Quinoa and Almond Salad

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Delicious and Easy Almond Apple Quinoa Salad with the BEST raspberry vinaigrette

Prepare nutritious Quinoa and Almond Salad  by tossing together spinach and quinoa, and topping it with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds, tart sliced apples, a creamy sliced avocado, and sweet dried cranberries. This salad is dressed with a vibrant raspberry vinaigrette made with fresh raspberries!

We love quinoa salads! Try some other reader favorites like this Southwest quinoa salad or this roasted sweet potato quinoa salad.

Overhead image of Quinoa and Almond Salad

Quinoa and Almond Salad

This salad has all the right blends of contrasting textures and flavors — crunchy and creamy, sweet and tart. Crisp and tart apples with creamy avocados, sweet chewy cranberries, and tender salty sunflower seeds. 

It’s also a surprisingly filling salad — the avocados contribute a lot of healthy (and filling) fats while the quinoa contributes substantial protein and fiber which helps you stay fuller for longer. 

Process shots-- images of the dressing being blended and poured into a mason jar.

Raspberry vinaigrette

Naturally, using a store-bought dressing will cut down on preparation time and make this quinoa and almond salad even quicker to make. But, if you have a couple of extra minutes or prefer homemade dressings, the raspberry vinaigrette recipe listed on the recipe below comes together very quickly. Just throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and let it whiz. Stir in the poppy seeds, and the dressing is ready to go.

The raspberry vinaigrette is sweet with a little bit of tanginess from the raspberry vinegar and Dijon mustard. It’s one of my go-to dressings and everyone always asks for the recipe. (It’s also featured on this very popular pear salad!) The dressing uses fresh raspberries which adds a natural sweetness and thickness to the dressing, so you don’t have to add too much sugar or mayo to it. I do recommend using very fresh and ripe raspberries — if they aren’t ripe or sweet, the dressing will likely need a bit extra sugar to compensate for the lack of flavor.

As far as a store-bought dressing, I’ve tried this salad with Ken’s Steakhouse ®Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette and thoroughly enjoyed it. If there is a store-bought raspberry vinaigrette you enjoy, it will likely go great on this salad.

One other note: the volume of dressing from this recipe is most likely more than you’ll want on the salad, but it stores in the fridge for up to a week, so you can use it on other salads or with fresh fruit. Simply store any leftover vinaigrette in a mason jar and shake to re-combine before topping another salad with it.

Images of the quinoa, cranberries, feta, almonds, avocado, and apples on the spinach.

Toasting almonds and sunflower seeds

Place the almonds and (shelled) sunflower seeds in a single layer in a heavy skillet (you don’t need to add oil) and stir them around on medium-low heat. It only takes about 2-3 minutes (sometimes less depending on how much heat they are getting) until they are toasted and smelling quite fragrant. Make sure you are stirring them around and watching constantly so they don’t have a chance to burn!

Let the almonds and sunflower seeds cool completely before adding them to this Quinoa and Almond Salad.

What variety of apple to use

The apple we like best in this salad is a Granny Smith apple. The tartness nicely balances the sweetness of the dried cranberries and dressing.

That said, we also have enjoyed this salad with different varieties; Honeycrisp and Fuji are our favorites. While we leave the apple peel on, if you prefer, you can peel it before chopping it to add into the salad. The apple can either be chopped into small bite-sized pieces (better for kids) or thinly sliced.

Image of the dressing being poured over the salad.

Quinoa and Almond Salad tips

  • Coarsely chop the spinach. This gives the spinach more surface area for the quinoa to cling to.
  • If you have a fresh lemon on hand, squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the sliced apples to keep them from browning too quickly.
  • Make the quinoa ahead of time so it has plenty of time to chill before adding it to the salad. Hot or even warm quinoa will wilt the spinach, making it lose texture.
  • For the best creaminess, make sure to get a ripe avocado. If an avocado yields to a firm gentle pressure (shouldn’t give in too easily) you know it’s ripe and ready-to-eat. 

Quinoa and Almond Salad variations

  • Make this salad vegetarian/vegan: Use water or vegetable broth to cook the quinoa in. For a vegan salad, remove the feta cheese.
  • Ensure this salad is gluten free: This quinoa and almond salad is naturally gluten free, but ensure all the packaged products are processed in a gluten-free facility. Quinoa is gluten free but it is still considered a “high risk” ingredient because of the cross-contact possibility with other grains.
  • Add more protein: Using this chicken marinade recipe, grill up some chicken and serve on top of this salad. Alternatively, some roasted chickpeas would be a delicious salad addition.

Up-close overhead image of Quinoa and Almond Salad being scooped up.

Leftovers

Once dressed, this quinoa and almond salad doesn’t store well. The dressing makes the spinach soggy and the quinoa bloats. The apples and avocado also begin to brown and lose texture.

I’d recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day. Store dressing and salad separately. Try to only cut avocado and apples that will be consumed immediately after making.

Make Quinoa and Almond Salad in advance

The raspberry vinaigrette for this salad can be prepared ahead of time and stores well for up to a week. Store the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge and shake before tossing with the salad.

If the dressing separates or forms clumps, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the olive oil solidifying, which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes before you need it, to bring it back up to temperature, then shake it up to remix.

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Quinoa and Almond Salad

5 from 5 votes
Prepare nutritious Quinoa and Almond Salad by tossing together spinach and quinoa, and topping it with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds, tart sliced apples, a creamy sliced avocado, and sweet dried cranberries. This salad is dressed with a vibrant raspberry vinaigrette made with fresh raspberries!
Print Recipe

Quinoa and Almond Salad

5 from 5 votes
Prepare nutritious Quinoa and Almond Salad by tossing together spinach and quinoa, and topping it with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds, tart sliced apples, a creamy sliced avocado, and sweet dried cranberries. This salad is dressed with a vibrant raspberry vinaigrette made with fresh raspberries!
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Quinoa and Almond Salad
Prep Time 25 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 as a side dish
Calories 379kcal
Cost $5.76

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (80g) quinoa (tri-colored or plain)
  • 1 cup (220g) chicken broth (vegetable broth or water will also work)
  • 1/3 cup (30g) sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) shelled sunflower seeds
  • 4 cups (100g) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (45g) dried cranberries
  • 1 Granny Smith or Fuji apple
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Optional: fresh, ripe avocado
  • Optional: handful of feta cheese (add to personal preference)

Dressing

  • Store-bought Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette or Recipe below:
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (70g) fresh, ripe raspberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (95g) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Instructions

  • QUINOA: Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it in cold water in a fine mesh sieve. This removes the bitter saponin coating. Combine the quinoa and water (or broth) in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add in a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt 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 then add 2-3 tablespoons of the prepared dressing (see next step). Toss and place in the fridge to chill until at room temperature.
  • DRESSING: While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a small blender or food processor combine the red wine vinegar, sugar (See Note 1), raspberries, Dijon mustard, and salt. Blend or pulse until completely smooth. Slowly pour in the oil and blend just until emulsified. Do not over-blend. Transfer mixture to a mason jar and stir in the poppy seeds. Place the lid on the jar and allow dressing to chill in the fridge while preparing the other components of the salad. Re-shake to combine before dressing the salad.
  • TOAST NUTS: Meanwhile, add the sliced almonds and sunflower seeds in a single layer to a completely dry skillet (don't add any oil) and place on medium high heat. Stir the nuts and seeds every 15 seconds for about 1-3 minutes or until the color slightly darkens and they start to smell good. Watch these carefully as they can go from perfectly toasted to burned quickly!
  • APPLE and AVOCADO: If desired, peel the apple (we leave the peel on). Chop or thinly slice the apple. If using an avocado, remove the skin and thinly slice or chop. Toss both with the lemon juice.
  • ASSEMBLY: Mix the coarsely chopped spinach with the cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Add in the chopped apple, avocado if using, and dried cranberries. Add in the cooled almonds and sunflower seeds.
  • DRESSING: Toss salad with the dressing (use as much or as little as desired; you'll likely have a bit extra to use on another salad). If desired, add in some feta cheese and enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed the same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately. Apples and avocado will brown if cut in advance.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Add sugar gradually and to taste preference. We prefer the dressing on the sweeter side to complement the savoriness of the quinoa and spinach.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 4servings | Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.1g | Protein: 7.1g | Fat: 20.4g | Sodium: 162.1mg | Fiber: 5.9g | Sugar: 23.5g

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23 Comments

  1. It’s amazing how much those little tummies can eat, both my kiddos can out eat me too haha. This salad is gorgeous, Chelsea! I love how loaded it is with all the crunchy almonds, sunflower seeds and sweet cranberries!

  2. Wow! I made this salad for my family and my son’s girlfriend said it was the best thing that I have ever made for her. With that vote of confidence I took it to my sonority weekend, AGD sisters for 40 plus years. Another set of raves, and I sent out your link. I’m not sure how I found you , but I’m sure it had to do with food :). After reading your blog the connections blew me away. My mom lives in Carlsbad too, but I have a dear friend with CF waiting for lungs that really drew me to you. I shared your blog with her today and I hope it gives her hope and strength.

    1. You are so sweet! So happy to hear that you enjoyed this salad and so many other people did, thank you so much Sammie! 🙂 It also sounds like you may be thinking of another blogger’s story. A blogging friend of mine, Jen blogs over at CarlsbadCravings.com She’s quite the inspiration! 🙂

  3. This will be fun to try! I already incorporate quinoa into a variety of other things (often instead of couscous) so it’s good to have another recipe in the queue. (I will skip the feta however.) Cheers!

  4. Made this for my Bunco group the other day – delicious! I waited till the last minute to add the nuts and dressing. The apple really adds to it! Yum!! Making it again for a Thanksgiving side dish.

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