Citrus Quinoa Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
DELICIOUS powerhouse AVOCADO QUINOA SALAD with the best healthy dressing! via chelseasmessyapron.com | #salad #quinoa #mixedgreens #lettuce #healthy #protein #vegetarian #easy #quick #familyfriendly #orange #avocado #nutrition #health #wellness

Nutritious, fresh, and flavorful Citrus Quinoa Salad overflows with clementine oranges, roasted pistachios, creamy avocado, and goat (or feta) cheese. This salad is drizzled with a tangy and sweet citrus vinaigrette.

Try our other popular quinoa salads next! This Quinoa Salad with a lemon vinaigrette or this Kale and Quinoa Salad are two favorites on the site.

Overhead image of Citrus Quinoa Salad in a bowl

Citrus Quinoa Salad

If you’re anything like me, your December was filled with way too many treats. Way too many. The minute January hits, there’s nothing I crave more than big hearty salads to save me from my sugar coma.

My sister got married three days after Christmas and we spent the two days leading up to her wedding baking 800 cookies. These Snickerdoodles, these Toffee Cookies, and these Caramel Chocolate Cookies were the favorites of the evening!

Baking 800 cookies really means we probably baked around 900 cookies and ended up with 800–all in the name of taste testing of course! I’ve lost count of how many cookies I’ve eaten the last couple of weeks, and I am certainly ready to increase my salad intake for the next month or so to rebalance a bit.

Process shots-- images of the mixed greens, quinoa, oranges, pistachios, avocado, and cheese being mixed together and dressing being made.

Let’s talk quinoa

This salad starts with cooked and cooled quinoa–or leftover quinoa from an earlier meal. Below are a few tips; you can also reference this guide on how to cook quinoa for more information.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Let the cooked quinoa cool completely before adding the other ingredients. (See “quick tip” below.)
  • I love mixing completely cooled quinoa with lettuce for added texture and vibrancy. We use mixed greens in this Citrus Quinoa Salad, but baby spinach would also be delicious.

QUICK TIP

To speed up the quinoa cooling process, 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 alongside that and use it straight from the fridge in this Citrus Quinoa Salad.

Citrus Dressing

The dressing is simple, mild, sweet, a little bit tangy, and the perfect finishing touch to this salad.

It’s incredibly simple to make — simply combine all the ingredients in a Mason jar and shake to emulsify. The one tool that makes this dressing even easier is a citrus juicer. It will transform your lemons and oranges to lemon juice (and orange juice) in seconds!

QUICK TIP

The dressing can be made in advance; just be sure to shake it up again before drizzling over the Citrus Quinoa Salad. Store any leftover (or made ahead) dressing in the fridge. If the dressing separates or hardens in the fridge, don’t be alarmed; olive oil does this at cold temps. Simply set it out at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes and then shake it vigorously to re-combine.

Up-close image of the dressing being poured over the Citrus Quinoa Salad.

Other Citrus Quinoa Salad Toppings

  • Avocados. The avocado lends an amazing creamy texture to this Citrus Quinoa Salad. Wait for perfectly ripe avocados– they make a huge difference in the overall texture. Here’s how to tell an avocado is ripe
  • Pistachios. I like to use dry-roasted and lightly salted for the best flavor (without extra work!). If they’re already shelled, that can also save some prep time.
  • Oranges. If clementines are in season, those are my favorite to use! If you don’t have access to clementines, a can of mandarin oranges also works well. Make sure to thoroughly drain the can before adding it to the salad.
  • Cheese. I’m obsessed with goat’s cheese in this salad, but unfortunately, my kiddos don’t share my affinity. Feta cheese is a great alternative, and if you’re dairy intolerant this Citrus Quinoa Salad is still delicious without cheese.

Citrus Quinoa Salad Variations

  • Adding protein. While it may seem this meatless salad is missing protein, it actually has a surprising amount of plant-based protein in the quinoa. (One cup of cooked quinoa has 24 grams of protein.) That said, if you’d like more protein, I’d recommend adding some grilled chicken or grilled flank steak (thinly sliced) on the side.
  • Nuts. If you don’t eat nuts, feel free to leave them off! Replace them with dried cranberries or dried tart cherries. Alternatively, swap out the pistachios for a different kind of nuts like pecans or sliced almonds.
  • Swapping out fruit. If you aren’t sure about fruit in a salad, try roasting up some beets in this salad and replacing the oranges with those beets. More details on roasting beets in this beet and goat cheese salad recipe.

Up-close overhead image of Citrus Quinoa Salad, ready to be served

Citrus Quinoa Salad Storage

Once dressed, this quinoa salad doesn’t store well. The dressing makes the lettuce and other ingredients soggy. I recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day.

Store dressing and salad separately. (You’ll also want to store the avocado separately as well since it will brown.)

More Quinoa Salads:

FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content.

Citrus Quinoa Salad

5 from 5 votes
A nutritious, fresh, and flavorful Citrus Quinoa Salad with clementine oranges, roasted pistachios, creamy avocado, and goat (or feta) cheese. This salad is drizzled with a tangy and sweet citrus vinaigrette.
Print Recipe

Citrus Quinoa Salad

5 from 5 votes
A nutritious, fresh, and flavorful Citrus Quinoa Salad with clementine oranges, roasted pistachios, creamy avocado, and goat (or feta) cheese. This salad is drizzled with a tangy and sweet citrus vinaigrette.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword citrus quinoa salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Quinoa Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings (as a side)
Calories 244kcal

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/2 cup (95g) uncooked quinoa (I use tricolor; regular works great!)
  • 5 cups (100g) fresh spring mix (baby lettuce & baby greens)
  • 3 3 fresh clementine oranges (~1-3/4 cup; 205g) Or 1 can (15 oz.) mandarin oranges, well drained
  • 1/3 cup (35g) shelled and coarsely chopped, roasted and lightly salted pistachios
  • 1/3 cup (40g) crumbled goat or feta cheese optional (I like goat cheese best)
  • 1 large ripe avocado diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice optional

Dressing

  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (do not use regular mustard)
  • 2 tablespoons (26g) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (16g) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (16g) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons (35g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (35g) honey (add slowly to desired sweetness)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Instructions

  • QUINOA: Combine the quinoa and water with salt to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt) in a small pot. Follow package directions to cook the quinoa. Cook until all of the liquid is absorbed and quinoa has "popped", about 15-25 minutes (depending on heat, pot size, etc). Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes to steam. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl in the fridge to chill through. (To get it cold faster, spread it on a lined sheet pan and place in the freezer). Quinoa can be prepared 3-4 days in advance.
  • DRESSING: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a Mason jar. Add salt and pepper to taste (I add about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, but add to your personal preference). Seal the jar and shake until ingredients are combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • SALAD PREP: Thoroughly drain the mandarin oranges or peel and segment clementines, shell and coarsely chop the pistachios, remove the skin and pit of the avocado, and thinly slice or chop. Drizzle the fresh lemon over the avocado.
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: In a large bowl, add in the spring salad mix and the cooked, COMPLETELY cooled quinoa. Gently toss to combine. Add in the oranges, pistachios, goat cheese, and avocado. Remove the dressing from the fridge, shake well, and pour over the salad (See Note 1.) We like using all the dressing for this salad, but you may want less depending on how dressed you like your salads (add slowly and to preference). Add some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt to taste. Enjoy immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you aren't planning to finish the salad, only dress what you'll be eating. Also, only prep the number of avocados that you'll be eating that day.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 244kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 220mg | Potassium: 761mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 15058IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 3mg

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.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

More Recipes You'll Love

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

30 mins

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Cherry Balsamic Salad Dressing

20 mins

Cherry Balsamic Salad Dressing

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Citrus Salad

35 mins

Citrus Salad

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Fruit Salad Recipe

30 mins

Fruit Salad Recipe

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

FREE BONUS

FREE BONUS

EASY MEAL SECRETS:
How to Make Mealtime Hassle Free!

5 secrets to easy, fast and delicious dinners.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




21 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh man, this salad is SO good! I doubled it for my Bunco group of 12, but still had quite a bit left over, which is fine by me because I have certainly enjoyed the leftovers! Knowing there would most likely be leftovers, I served the dressing separately. There was WAY more dressing left than salad, however, so if I were ever to dress it beforehand, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t add it all. I like all the yummy ingredients to shine in a salad and have the dressing as a hint of complementary flavor in the background. Having said that, this dressing is delicious and I will enjoy it on other salads as well. But what an excellent recipe—the goat cheese was delicious and I will have to add a little more of it next time. Thanks for sharing this!!!

    1. You are so welcome Jana! 🙂 I’m thrilled that it was a hit! And you can never go wrong with more cheese 🙂

    2. Agree – too much dressing… that said, just dress seperately & save the rest in the fridge. I switched out avocado for dried cranberries since I think they make for better texture & salad keeps better that way- also used goat cheese.

    1. The lemon gets used in the dressing (2 tablespoons) and it’s used to squeeze fresh lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from browning too quickly. Enjoy!

  2. 5 stars
    The recipe is great, and I loved it. However there is wayyy too much sauce. I think half of the quantities included in the recipe are more than enough, otherwise it conceals the taste of other ingredients.

    1. Glad you loved it! 🙂 The dressing is definitely added to personal preference — some people like more and some less 🙂

  3. Thank you very much for your original and beautiful recipes. They are not only tasty but also very colorful on the table. Like our whole family.

  4. 5 stars
    Even my not so healthy family and friends love this salad! I just recommended it to my sister who called and needed something for an office party.

    1. 5 stars
      I thought the dressing amount was perfect but I used 1.5 cups quinoa as that’s what I had leftover! I used lime instead of lemon, maple syrup instead of honey and no cheese as WFPB these days and it was GOOD 👏🏻 I added some red cabbage too 🌈

  5. What a great salad! I didn’t have mandarin oranges but I substituted some pickled beets I made. They always go well with goat cheese. The dressing is amazing and a keeper as is the salad! Thanks for sharing!

Never Miss a Recipe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.