Quinoa Salad

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The 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. πŸ™‚

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 β€” 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 doubleΒ 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.

7Is quinoa gluten free?

Short answer: naturallyΒ 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

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Avocado Quinoa Salad

5 from 28 votes
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!
Print Recipe

Avocado Quinoa Salad

5 from 28 votes
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!
Course lunch, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Healthy, Vegetarian
Keyword quinoa salad
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Quinoa Cooling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings 8 as a side
Calories 313kcal
Author Chelsea

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
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 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.Β 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.

Video

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.

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The 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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Recipe Rating




73 Comments

  1. This salad reminds me of the one I make using quinoa. I don’t usually add any dressing but yours sounds delicious so going to try it! I love your kid’s passion for veggies πŸ™‚ It’s great and makes your life easier, doesn’t it? No need to make him eat them πŸ™‚

  2. 5 stars
    Wow, I haven’t tried yet this quinoa salad before right now it’s summer and I’m looking for a light and healthy food for my health and quinoa is the best, so definitely trying it.

  3. 5 stars
    This is so funny! I hope my little boy Thomas will be the same! It’s my dream πŸ˜‰ He’s 15 months and he loves veggies and fruits, but he doesn’t like yet salads. I guess he’s too young for that, right?

    Lovely, lovely salad! Eating clean is much easier when it looks like this! ?

  4. I made this as a side dish of pan fried cod! It’s delicious and filling <3 loving your recipe

  5. 5 stars
    We followed the recipe to a “T” and it was dee-licious! So fresh and flavorful! Added a little baked tilapia for a tasty, healthy meal. Thanks for the recipe–it’s a keeper!!

  6. 5 stars
    Made this for lunch today, as I had on hand all the ingredients. It was fantastic! My husband loved it. Thank you, for this amazing recipe. I will definitely be making it again in the future, as it was easy, quick and delicious.

    1. I’m so glad to hear this! It’s an easy to go recipe that I love too. Hope you guys enjoy:)

  7. 5 stars
    Just made this and loved it because it’s not overly Mediterranean. No olives, left out feta. Dressing is great. A keeper.

  8. 5 stars
    Just made this with halloumi skewers for a yummy vegetarian dinner. Delish! Will definitely be making it again seeing as it was such a hit with the youngsters.

  9. I made this for Friday night dinner along with grilled chicken. It was fabulous. Definitely going to add it to my school year lunch menu.

  10. Great salad and organized recipe. I could do without the lengthy, repetitive narrative at the beginning and just get to the recipe.

  11. Just made this as a side dish to go with salt and pepper squid. It was lovely. I have made too much dressing, how long can this be kept for in the fridge please

  12. 5 stars
    This was amazingly fantastic! Quite simple to make as well. I made this for a crowd and it was loved by all who like this kind of food. This will definitely become a regular dish I will make to share with others!

  13. 5 stars
    Absolutely LOVE this recipe & have been making it now for a bit over a month. One question, I made a little extra dressing & want to use it on other salads. How long will it stay good for when refrigerated?

    1. Yay!! So happy to hear it’s been a hit πŸ™‚ It will stay good 5-7 days in the fridge! Just make sure to shake it up again before adding (it might separate/oil harden — if that’s the case let it stand at room temperature for about 15-20 mins and then shake it up again). Enjoy!

    1. I haven’t personally tried any substitutes in this recipe so I can’t say for sure, but I imagine white wine vinegar should be okay (different though!)

  14. 5 stars
    I have made some small changes as my spouse is not a big fan of cilantro or feta cheese and I like both. With jut two of us in our elder years I do a half batch which still makes enough for four meals. I substitute parsley for cilantro and fresh grated parmesan for feta and leave out the spinach until ready to serve and then serve over spinach or butter lettuce with avocado slices. I make a full batch of dressing as it keeps well and is good on other salads.

    1. Sounds amazing! Glad you’ve been able to customize this salad to your preferences πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment!

  15. These look absolutely delicious! You have amazing food photography too :] As much as I know my girls will love these, I know I will too!

  16. This is SO good! Next time that I make this, I am going to add a jalapeno and chopped tomato. My farm-boy husband thought it was good, too!

  17. My husband said this was the best salad he’s had in a long time. I made half of it again today; I love it so much. Thinking about making a large jar of the dressing to put on every salad I eat ; it’s so delicious,

  18. 5 stars
    This is my favorite new salad! I’m taking it to my daughters tonight, where my sister is giving a yoga class! Which yoga is new to me, but looking forward to seeing my troop! Anyways Thank You

  19. 5 stars
    I’ve been looking for an amazing quinoa salad recipe, and I found it! My husband, who doesn’t like spinach or tomatoes, is taking some for lunch tomorrow! My twin daughters (9), absolutely loved it too. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  20. 5 stars
    I had all of the ingredients except the dijon mustard, My husband doesn’ like Dijon nor does he care for Quinoa. I added cumin powder in place of the Dijon as he likes cumin. He LOVED the salad and had a second helping. Thank you for posting this delicious healthy salad, We will have it again!

    1. I’m so happy you guys loved this recipe! And so glad you were able to work with what you had! Thanks for your comment! πŸ™‚

  21. 5 stars
    I served this for a bible study group and they loved it. I served the feta and some cooked chicken on the side to keep he vegetarians/and dairy free people happy. This is a keeper recipe.

  22. 5 stars
    I tried this recipe and love it. Quinoa looks like oats from the taste to the shape. I don’t add feta cheese but the salad is still great. Thanks !

  23. 5 stars
    I made it for dinner tonight, looking for a way to use a jar of quinoa in my cabinet. It was very good. I’ll use even more cilantro next time. Thanks for sharing!

  24. 5 stars
    I made this for my husband who loves quinoa. I didn’t add feta since he is trying to cut dairy. Even I liked it. Avocado makes this so creamy. Will be making again.

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