Whole Grain Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

photo of whole grain salad with beets and goat cheeseThis salad is kind of a pain. I am not a big grain cook. It requires a bit of timing to get it all done at the same time. Here, I have taken seven different whole grains and cooked them in one pot. Several of them take about 50 minutes and the remaining take about 15 minutes. So, you cook the several and add the remaining 35 minutes later. No big deal, right? But to get the most out of the grains we are also toasting them first. This adds to the flavor. So including the golden beets, the recipe requires roast, toast, boil, toast, boil, drain, and mix. It isn’t hard. There is just a lot going on. But you are rewarded with a truly lovely dish. The beets and the little bit of honey in the dressing add a wonderful but earthy sweetness to the salad. The purple cabbage adds color and crunch, and the goat cheese is a nice creamy contrast. The pecans were something of an afterthought but they play so well with the grains and the beets. Slivered almonds or walnuts would be nice if you don’t have pecans handy.

photo preparing beets

Whole Grain Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Roasted beets and whole grains make this salad substantial.
  • 1-½ pounds golden beets (two bunches)
  • ¼ cup pearled barley
  • ¼ cup hard red winter wheat
  • ¼ cup whole oat groats
  • ¼ cup buckwheat groats
  • ⅛ cup millet
  • ⅛ cup quinoa
  • ⅛ cup black quinoa
  • 1-½ cups purple cabbage, shredded
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare the beets by peeling them and cutting them into ¼” to ⅓” chunks. Coat them lightly with canola oil and place them in an oven-safe baking dish. Roast them for 40 minutes or until they are tender. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, add some salt to the boiling water. To toast the grains, heat a frying or sauté pan over medium heat and add the hard winter wheat, the pearled barley, and the whole oat groats and stir them in the dry pan for 4 minutes. Add these grains to the boiling water. Set a timer for 35 minutes.
  3. In the same pan, toast the buckwheat groats and millet for 4 minutes and set aside. Rinse the quinoa and black quinoa in a bowl with water and drain in a colander lined with 2 layers of paper towels. Rinsing eliminates a natural coating on the quinoa that can cause bitterness.
  4. When the grains have been boiling for 35 minutes, add the buckwheat groats, millet, quinoa and black quinoa to the rest of the grains in the pot. Allow the grains to boil gently for an additional 15 minutes. Test for doneness. They should have some firmness left. You do not want them to be mushy.
  5. Remove the pot to the sink and pour out the excess water. Add cold water to the pot. Pour out the excess water. Add cold water to the pot again. Repeat this process until the grains are no longer hot. Pour off the excess water. Then pour the grains into a colander lined with several layers of paper towels. Allow them to drain thoroughly. After they have drained and dried a bit, put them in a covered bowl and put them in the refrigerator to chill. [I use this method because many of these grains will go right through the holes of a standard colander. If you have a better way, let us all know.]
  6. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake the jar until the dressing is well mixed. Make sure you shake it long enough to incorporate the honey, which can sit on the bottom.
  7. To make the salad, mix 3 cups of the chilled grain mix, the cabbage, and the pecans. Add enough dressing to coat (save the remaining dressing for right before serving). This can sit in the refrigerator until serving time. When you are ready to serve, taste the salad and add dressing and salt and pepper, as needed. Top the salad with crumbled goat cheese.

photo of whole grainsNotes:

Sometimes golden beets can take on a grayish tinge after being cooked. I did a little bit of research and the general consensus seemed to be that it was part of the oxidation process and that some just did that. I had a few chunks get discolored and I threw some of them out and kept a few too. It doesn’t affect the flavor, merely the appearance.

I served this salad on lettuce for appearance, but it adds nothing to the dish. If you want more greens in this, try adding some finely cut spinach and mixing it in with the cabbage. The nice thing about the cabbage, though, is that it holds up in the refrigerator for leftovers, whereas greens might not. Keep any remaining dressing on hand for leftovers. And, the leftovers are wonderful, perhaps even better than the first day. So feel free to make it a few hours or even a day ahead and add the cheese before serving.

photo of how to assemble the whole grain saladSpeaking of leftovers, since you are going to the trouble of cooking the grains already, consider doubling the batch. The plain grains will keep covered in the refrigerator and make an excellent hot breakfast topped with pecans, maple syrup, maple sugar and a little bit of milk.

Finally, I made a version of this salad about a year ago. It took forever because of the photos. I loaded this giant salad (double this recipe) into a glass bowl and then asked Lily to hold the bowl right in the perfect light for me so I could grab one last shot. I can be an idiot. And, life just happens. The big bowl was heavy and she tried to change her grip and dumped the entire bowl on the floor. She was so very sad and disappointed. Lily cried and cried feeling that she had ruined everything. I went into “it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK” mode. We scooped up the salad from the floor (we have a very generous five-second rule around here) and ate it for dinner. Poppy, our Golden, took care of what remained on the floor. But there was no final picture except for this last one…which Lily generously let me take once we got to laughing about it all. Notice that I put Granny Smith apples, dried cherries, and walnuts in the floor version…you can customize this salad in a million different ways.

photo of salad on the floor


  1. Kelly says

    Karen, you are certainly right about that. This is one of those recipes in which having easy access to a Whole Foods or Central Market is key. For me it is just a visit to the bulk foods section. I chose 7 because I could. This would easily be as good with 3 or 4 grains too, though. The nice thing is that grains keep nicely. So the next time you go to STL maybe you could head by the Whole Foods and stock up on grains. But, your point is well taken. Unless you have access to one of these types of markets, this would be a tough one to pull off.


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