This versatile quinoa salad recipe pairs crunchy veggies with a zingy dressing! It’s ideal as a side dish, for lunches, picnics, and more.

Quinoa Salad

Here’s a workhorse salad that’s fresh, delicious and ultra versatile: this deli-style Quinoa Salad! There are loads of ways to make a salad with this fluffy grain and after experimenting for years, we’ve found the one. This recipe is delightfully refreshing, a jumble of crunchy, colorful veggies, fluffy quinoa grains, and a zingy Dijon mustard vinaigrette. It’s vegetable-packed, making it a great way to add veggies as a dinner side dish, lunch idea, or even picnics or potlucks. Come, experience the magic!

Ingredients in this quinoa salad

Quinoa is the darling whole grain of the past decade: though it’s really not a grain at all! It’s actually a seed, so some people call it a “psuedograin” since it’s eaten in the same way as grains are. It’s native to South America and was first eaten 7,000 years ago by Incas in the Andes: how’s that for an ancient grain?

This tasty seed is great seasoned as a side dish, or even stuffed into enchiladas. But it’s at its best in a salad, tossed with veggies and a dressing much in the way you’d use rice, bulgur or pasta. The main idea for this salad? Cook the quinoa, chop the veggies, and toss with the dressing! There are just a few things to note before diving in. Here’s what you’ll need for this quinoa salad:

  • Dry quinoa
  • Parsley
  • Tomatoes
  • English cucumber: English cucumber is a variety with a mild flavor, thin skin and small seeds that doesn’t need to be peeled. If you plan to use standard cucumber, make sure to peel it.
  • Red bell pepper
  • Tuscan kale: we prefer the mild flavor of Tuscan kale to spicy curly kale; it’s easy to find at the grocery (often labeled Lacinato or dinosaur kale)
  • Green onions
  • Salt and dried basil
  • For the dressing: Dijon mustard, honey, red wine vinegar and olive oil
  • Feta crumbles (optional)
Quinoa Salad recipe

Tricks to cooking & cooling quinoa

Quinoa can be little tricky to get right: even for seasoned cooking pros! It can easily come out waterlogged and soggy. We’ve got a few tips for how to cook quinoa so it’s fluffy and ready for this quinoa salad:

  • Use our optimized water ratio for fluffy grains. Most recipes for quinoa suggest a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, but can come out soggy. After extensive testing, we’ve developed a new quinoa to water ratio: try 1 cup quinoa to 1 ¾ cups water. Simmer it up, and it makes for fluffy grains that aren’t waterlogged.
  • Cool before using in the salad: here’s a trick! You can’t use dump the freshly cooked grain right in the salad: it’s too hot and moist. Instead, we’ve got a trick: place it in a single layer on a baking sheet, then pop it in the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes. Then you can use the room temperature quinoa right away!
  • Or, make the quinoa in advance. If you like, you can make the quinoa up to 1 day in advance and refrigerate until serving: then you can skip the cooling step.
How to cook quinoa

Ways to serve this quinoa salad

Some recipes work for only one purpose. But our favorite recipes are those that are ultra versatile: and this one fits the bill! There are so many different ways to serve it:

Quinoa Salad

3 more quinoa salad recipes!

Want to try a few more quinoa salad recipes? Here are a few variations on the theme that use different flavor combinations:

  • Kale Quinoa Salad: This Kale Quinoa Salad is perfect for lunches, starring Tuscan kale and hearty chickpeas.
  • Mediterranean Quinoa Salad: This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is a main dish salad that’s a copycat of a Panera salad, layering a tomato sofrito quinoa over crunchy romaine with Kalamata olives and feta.
  • Mexican Quinoa Salad: Try this Mexican Quinoa Salad, a mashup of black beans, corn, tomatoes, and fajita seasoning.

Another place you could use quinoa? Swap it into this Barley Salad with Lemon.

This quinoa salad recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, dairy-free and vegan (without the optional feta cheese).

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Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


This versatile quinoa salad recipe pairs crunchy veggies with a zingy dressing! It’s ideal as a side dish, for lunches, picnics, and more.


  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup finely chopped curly parsley
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 English cucumber, diced (peeled if using a standard cucumber)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 to 1 bunch Tuscan kale* (aka Lacinato or dinosaur kale), chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 3 green onions
  • ¼ cup minced shallot or red onion, (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup feta crumbles, optional


  1. Make the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa using a fine mesh strainer, then drain it completely. Place it in a saucepan with 1 ¾ cups water and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 15 to 18 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. (Check by pulling back the quinoa with a fork to see if water remains.) Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork. (This step can be completed the day before; refrigerate the quinoa until ready to make the salad.)
  2. Cool the quinoa to room temperature: If making the salad immediately after cooking the quinoa, here’s a trick: dump the quinoa onto a baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Pop it in the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes until cooled to room temperature. 
  3. Chop and season the vegetables: Chop the parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, Tuscan kale, and onions as noted in the ingredient list above. Mix them in a large bowl with the remaining ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and the dried basil. 
  4. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey or maple syrup, vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until fully combined and an emulsion forms. 
  5. Mix the salad: Stir together the quinoa, vegetables and dressing. Eat immediately, or marinate 30 minutes to 24 hours before serving (then taste and add additional salt if needed). Stores 3 to 5 days refrigerated. 


*Bunch sizes can vary, use half bunch if it’s very large or you prefer a lower ratio of kale in your quinoa salad.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No cook
  • Cuisine: Salad
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Quinoa salad, quinoa salad recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. Your recipe sounds delicious, but why put in a ridiculous prep time of 10 minutes? I don’t think even a professional chef could gather up all the ingredients, wash what is necessary to wash, chop up all the veggie ingredients, make a salad dressing and get the quinoa on the stove in 10 minutes.

  2. Haven’t made this salad yet but plan to. My question is can you substitute farro for the quinoa? I prefer this ancient grain. Thanks 😊