December 8, 2022

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Cooking Is My World

Quinoa Salad Recipe – Chelsea’s Messy Apron

This Quinoa Salad Recipe is our new favorite! Roasted sweet potato, sweet red bell pepper, and black beans atop a bed of spinach and cooked quinoa with roasted pumpkin seeds and crumbly soft cheese. Add the show-stopping basil-lime vinaigrette and we’re ready to eat!

It’s no secret we love quinoa salads, try our original (and beloved) Quinoa Salad that features boundless fresh veggies or this Kale Quinoa Salad with lots of hearty greens next.

Or browse through our extensive tested and perfected quinoa salad recipes archive here.

Overhead image of the Quinoa Salad Recipe

Quinoa Salad Recipe

It’s been a minute since we’ve shared a quinoa recipe, and all I can say is the absence will be surely made up with this one! This salad hits all the right notes with flavors and textures, plus it’s a nutritional powerhouse of a recipe! It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals while being packed with plant-based protein (thanks to the quinoa and black beans).

The basil-lime vinaigrette is nothing short of addicting (fair warning — you may want to dredge everything in it) and the roasted veggies are perfectly caramelized to sweet perfection. Pop on those finishing touches of salty pumpkin seeds and creamy soft cheese and we’re in business here.

Is A Quinoa Salad Good For You?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a seed that is cooked like a grain. It’s vegetarian and is also a complete protein. That means it contains all the necessary amino acids to make it a ‘whole’ protein just like meat.

What Can I Add To Quinoa To Bump Up the Flavor?

Add some salt: One of the biggest mistakes with making quinoa is not seasoning it. Just like pasta or rice, quinoa needs salt! Beyond that, you don’t want to add too many other flavorings as that will compete with the other flavors in this recipe.

Process shots-- images of the dressing ingredients being added; blended; oil added

Basil-Lime Vinaigrette

This vinaigrette is light, fresh, healthy, and tangy — the perfect finishing touch to this Quinoa Salad Recipe. Here are a few tips:

  • If you happen to have fresh basil, perfect! If not, one standard .75-ounce packet is the perfect amount for this recipe!
  • If you prefer your dressings more on the sweet side, increase the honey. As written, this is more of a tangy and acidic dressing.
  • Dress to your preference. Add the dressing slowly and to your personal preference. You likely 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. Use leftover dressing over roasted vegetables, quick side salads, or raw garden veggies.

QUICK TIP

Leftover dressing will separate and solidify a bit– which is completely normal– 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 halve the dressing — it divides nicely!

Process shots of Quinoa Salad Recipe-- images of the sweet potatoes, peppers, seasonings, and oil being added to a tray followed by black beans

What Is A Quinoa Salad Made Of?

This Quinoa Salad Recipe combines roasted sweet potatoes, sweet red bell pepper, and black beans with a spinach and quinoa base. We top it with roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and creamy goat (or feta) cheese. 

A few ingredient notes and tips:

  • For the sweet potatoes to roast in the time indicated in the recipe, be sure to cut them into small, 1/2-inch cubes. This also makes them mix in easier and be more enjoyable in the salad! To see how I cube sweet potatoes, check out this roasted sweet potatoes recipe for step-by-step photos.
  • Spinach. I recommend baby spinach for this salad and highly recommend giving it a coarse chop — the chop makes it integrate with everything much better and eating it is much more enjoyable.
  • Black beans. We add a can of rinsed, drained, and dried beans into this salad, but if you’d like to level up the flavor even more, try our favorite from-scratch Black Beans.

QUICK TIP

The more space the veggies have (the less crowded they are) the better they roast. When vegetables are overlapping on a sheet pan, they end up steaming instead of roasting. This will make them softer/mushier in the salad. I recommend using a 15 x 21-inch sheet pan and making sure the veggies have plenty of space to roast.

Process shots-- images of the quinoa being cooked then tossed with spinach

How To Make Quinoa Salad: Make The Quinoa Ahead Of Time

We eat quinoa salad recipes a lot at my home– especially in the summer with some grilled steak, chicken, or salmon. My number one tip is to prepare the quinoa ahead of time. With cooked and cooled quinoa ready to toss in the salad, the overall prep is so much quicker. Waiting for quinoa to fully cook, steam, and cool isn’t difficult but can be time-consuming.

QUICK TIP

When I prep for the week I’ll typically make up huge batches of both quinoa and rice to store in the fridge and use in recipes throughout the week — such a game changer!

That said, if you’re making the quinoa at the same time you’re making the salad, here’s how to speed up the process for quinoa cooling: 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.

Process shots of the Quinoa Salad Recipe-- images of the cooled roasted veggies, cheese, and pumpkin seeds being added over the salad and drizzling it all with dressing

VARIATIONS

Quinoa Salad Recipe Variation Ideas

  • Add some meat. This salad is vegetarian by default, but feel free to grill some chicken or grilled flank steak (thinly sliced) to serve on the side or to chop and mix into the salad. (It’s not necessary to add meat to the salad; it’s actually a pretty macronutrient-balanced salad with protein in the quinoa, carbohydrates in the sweet potatoes, and healthy fats in the cheese.)
  • Add other toppings. There are so many great options for adding to this Quinoa Salad Recipe! Replace toppings or add extras from this list: roasted pistachios, shelled sunflower seeds, sliced honey-roasted almonds, feta cheese, a ripe diced avocado

Overhead image of the Quinoa Salad Recipe dressed and ready to be enjoyed

STORAGE

Quinoa Salad Recipe Storage

  • This salad doesn’t sit very well with the dressing mixed into it. If you aren’t planning on eating the whole salad in one sitting, toss only what you’ll eat on day one with the dressing. If you keep the dressing separate, this quinoa salad can last in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Here’s how I store this salad to eat throughout the week:
    • Prepare the salad as the recipe indicates but don’t add the dressing, cheese, or pumpkin seeds.
    • Separate the salad evenly into three or four containers, keeping the prepared dressing in a sealed jar. Store everything in the fridge.
    • To enjoy a portion of this quinoa salad each day, add the cheese and pumpkin seeds on each portion, pour the dressing over everything, toss to combine, and enjoy!

More Tasty Salads:

QUICK TIP

Check out our collection of readers’ favorite Quinoa Recipes!

Quinoa Salad Recipe

This Quinoa Salad Recipe is our new favorite! Roasted sweet potato, red bell pepper, and black beans atop a bed of spinach and cooked quinoa with roasted pumpkin seeds and crumbly soft cheese. Add the show-stopping basil-lime vinaigrette and we’re ready to eat!

Quinoa Salad Recipe

This Quinoa Salad Recipe is our new favorite! Roasted sweet potato, red bell pepper, and black beans atop a bed of spinach and cooked quinoa with roasted pumpkin seeds and crumbly soft cheese. Add the show-stopping basil-lime vinaigrette and we’re ready to eat!

Instructions

  • SWEET POTATOES: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Dice pepper into 1/2-inch cubes. Add both to a large sheet pan with plenty of room so the veggies can roast (not steam). Drizzle with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. (Add to taste; I add 3/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper.) Toss everything to coat, space out the veggies, and roast for 15 minutes, flip veggies and roast for an additional 10-20 minutes or until desired tenderness. Once tender, remove and toss the drained and rinsed black beans with the potatoes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

  • QUINOA: Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve in cold water for about 30 seconds. In a small saucepan, combine rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water. Season with salt (I add 1/2 tsp). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the pan with a lid. Turn heat to the lowest setting and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until the water has completely absorbed in the quinoa. Turn off the heat and let stand covered for 5-10 minutes. After it’s finished steaming, remove the lid and fluff the quinoa gently with a fork. Set aside to cool to room temperature. In a hurry? Spread it on a sheet pan and slide it in the freezer for 15 minutes.

  • DRESSING: Combine all the dressing ingredients, except the oil to a small blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt & pepper (I add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper). Blend until basil is broken down. Add in oil and blend just until emulsified (do not over-blend). Transfer dressing to a large covered jar and refrigerate while you finish the salad.

  • ASSEMBLY: Coarsely chop the spinach. Toss spinach and completely cooled quinoa together. Add in the cooled sweet potatoes, pepper, and black bean mixture. Gently toss. Top with chopped avocado or goat cheese if using and pumpkin seeds.

  • ENJOY: (Before adding dressing, read note 3.)Toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing. (You’ll have some left over, depending on how dressed you liked your salads. We use about 3/4 of the dressing, but add as much as you’d like.) Taste and season salad once more, adding a pinch more of salt/pepper if needed to bring flavors alive. Enjoy immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Sweet potatoes: This recipe uses about 2 medium/large potatoes or about 1.3 pounds.
Note 2: Basil: If you happen to have fresh basil, perfect! If not, one standard .75 ounce packet is the perfect amount for this recipe!
Note 3: Storage. Only add dressing to the amount of salad you intend to eat that day. This salad is best eaten immediately after being dressed, so if you want leftovers, only add cheese, pepitas, and dressing to the portion that will be eaten immediately. For more storage tips read the last paragraph of the blog post.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.1g | Protein: 10.8g | Fat: 21.4g | Sodium: 308.7mg | Fiber: 8.8g | Sugar: 7.1g

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.