The BEST Quinoa Salad – made with nutritious quinoa and an abundance of fresh ingredients like cucumber, tomatoes and bell pepper. Plus it’s all finished with a delicious, bright lemon herb vinaigrette.
Quinoa Salad with Fresh Mediterranean Flavors
Take bland and basic quinoa up at least 10 levels with fresh and vibrant Mediterranean ingredients in this easy quinoa salad!
Healthy recipes don’t need to be boring. In fact healthy recipes like this are actually some of my favorite. You just feel good after you eat them and when there’s this much flavor you’ll start to crave healthy dishes.
This quinoa salad makes the perfect lunch and it’s a great way to eat lots of vegetables at once and you get a fair amount of protein from the quinoa and chick peas.
It’s a cold quinoa salad so it’s deliciously refreshing too. This is one of those file in the recipe book recipes, it’s just so good!
Maybe buy double the ingredients so you can make it again the next day!
Ingredients That Go Into Quinoa Salad
- Cooked quinoa – this should be cooked the day before and chilled.
- Red bell pepper – another color will work fine if you have that on hand. If you want to save time you could sub a bottled roasted bell pepper.
- English cucumber – the standard Persian cucumbers will work too, just peel first.
- Grape tomatoes – of course cherry tomatoes are fine as well. I just prefer grape since they seem to be sweeter.
- Carrot – I love the pop of color this adds to the salad and since it’s grated, it’s not overly crunchy.
- Red onion – these can be a little bold so I usually like to rinse first when adding raw, to remove some of that harsh bite.
- Chick peas – if you want to cook some yourself you’ll need about 3/4 cup dry. If you don’t care for chick peas you can just omit them from the recipe or replace with cannellini beans.
Vinaigrette dressing ingredients:
- Olive oil – more mild standard refined olive oil or extra virgin olive oil will work great.
- Lemon juice – fresh lemon will make a world of difference here, avoid bottled juice.
- Red wine vinegar – white wine vinegar or even apple cider vinegar could be substituted.
- Fresh parsley and fresh cilantro – these herbs are a must! They add so much flavor to the dressing.
- Garlic – only use fresh garlic. Dried won’t add near the same flavor here. This salad is all about freshness.
- Salt – add to taste. You should add some to the quinoa as well when cooking so it’s absorbed into it rather then just on the exterior when coated with dressing.
How to Make Quinoa Salad
- Cook the quinoa the day before you plan on serving the salad.
- Prep the dressing. Transfer to the fridge while you prepare the remainder.
- Roast the bell pepper – either over a gas stove flame or underneath the broiler of the oven. Steam in a container then peel and chop.
- Chop and prep remaining ingredients.
- Toss salad ingredients and dressing together in a bowl and serve.
Why Use Leftover Chilled Quinoa?
Most quinoa salads just cook the quinoa and use it right away. But I look at it similar to fried rice. If you cook and use it right away it doesn’t absorb as much liquid (that tasty dressing here) and it just turns into a soupy salad.
If you cook the quinoa the day before it’s like rice, it dries out more as it sits in the fridge overnight.
It’s also more refreshing chilled, especially with ingredients like cold cucumbers and a fresh lemon dressing.
How to Serve and Store Cold Quinoa Salad
Once assembled this quinoa salad can be stored in the fridge, covered, for about 4 hours before serving. After too long the moisture for the cucumbers starts to break down, softening the cucumbers. Serve salad cold for best results.
You can make the dressing a day in advance, roast the pepper the day before and chop veggies ahead of time. Just wait to add dressing to salad until almost ready to serve.
How to Make Mexican Quinoa Salad
- swap cucumber for 1 avocado
- trade chick peas for black beans
- replace lemon juice with lime juice, omit red wine vinegar
- sub more cilantro for parsley
- season with ground cumin
How to Make Moroccan Quinoa Salad
- trade parsley for a few tablespoons fresh mint
- omit red wine vinegar
- add spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander and turmeric (similar to this recipe)
- sub cucumber with sautéed zucchini and serve salad warm (with just cooked quinoa)
- add raisins
How to Add Other Greek Flavors
- substitute a few tablespoons fresh basil for cilantro
- add sliced kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese
More Delicious Quinoa Recipes to Try
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- Roast red pepper directly over the flame of a gas stove or under broiler, turning occasionally using metal tongs, until charred all over. Transfer to a container and cover and let rest 10 minutes, then peel**, core and seed and chop pepper.
- Meanwhile prepare dressing. In a mixing bowl stir together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, parsley, cilantro, garlic and salt. Chill while you prep the remaining salad ingredients or up to 1 day.
- In large bowl toss together quinoa, pepper, cucumber, tomato, carrot, onion and chick peas with the dressing. Serve within about 4 hours for best results. Keep salad chilled.
- *To make 3 1/2 cups cooked quinoa you'll start with 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa, rinse and drain well first, then cook according to directions listed on package.
- **Pepper doesn't need to be perfectly peeled. Mostly you just want to be sure to remove most of the charred skin.