Home > Salads > Quinoa Salad Quinoa Salad April 13, 2021 | 78 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. 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’ll want seconds of! We’ve shared so many variations on this Quinoa Salad throughout the years; the most popular being: Greek Quinoa Salad, Thai Quinoa Salad, Sweet Potato-Quinoa Salad, and Citrus Quinoa Salad. Quinoa Salad We’re obsessed with 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 thoroughly 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 vegetables to make a well-rounded, nutritious meal. 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 into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to a minute. A lot of packaged quinoa now comes pre-rinsed, so check your package to 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. Sea salt has large flakes, so if you use table salt, you’ll use much less. Let the quinoa 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 it 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. Let the cooked quinoa cool completely before adding the other ingredients. (See the “quick tip” below.) QUICK TIP To speed up the 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 and use it straight from the fridge in this Quinoa Salad. Other Quinoa Salad Toppings Beyond the quinoa, below is a quick description 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 and dressing nicely — especially if it’s 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 squishy). 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 in this salad, it’s very subtle. If you are sensitive to red onion, feel free to reduce or leave it out. 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 to 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 the cheese. I made Quinoa Salad all throughout my 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 Quinoa Salad While it may seem this vegetarian salad is missing protein, it’s actually loaded with protein, thanks to the quinoa (and the feta cheese). 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 at 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 on 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. Alternatively, if you’d like a sweeter dressing, feel free to increase the honey. 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 FAQs1Can I make this salad ahead of time?Parts of Quinoa Salad can be made ahead of time, but it is best enjoyed shortly after being dressed and assembled. You can prep the quinoa, dressing, and all the veggies (minus the avocado) 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 salad combines baby spinach, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, cooked and 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 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. 7Is quinoa gluten free?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 Kale and Quinoa Salad with berries Steak Salad Recipe with an herb vinaigrette Creamy Balsamic Dressing on a Cobb salad Chicken Spinach Salad with a balsamic vinaigrette Panzanella Salad with homemade croutons FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Avocado Quinoa Salad 5 from 29 votes - Review this recipe 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! SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Avocado Quinoa Salad 5 from 29 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe 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 364kcal Author Chelsea IngredientsSalad1 cup (186g) uncooked white quinoa1-1/2 cups (8 oz; 225g) fresh cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)1-1/2 cups (207g) English or Persian cucumber, cut into half moons1/4 cup (32g) red onion, finely chopped7-1/2 cups (5 oz; 150g) fresh baby spinach, lightly packed and roughly chopped2 large ripe avocados, pit removed, and chopped1/3 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 tasteDressing4 tablespoons (63g) red wine vinegar2 tablespoons (32g) Dijon mustard, do not use regular mustard1 teaspoon dried oregano1 clove garlic, minced1/2 cup (00g) olive oil1 tablespoon (20g) honey3 tablespoons (45g) freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 large lemon)Fine sea salt and pepper InstructionsQUINOA: 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 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 baby spinach, remove the pits and chop the avocados. Finely chop the cilantro or parsley if desired. ASSEMBLY: In a large bowl, combine the 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 Recipe NotesNutrition information does not include optional feta cheese. Nutrition FactsCalories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Sodium: 132mg | Potassium: 1072mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 9879IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 136mg | Iron: 5mg 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.