This Kale Quinoa Salad is my new favorite packed lunch. It’s loaded with plant-based protein and is tossed in a quick and flavorful apple cider dressing that you can whip up in just minutes. I love how easy this is to make!
How to Make Kale Quinoa Salad
This salad is easy to assemble once you have the two main components ready– the kale and the quinoa. To prepare the quinoa, you can cook it on the stove using the directions below, or try Instant Pot Quinoa for a totally hands-off method.
What Kind of Kale Goes into this Salad?
I like to use Lacinato kale (also called Tuscan or “dino” kale), as I think it’s easier to work with and eat. But curly green or red kale works well for this recipe, too!
To prepare the kale, you’ll need to remove the tough stems before chopping it. I don’t like to buy pre-chopped kale for this reason, because most companies don’t remove the stems! That makes for a much less pleasurable eating experience, so be sure to take a few minutes to do that.
To remove the stems, I like to hold a leaf upside down by the stem, and then I use my other hand to run my fingers down the stem pulling the leaves with me as I go. This easily removes the leaves from the tough stem in just seconds.
You can save the stems for juicing later if you like, but they don’t belong in a salad. Once the stems are removed, you can chop the kale into bite sized pieces. The smaller the better, so that it’s easy to get a little bit of everything on your fork later.
How Do You Make a Delicious Kale Salad?
The key to a delicious salad is using a flavorful dressing, and this one is inspired by my favorite holiday salad. I use slightly less olive oil in this dressing, but it still packs all the flavor I love.
You can mix this dressing directly into the bottom of a large salad bowl to save on dishes. That way you can add the rest of the ingredients on top and stir them right in!
How Long Does this Kale Quinoa Salad Last in the Fridge?
Kale is sturdy enough to be tossed in dressing and not get too slimy, so this works as a great meal prep for up to 3 days in advance. If you want it to last longer than that, I would store the dressing separately from the salad ingredients so you can toss them together just before serving.
What are Some More Healthy Recipes for Quinoa?
Quinoa is a complete source of plant-based protein, containing all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build protein. If you need more ideas for adding quinoa to your weekly menu, try one of these other recipes! (The first two are on weekly rotation in my house.)
- Black Bean & Quinoa Salad
- Vegan Quinoa Salad
- Sweet Potato & Quinoa Mason Jar Salads
- Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing
- Instant Pot Quinoa Burrito Bowls
- Make-Ahead Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Bowls
- Lentil, Kale, & Quinoa Stew
Kale Quinoa Salad with Apple Cider Dressing
- 1/2 cup dry quinoa , rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa)
- 1 cup water
- fine sea salt
- 8 ounces Lacinato kale , stems removed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup for vegans)
- 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 red onion , chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 large carrot , shredded (about 1 cup)
- To prepare the quinoa, combine the dry quinoa and water in a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat, cover the pan, and let the quinoa gently simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- While the quinoa is cooking, remove the kale stems and chop the leaves.
- You can also use the quinoa cooking time to prepare the dressing. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and several grinds of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl, then stir to mix well.
- When the quinoa has cooled slightly, stir it into the dressing, along with the red onion, bell pepper and carrot. Add in the kale and toss well to make sure everything is coated in the dressing.
- You can serve this salad right away, or let it marinate in the fridge before serving. This kale quinoa salad should keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Per serving (1 of 3): Calories: 257, Fat: 7g, Carbohydrates: 42, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 8g
You can add any other toppings you like to make this salad a more filling meal. I like to add sliced avocado and cooked chickpeas to keep it properly combined for food combining. Austin likes it with dried cranberries and pecans on top, too.
If you try something different with this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how it worked for you. We can all benefit from YOUR experience!
Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite make-ahead salad?
Questions and Reviews
I made this salad for dinner last night. It was good as written (mild and sweet), but I liked it even better with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Yum!
I just had this salad today and loved it- I actually used your basil dressing recipe as I had some basil I needed to use and it was delish!
This is the best salad!! So flavorful and also filling. I added dried cranberries and pecans and LOVED it!
This salad is delicious! I had a jalapeño to use up, so added it in.
One of my favorite salads. I always add some freshly grated Parmesan and it is the perfect umami topping. 😀
I was so pleased with this simple, healthy, DELICIOUS recipe. The dressing absolutely makes this meal. Very much recommend it as-is (although others’ additions sound great too)!!
I added grated apple and pumpkin seeds to mine. It was amazing! I’m not even a big fan of kale.