce, and then embracing squash, pumpkins, apples and thanksgiving treats with such fury. Here in Argentina, we’re happily waving goodbye to what’s been a long-enough winter and welcoming Spring with wide-open arms. Time for lighter foods although I always love seeing recipes that pop up from those with opposite seasons!


    • Felicia, That is one of my favorite parts of blogging: realizing how big the world is. I love hearing about the different weather occurring in different parts of the globe. Reminds me what a small part of it I am. Thanks for letting me see into your world, here and elsewhere online. I’m glad for it!

  2. I feel like we’re in that weird in-between time. Sometimes I go outside and feel like an idiot for not taking a jacket and yet, I walk to the grocery store and still see fresh berries. I’m definitely all for making the most of these last few days : )

    • Kathryn, The other day I got lost searching AirBNB for rentals in Iceland, and that turned into rentals in London… : ) I like picturing it over there, with you not bringing a jacket and finding berries at the store, and I like knowing that in-between times are happening all over.

  3. I’m more than happy to see a few more summer produce recipes. I’m still seeing the last of the summer squash and tomatoes in the markets and I am determined to make myself sick of eating them before they’re gone for the season!


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