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Here is an easy quinoa salad, bursting with fresh ingredients and ideal for meal prep.
This healthy salad is one of my favorite ways to prepare quinoa, a nutrient-rich ingredient. To give this salad a refreshing kick, I prepared a zesty vinaigrette with mint.
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What is quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a versatile and nutritious grain-like seed that has gained popularity recently for its health benefits and culinary versatility. You can get both red quinoa and a lovely white quinoa seed.
While it is often referred to as a grain, quinoa is technically a seed, and it comes from the plant species Chenopodium quinoa, which is related to spinach, beets, and chard. Here are some key aspects of quinoa:
- Nutritional profile: Quinoa is loved for its exceptional nutritional value. It is rich in essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is an excellent source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids necessary for human health. It is a great choice for vegetarians and vegans looking to increase their protein intake.
- Gluten-free: Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. It can be used as a substitute for gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye in various recipes.
- Versatility: Cooked quinoa can be used in a wide range of dishes. It can be served as a delicious side dish in salads, soups, stews, or even as a breakfast cereal. It has a mild, nutty flavor that pairs well with various ingredients.
List of ingredients
For the quinoa salad
- Water or vegetable broth: You’ll need this to cook the quinoa. Using vegetable broth instead of water can add extra flavor to the quinoa.
- Quinoa: Choose the variety of quinoa you prefer (white, red, or black). Be sure to rinse it thoroughly before cooking to remove any bitter saponins.
- Cucumber: Opt for fresh, crisp cucumbers – I recommend using English cucumbers.
- Avocados: Select ripe, creamy avocados.
- Red bell pepper: You can use red, yellow, or green bell pepper.
- Cherry tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes should be ripe and sweet.
- Red onion: If desired, you can also soak the slices in cold water for a few minutes to reduce their sharpness.
- Feta: This cheese adds a salty and tangy element to the salad.
For lime vinaigrette
- Olive oil: Use extra-virgin olive oil for a rich, fruity flavor that complements the salad.
- Lime juice: You can also use lemon juice. Fresh lime juice is my favorite.
- Fresh ginger: Finely grate or mince for a zingy, spicy kick in the vinaigrette.
- Garlic cloves: I love to add them for their savory depth of flavor.
- Honey: Honey balances the acidity of the lime juice.
- Mint leaves: Fresh mint leaves add a herbal note to the salad.
- Fresh parsley: Use fresh parsley leaves for a mild, herby flavor. Fresh cilantro is a good alternative. Experiment with your favorite fresh herbs in this easy salad.
- Limes (zest): In addition to the juice, I like to add lime zest. It adds a floral note to the salad.
You can find the exact quantities in the recipe card.
Zesty Quinoa Salad: step by step
For the quinoa salad
- Cook the quinoa. Bring water with salt or vegetable broth to a boil in a pot and cook the dry quinoa for 20 minutes. Once all the liquid is absorbed, the quinoa is done cooking. Rinse under cold water, drain, and set aside. Fluff up with a fork.
- Prepare the ingredients. Chop the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Chop the mint and parsley. Take the zest of the limes.
- Mix. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooled quinoa, the chopped herbs and vegetables, and the lime zest.
For the lime vinaigrette
- Prepare the dressing. Whisk together lime juice, fresh ginger, garlic, black pepper and salt. Add the olive oil whisking continuously. Finish with honey and whisk again. Adjust the taste as needed.
- Serve. Pour over quinoa salad and mix well. Finish with some crumbled feta, avocado slices, lime slices and fresh mint leaves for decoration.
Fluffy quinoa. To get fluffy quinoa, it’s important to keep to the ratio of 1:2 (quinoa to water). After cooking, place the quinoa in a sieve with small holes and immediately rinse under cold water. This will stop the quinoa from cooking. For fluffy quinoa, lightly fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Dressing. If you prepare the salad in advance, I recommend adding only half the dressing and leaving it to infuse. Just before serving, add the rest of the dressing and toss again. This will make the salad even fresher.
Avocado. I don’t recommend mixing the avocados, as they are delicate and risk becoming soft. I prefer to add the avocado slices on top for decoration.
FAQ: Zesty Quinoa Salad
While I recommend making this recipe with quinoa, you can experiment with other grains like brown rice, couscous, bulgur, wild rice, or farro. Just keep in mind that the cooking method and timing may vary.
Yes, you can prepare the lime vinaigrette ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container like a mason jar. Just give it a good shake before using it on the salad.
Yes, the zesty quinoa salad can be suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Be sure to use a vegan cheese substitute or skip the feta.
You can customize this salad by adding black beans, sweet corn, sunflower seeds, fresh vegetables, roasted chickpeas, grilled chicken, or shrimp for extra protein.
Absolutely! This salad can easily be scaled up to serve a larger crowd.
I wouldn’t recommend to freeze the salad as most fresh ingredients are not suitable for freezing.
Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, it always makes me very happy!
Zesty Quinoa Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
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For the quinoa salad
- 4 cups of water or vegetable broth
- 2 cups quinoa
- 1 cucumber
- 2 avocados cut in slices
- 1 bell pepper
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 1 block feta
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup of fresh parsley
- 2 limes zest
For the lime vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger , minced
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp honey
- Black pepper
- Bring the water with salt or vegetable broth to a boil in a pot and cook the dry quinoa for 20 minutes. Once all the liquid is absorbed, the quinoa is done cooking. T
- o stop the cooking and avoid the quinoa to become mushy, transfer it in a sieve with small holes, run it under cold water immediately and drain well. Fluff it up with a fork and set aside to cool.
- Cut the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion and cherry tomatoes in small cubes. Chop the mint and parsley. Take the zest of the limes.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cooled quinoa, the chopped herbs and vegetables and the lime zest.
- Whisk together lime juice, fresh ginger, garlic, black pepper and salt. Add the olive oil whisking continuously. Finish with honey and whisk again.
- Adjust the taste as needed.
- Pour over quinoa salad and mix well. Finish with some crumbled feta, avocado slices, lime slices and fresh mint leaves for decoration.