Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

The ultimate POWER SALAD! Great for a detox or simply healthy living! Delicious quinoa, avocado, spinach salad with an amazing lemon dressing via chelseasmessyapron.comThe ultimate POWER SALAD! Great for a detox or simply healthy living! Delicious quinoa, avocado, spinach salad with an amazing lemon dressing via chelseasmessyapron.com

This Quinoa Salad recipe is our all-time favorite! We combine perfectly cooked quinoa with an array of fresh, vibrant veggies and the ultimate lemon vinaigrette for a salad you won’t be able to resist second helpings of!

We’ve shared so many variations on this quinoa salad throughout the years; the most popular being: Greek Quinoa SaladThai Quinoa SaladSweet Potato-Quinoa Salad, and Citrus Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

We’re obsessed with this quinoa salad. Not only is it such a nutritious salad, packed with good-for-you ingredients, but it’s also so incredibly flavorful! It’s nice to feel like you’re fueling your body with good ingredients, but it’s amazing to throughly enjoy that process — and that’s what you get with this salad.

Quinoa is one of my favorite “superfoods” and, in salad form, it combines with other vegetables to make a well-rounded and nutritious meal. This quinoa salad is fresh, light, a little tangy, filling, and loaded with texture. The veggies work so well with the quinoa and the dressing is the perfect finishing touch.

Quinoa Tips

  • Make sure to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can make it taste bitter. Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water thoroughly for 30 seconds to a minute. A lot of packaged quinoa now comes pre-rinsed so check your package and potentially save a step!
  • You can improve the flavor of quinoa by seasoning it generously. A little bit of salt goes a long way so don’t forget to add it in. To 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, I add 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt.
  • Allow time for the quinoa to steam. Once the liquid is absorbed, don’t rush to cool the quinoa; instead, let it stand (covered) for at least 10 minutes. Letting the quinoa stand allows the quinoa to fully “pop” and ensures it doesn’t end up watery or mushy. If the quinoa has cooked through, but there is still liquid in the pot, make sure to drain off that liquid to avoid soft or mushy quinoa.
  • Let the cooked quinoa cool completely before adding the other ingredients. (See “quick tip” below.)

QUICK TIP

To speed up the process for quinoa cooling: Spread the cooked and fluffed quinoa on a sheet pan in one even layer. Place the sheet pan in the fridge (or freezer) for 10-15 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. My favorite way to make a quinoa salad is with leftover cooled quinoa (the process is so much quicker). So next time you’re prepping food for the week or preparing a dish with quinoa in it, cook up extra quinoa and use it straight from the fridge in this Quinoa Salad.

Other Quinoa Salad Toppings

Beyond the quinoa, below is a quick break down of the other salad ingredients.

  • Baby spinach. To give the salad bulk, additional nutrients, and even more staying power I like adding salad greens. Baby spinach is our favorite with all these veggies and it holds the quinoa & dressing nicely — especially if it is coarsely chopped first.
  • Cherry tomatoes. While any tomatoes will work, we love the sweetness and juiciness of cherry tomatoes. Quarter especially large cherry tomatoes or halve smaller ones.
  • Fresh avocados. The avocados lend an amazing creamy texture making this salad taste indulgent. Wait for perfectly ripe avocados, as they make a huge difference — you can tell an avocado is ripe if it yields to firm gentle pressure (feels slightly soft, but not mushy).
  • English or Persian cucumbers (sometimes labeled as mini cucumbers). I don’t recommend regular cucumbers because they lack flavor and texture. They also break down more quickly, which isn’t ideal in this salad. You’ll love the crispness of English/Persian cucumbers!
  • Red onion. We love the bite that red onion adds, but with such a small amount being added to the salad, it’s very subtle. If you are sensitive to red onion, feel free to reduce or leave out this ingredient. Alternatively, it can be replaced with green onions or shallots which are both even milder. And on the flip side, if you love red onion, increase the amount added into this salad.
  • Feta cheese. This salty addition pulls everything together in this salad! If you’d prefer a dairy-free salad, this quinoa salad is still tasty without cheese! I made this quinoa salad all throughout a pregnancy and still thoroughly enjoyed it without the cheese.
  • Cilantro. I love adding fresh herbs to salad and cilantro is a nice complementary flavor here. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, we’ve also made this salad with flat-leaf Italian parsley and fresh basil — both are delicious!

Adding Protein to This Quinoa Salad

While it may seem this vegetarian salad is missing protein, it’s actually got a good amount of protein thanks to the quinoa. One cup of cooked quinoa has 24 grams of protein. Plus when you pair the protein in this salad with the healthy fats (olive oil in the dressing and avocado), you’ll be amazed how satiating this salad is!

That said, this Quinoa Salad lends well to additional protein being added; I’d recommend leftover shredded rotisserie chicken — a lemon-herb flavored rotisserie chicken if you can find it! A side of grilled chicken is also a great option.

Lemon vinaigrette

As mentioned, Quinoa Salad is drizzled in a light, fresh, healthy, and tangy vinaigrette. Here are a few tips:

  • Dress to your preference. I love a generously dressed salad, but you may feel differently. Add the dressing slowly and to your personal preference. You probably won’t want the entire batch of dressing on this salad, but then again, you just might want it all! I’d rather you have more than not enough. Leftover dressing stores nicely for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. (See “quick tip” below.) 
    • We often use leftover dressing over roasted vegetables, side salads, and raw garden veggies.
  • Use fresh lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice doesn’t pack the same flavor as fresh, and lemon is the main flavor here, so I highly recommend a real lemon!
  • Sweeten to taste. If you’d prefer the dressing to be more on the tangy side, reduce or omit the honey addition. Alternatively, if you’d like a sweeter dressing, feel free to increase the amount of honey added.

QUICK TIP

Leftover dressing will separate and solidify a bit since olive oil solidifies at cold temperatures. Simply let the dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake to re-combine– and it’s ready to use! If you don’t want extra dressing (and prefer a minimally dressed salad) feel free to make a half recipe of the dressing — it halves nicely!

Quinoa Salad FAQs

1Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Parts of this quinoa salad can be made ahead of time, but it is best enjoyed shortly after being dressed and assembled. You can prep all the veggies (minus the avocado), quinoa, and dressing ahead of time and store them separately in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, chop the avocado (you’ll want the avocado prepped as close to eating as possible) and add it to the salad along with the dressing.

If you aren’t planning on finishing this salad all in one day, I’d recommend keeping the dressing separate from the salad and only dressing what you’ll be eating.

And you can of course always halve the recipe, but you’ll probably want to make a full batch of the dressing to have on hand because it is THAT good. 🙂

2What is quinoa salad made of?

This quinoa salad combines baby spinach, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, cooked & cooled quinoa, and an oregano-lemon vinaigrette.

3Is quinoa healthier than rice?

Quinoa is very nutritious — it’s full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. From purely a calorie perspective: one cup of cooked quinoa has approximately 40 fewer calories than an equal amount of white rice. From more of a nutritional profile, white rice has almost 15 times more grams of carbohydrates while quinoa provides 5 more grams of fiber and double the protein.

4Is quinoa salad served hot or cold?

This salad is best served cold!

It comes together even quicker if you’ve made the quinoa ahead of time and have it stored in the fridge!

5What can I add to quinoa for flavor?

Add some salt: One of the biggest mistakes with making quinoa is not seasoning it. Just like pasta or rice, quinoa needs salt!

6What does quinoa taste like?

Quinoa has a sweet, almost nutty flavor. It should never taste bitter, but if it does, it’s because quinoa has a bitter saponin coating that needs to be rinsed off before cooking. Either purchase pre-rinsed quinoa or rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve under cool water.

One of my favorite things about quinoa is that it nicely takes on the surrounding flavors. It absorbs the dressing nicely which infuses it with a lovely lemon flavor.

Short answer: naturally yes. However, a lot of quinoa is produced in facilities where cross contamination could occur. Make sure to check the label on your package!

More Healthy Salad Recipes

Avocado Quinoa Salad

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This Quinoa Salad recipe is our all-time favorite! We combine perfectly cooked quinoa with an array of fresh, vibrant veggies and the ultimate lemon vinaigrette for a salad you won’t be able to resist second helpings of!

Avocado Quinoa Salad

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This Quinoa Salad recipe is our all-time favorite! We combine perfectly cooked quinoa with an array of fresh, vibrant veggies and the ultimate lemon vinaigrette for a salad you won’t be able to resist second helpings of!

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup (186g) uncooked white quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cups (8 oz; 225g) fresh cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
  • 1-1/2 cups (207g) English or Persian cucumber, cut into half moons
  • 1/4 cup (32g) red onion, finely chopped
  • 7-1/2 cups (5 oz; 150g) lightly packed fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 large ripe avocados, pit removed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup (15g) fresh cilantro or flat-leaf Italian parsley, optional (this is about 1/3 of the bunch)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) Feta Cheese, optional and to taste

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons (63g) red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (32g) Dijon mustard, do not use regular mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup (00g) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (20g) honey
  • 1 large lemon (3 (45g) tablespoons fresh lemon juice)
  • Fine sea salt and pepper

Instructions

  • QUINOA: Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve to remove the bitter saponin coating. Combine the quinoa and 2 cups water in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add in 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste), reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep the quinoa covered, and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in the fridge or freezer to cool to room temperature. Quinoa can be prepared 3-4 days in advance.

  • DRESSING: Meanwhile, prep the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a wide mouth mason jar. Season to taste with salt and pepper; I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Briskly shake to combine and emulsify. Store in the fridge while prepping the vegetables.

  • VEGGIE PREP: Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber(s) (peel if desired, we leave the peel on), finely chop a quarter of a red onion, roughly chop fresh baby spinach, remove the pits and chop the avocados. Finely chop the cilantro or parsley if desired.

  • ASSEMBLY: In a large bowl, combine the roughly chopped spinach and quinoa. Toss to combine. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, avocado, and fresh herbs. Remove the dressing from the fridge and shake it well. Before adding dressing read Instruction #5. Drizzle on the dressing (to desired preference, you may not want it all) and toss to generously coat everything. If desired, add feta cheese. Serve immediately.

  • STORAGE: If you aren’t eating this salad all in one sitting and want leftovers, only add avocado, feta, and dressing to what will be eaten. This salad doesn’t sit well once dressed.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 313kcal

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

The ultimate POWER SALAD! Great for a detox or simply healthy living! Delicious quinoa, avocado, spinach salad with an amazing lemon dressing via chelseasmessyapron.comThe ultimate POWER SALAD! Great for a detox or simply healthy living! Delicious quinoa, avocado, spinach salad with an amazing lemon dressing via chelseasmessyapron.com

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