Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad Is my answer to winter salad. Roasted vegetables, middle eastern spices, quinoa, chicken and a garlicky dressing satisfy hunger when the cold weather demands more from us. It’s my take on a middle eastern salad as I daydream of warm sun during grey months.

Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash & Garlic Yogurt
Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash & Garlic Yogurt

If you read my last post you know that I’m kick-starting January with my healthy boots on! December was fun. The champagne made me giddy, the chocolate made me smile, the vin chaud warmed my soul and the food…. oooohhh the food…..

As sad as I was to pack away the Christmas ornaments, it was time. Time for a new start. A healthy start.

I recently read that New Years resolutions often don’t work because people state them in the future sense instead of living them in the present. Placing our intentions in the future makes them easier to avoid whereas if we accept them as  our current situation we trick the mind into having to act on them. Instead of saying “I will eat healthier,” or “I will exercise more,” or “I won’t scream at my children,” we should say “I am a healthy eater,” or “I exercise 4 times a week,” or “I’m a patient parent who never screams at my children even when they stick slime to the new sofa.” Basically, we need to repeat our mantra and act on it accordingly so that the universe can’t call us out as liars. So here I go….

I’m a healthy eater!

Ok, so most of the year this is actually very true so I don’t expect a round of applause when I achieve this. It’s not like I’m shouting “I’m a marathon runner!” Or “I never drink wine!“ Those are two resolutions that I just don’t feel ever need to be part of my new year. But the healthy eating resolution, even for me, a girl who is known as “the healthy chef” is difficult. It’s not easy getting back on track when you’ve enjoyed a walk on the wild side for a few weeks. That’s why I made this salad this weekend.

Sumac Chicken Quinoa Salad …..

I came up with this recipe this weekend because I wasn’t quite ready to dive into the green abyss. Green juices. Green salads. Green soups. I’ve had a month-long relationship with fine food and wine, I can’t just go cold turkey on that (although cold turkey with a bit of cranberry sauce sounds quite good right now). Anyways, I will get there. Next week I may even do a juice cleanse. But the first few days of the healthy new me required more substance so I came up with this salad because 1) I adore butternut squash 2) I adore roasted onions 3) garlic yogurt makes everything taste good. This is the kind of salad that is so substantial it doesn’t feel like a salad. And that’s my kind of salad, especially in January.

Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash & Garlic Yogurt

Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash & Garlic Yogurt

The recipe below is just a guideline. If you like butternut as much as I do you can add more. If you don’t, use another vegetable. If you hate rocket (arugula), use baby spinach. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice and thanks to the God we call Ottolenghi is quite readily available now in supermarkets or can be found in Middle Eastern markets (Opio for my local readers). But if you don’t have it don’t stress. Use more of the other spices and add some grated lemon zest. Or use your own favorite spices. Like I said this is only a guideline, play around a bit. And remember…..

I am a healthy eater!!!


Sumac Chicken & Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash & Garlic-Yogurt

This winter salad incorporates sweet roasted vegetables, toasted nuts and fresh herbs with peppery rocket and a lovely garlic yogurt sauce. Make it for dinner one night and enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day.

  • Author: Jessica
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


  • For the marinade:
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons sumac, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 34 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1/2 of a LARGE butternut squash, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces
  • 1 large or 2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 large handful of mint leaves, torn
  • 1 large handful or parsley or coriander leaves
  • 4 large handfuls of rocket (arugula)
  • For the Yogurt Sauce:
  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced herbs (mint, parsley or coriander)
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Combine the lemon juice, oil, sumac and spices in a small bowl. Pour 1/3 of the marinade over the chicken breasts and allow to marinate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. In a rice cooker or on a stove top cook the quinoa by combining 1 cup of quinoa with a scant 2 cups of water plus a swig of olive oil and some salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a slow simmer and cover and cook until done. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  4. Place the butternut squash and red onions on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and pour over 1/3 of the marinade. Toss well and season generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the chicken breasts on the baking tray next to the vegetables and season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through and the butternut squash is soft and caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes but check throughout. If your chicken breasts are small they may cook faster or vice versa so you may need to pull one or the other out of the oven first.
  7. Meanwhile make the yogurt sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  8. In the last five minutes of the roasting time add the pine nuts to the pan to toast with the chicken.
  9. When the chicken and vegetables are cooked through set aside the chicken to rest. Toss the butternut squash, onions, quinoa, pine nuts and fresh herbs together in a bowl. Drizzle over the remaining sumac marinade and toss, sprinkling more sumac in as you toss.
  10. Line 4 plates or a platter with rocket (arugula) leaves. Top the leaves with the quinoa and butternut salad.
  11. Slice the chicken breasts and arrange over the salad. Sprinkle with a little sumac.
  12. Serve with dollops of garlic-yogurt sauce and pass the rest on the side.