This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is one of the best quinoa salads you’ll ever make. It’s a healthy recipe that you can make ahead of time for a protein-packed lunch, and it’s also a great base for a bowl-style meal, like Falafel Bowls.
Why You’ll Love It
By now, you’re probably familiar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a gluten-free superfood that is actually more of a seed, than a grain. Quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs, so it’s also a complete source of plant-based protein.
Here are some potential health benefits:
- Quinoa contains the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which act as antioxidants in the body, and have anti-inflammatory properties.
- It contains more fiber than brown rice. Eating a fiber-rich diet may help to lower cholesterol levels and will keep you feeling full longer.
- Quinoa contains 8 grams of protein per cooked cup, including the 9 essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own.
- Eating quinoa regularly may contribute to a lower BMI, possibly because it helps you feel more satisfied.
It’s important to note that quinoa, like other grains, contains anti-nutrients including saponins and phytic acid. This may hinder nutrient absorption. You can reduce these anti-nutritional factors by rinsing the quinoa, or soaking it in water and then draining it, before cooking.
Rinsing quinoa also helps to remove any bitter flavor it might contain. If you’ve cooked quinoa before and didn’t care for the taste, that might be why!
This is especially important when making a sweet recipe, like quinoa porridge.
Want more quinoa recipes? Try Quinoa & Black Bean Salad for a Southwest flavor, or Hearty Quinoa Soup for a warmer option.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What is quinoa salad made of?
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red bell pepper
- Red onion
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Fresh herbs
- Salt & pepper
You can add any extra toppings you love, such as sliced olives or a tangy feta cheese. For extra protein, you can also add sliced chicken breast or cooked shrimp.
How to Make the Best Quinoa Salad
1. Cook the quinoa. Quinoa is the only thing you need to cook for this recipe. Start by rinsing the dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer to remove the saponin (bitter flavor), then transfer the drained quinoa to a small saucepan.
Cover the quinoa with 3 1/2 cups of water, and bring the liquid to a boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid, about 15 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and let it cool as you assemble the rest of the salad.
2. Prepare the dressing. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper to the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk that together, then you can continue to add the veggies and fresh herbs as you chop them, tossing them in the dressing as you go.
I like to start with the red onion, so the flavor can mellow in the dressing. Alternatively, you can use a shallot instead, or just stick to green onions, if the red onion flavor is too strong. (I’ve heard rinsing an onion under cold water also helps remove a strong flavor.)
3. Toss it all together. Once you’ve added the red onion, dill, parsley, tomatoes, bell pepper, and cucumber to the bowl, add in the cooled quinoa and toss well.
Keep in mind that the flavor of this salad will be stronger while the quinoa is still warm, and it will become more muted when you chill it in the fridge.
You can serve this right away without chilling, but keep in mind that you may need to adjust the flavor again once it has chilled in the fridge overnight.
Be sure to add any extra toppings you love! Kalamata olives are a classic addition in Mediterranean-style salads, and I love the creamy, tangy addition of some crumbled feta, too.
This quinoa salad will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days when stored in an airtight container. I purposefully don’t add garlic to this recipe, it can become a little too pungent as it is stored, but feel free to add it, if you like.
Quinoa salad is one of my favorite make-ahead lunch ideas, because it keeps so well! Portion it into individual containers, for an easy “grab and go” option for your week ahead. You can add different toppings each day, if you’d like to change it up!
Frequently Asked Questions & Substitutions
Can I use something other than lemon juice? Sure! You can use lime juice, or start with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, instead. Vinegar tends to be more pungent than citrus juice, so start with less, and add more as you go.
Can I make it vegan? This recipe is vegan if you don’t add the feta cheese on top. Try a drizzle of creamy tahini dressing on top, if you’d like to add dairy-free creaminess, or some freshly sliced avocado.
What other herbs can I use? If you don’t have dill or parsley on hand, you can swap it for fresh cilantro, or a smaller amount of fresh mint leaves or basil, for a slightly different flavor.
How do I add extra protein? You can add in cooked chicken or shrimp, or for a vegetarian option, try adding in cooked chickpeas or black beans. You could even add some baked tofu, if you like!
- 2 cups dry quinoa , rinsed
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
- 1/2 red onion , chopped
- 1 large cucumber , chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh dill , chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley , chopped
- 3 green onions , white and green parts only, chopped
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives , sliced (optional)
- fine sea salt & black pepper
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional; omit to keep this recipe vegan)
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under running water for 60 seconds, to help remove any bitterness. Add it to a small saucepan and cover with the 3 1/2 cups of fresh water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the temperature and cover for 15 minutes, cooking until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Fluff with a fork, and allow to cool while you chop the vegetables and herbs.
- In the meantime, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper in a large bowl.
- Add the vegetables to the bowl of dressing as you chop them, starting with the red onion, followed by the cucumber, bell pepper, dill, parsley, and green onions. Toss well to combine, and add in the cooked quinoa when it has cooled slightly. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. (I usually add up to 1 teaspoon more salt, to taste.) Add in the optional olives, if using, and the crumbled feta, for an extra creamy and tangy flavor.
- Allow the mixture to marinate at least an hour before serving, or chill in the fridge overnight. This salad can be served cold or at room temperature, and should keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you try this quinoa salad, please leave a comment and star rating below to let me know how you like it!
Questions and Reviews
This looks so delicious! I will definitely be making it!
Oh I’ve made quinoa like this before while just messing around in our kitchen! It put golden raisins in it too. There were no olives and red pepper in mine though which would be awesome! I really like the way this recipe sounds can’t wait to try it!
Macaroni salads are my favorite thing closest to pasta salads! How do you feel about polenta? I just discovered it recently and am curious if you have any good recipes ?
I’m looking forward to making the quinoa salad and also the frozen bananas! I’m going to make it when we get together with our 4 adult children. They enjoy eating gluten-free! Thank you!
Im definitely trying this with cali rice! Can i replace the lemon juice with vinegar?
Have you tried sprouting quinoa before?
Sprouting quinoa sounds interesting… what are your favorite ways to cook/serve quinoa after it has sprouted?
LOVE castlevetrano olives!! Just recently got hooked on them after hating them my entire life. Looking forward to making this one 🙂
This looks great..I am huge fan of preparing pastas like this in advance and taking them in my lunch. Funny that you used quinoa in this recipe, because I was going to ask if you every use the grain-like seeds like quinoa or millet in your recipes?
I’ve made this exact salad in the past with quinoa as I’m always looking for a “good” pasta alternative and quinoa fits the bill! Try it with some soaked raw nuts to add another layer of taste and some crunch. I’ve also added dried fruits (mango, cherries), would that keep it properly combined?
Sounds great about adding the nuts. How long and what kind of nuts would you use?
Delicious! I made it last night and took it to a luncheon today. It was a hit. I think I like it warm or room temp, best. It reminds me of a Greek salad (without the feta). The fresh olives are a must!
I made this last night and it was SO GOOD! My husband just had some of the leftovers with his breakfast, that’s how good it is! I used a quinoa/wild rice blend, which worked perfectly. I also added some crumbled feta and sliced grape tomatoes. Just so delicious, thanks Megan!
Just made this salad this morning and its very tasty! Thank you!
Just made this salad last night, and I am beyond IN LOVE with it! Cannot wait for lunch to eat this again, since the flavours had time to marry over night 🙂 Thank you for the recipe!
I love pasta and love quinoa so will definitely have to try this recipe. It sounds delicious!
I want to make this right now! Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’ve been searching for something good to bring to Easter dinner and this will be a perfect dish. Yum!
I just made this today (yes for Easter Sunday!) and it was fabulous! I didn’t have dill and used half the salt, it was fantastic! It reminded me of tabouli, so I think adding mint would be nice.
I made this for dinner last night, it is so good!!! I omitted the onion and olives based on personal taste. I’ve had quinoa a number of times before but never really liked how it was prepared. This is def going to be a go to recipe now! Thanks Megan!!!
I made this salad and loved it! I did notice that there were no instructions as to when to add the red onion and since there was also green onion I wasn’t sure if it was a misprint and it was supposed to be one or the other. Anyway, I left the red onion out and it still tasted magnificent. Actually, after a couple of days the onion flavor from the green onions stood out enough that I don’t think the red onion was needed.
Another awesome recipe. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a website that has had so many consistent great tasting, healthy recipes. So far I’ve made your Broccoli soup, Vegetarian Masala, Potato Salad and now this quinoa. Bravo to you Megan. All amazing recipes. I would SO buy your cookbook if you ever had one.
Ps: I tried to rate this 5 stars and it would only allow me to choose up to 4, fyi
Thanks! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed all the recipes so far! The cookbook is in the works. 😉
This looks fabulous! Ny chance you can tell me how much sodium per serving? Just was told I need to be low sodium and would like to see if this fits in my daily regimen!
This recipe looked really interesting and I was wanting to try it. But I went in to Wal-Mart and found that 16 oz of quinoa was a$6.98. Rib eye steaks were less expensive. I’ll check Sams and Costco, but I won’t pay more for quinoa than I do for sirloin steak.
The cost of quinoa is not Megan’s fault. You can’t down grade a recipe based on the cost of the ingredients. Megan works hard to create awesome dishes for people and I am sure the ratings are important to her. Thank you for all of your yummy recipes and meal plans Megan!
Hey, let’s get some facts straight.Prices vary widely for both quinoa and ribeye steaks, but you have to remember that the 1lb of quinoa will serve everyone in your dinner party (and you can get quinoa for 3.99 a pound easily)while one pound of that 6.98/lb Ribeye steak is only going to get you one steak, maybe one and a quarter steak. One serving only!
SO SO DELICIOUS! I used wild rice and omitted the red pepper. My husband enjoyed this recipe as well (he is an extremely picky eater!) One of my favorite healthy recipes of all time! Thank you! 5 stars!!!
This has been my favorite meal this summer! I just finished making another batch. My cousin gave me a cherry pitter & I used it for the olives. Thank you for this amazing recipe you revamped 🙂
I made this tonight. For those of you with Trader Joes in your area, just this year they started selling pre-cooked quinoa in their frozen section. You get two packets (about a cup each) in a paper box, and I used this tonight. I added a little wild rice I had leftover from another meal. I found the Castelvetrano olives in the olive bar at a local Whole Foods (unpitted). I left them with the pits in since I won’t be feeding this to guests–yet, but I also have a cherry pitter which is a good olive tool, as well. I tasted a few spoonfuls before putting the salad in the refrigerator and to me, it is a perfect summer salad whose motif is “freshness.” I also used the tinier Persian cucumbers (which I find more flavorful,) and I purchased a pre-package of six of those at Trader Joe’s. One thing I’ve noticed about the recipes I am finding on here: so many of them are adaptable, as this one is, to adding or subtracting as you desire. I think when I have another helping of this tomorrow, I will add feta crumbles and grilled shrimp. Tiny tomatoes would also be wonderful.
I forgot to add: five stars!
This was awesome!
My friends and I were going boating and they planned on processed meat and white bread for lunch! Not for me! I made
A batch of this ahead of time. I packed half and left half at home. My friends enjoyed it so much they were trying to fight
me for bites and were claiming the leftovers! Success! I’m converting people to our healthy eating all the time!
I added carrots, celery and some garlic powder.
I also added some spinach and baby kale. I put it into my processor to shred it small and to pack in even more vitamins!
My friends were begging me to make more!
Thanks so much!
I love your blog!
Thanks for this great recipe! I made it last week and I loved it! I had a cup a day for lunch over some wild greens. Thank you Megham and Happy Birthday to your son! Where does the time go! 🙂
Costco has PITTED kalamata olives that are amazing! Red wine is part of the marinade.
I’ve made sooo many of your recipes but I don’t think I’ve ever commented! Made this tonight for the first time and we LOVED it!
Any idea how much already cooked quinoa to use? I have a bunch of plain cooked quinoa in my fridge!
My best guess is that 1 cup of dry quinoa equals roughly 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
So delicious! The first time I’ve had quinoa and actually enjoyed it!
Oh Megan…there are too many good options on this site to make for meal preps I’m always so overwhelmed!! I also own your cookbook which makes things even harder. I keep going back to it thinking “oh I need to make THIS or THAT because it’s a little gem not found online.” My mind is always changing with what I am going to make from your recipes. Okay I plan on making this dish on Sunday to take for work lunches all week however I also have a head of cauliflower I was saving to make your “fried rice” so now I’m stumped! Should I do a pizza crust, garlic fingers, mashed “potatoes,” stay with the rice option? SO MANY CHOICES AGHHHHHH lol
Thank you for this amazing recipe! I used whole wheat orzo pasta and added a can of garbanzo beans and a can of artichoke hearts. It was soooo good!
This is my all time favorite way to eat quinoa! I’ve made this many times and love it so much each time. Even my 2 year old loves it. All the fresh ingredients are very refreshing. Just wanted to comment and say thanks.
This is very similar to the Greek Quinoa Salad I made this weekend. I used cucumber, cherry tomatoes, onions, scallions, and olives. This sounds even better with the red pepper and parsley!
I really love this quinoa salad!! It is so fresh and delicious! It’s great for a healthy and nutritious lunch idea. Now that I have an Instant Pot I will be making my quinoa in it while prepping the veggies and dressing. Try this!!
Wow, I can’t get over how much flavor this salad packs! It’s so easy to make, and I just keep going back for more. I’m not vegan, so I have been adding a little feta cheese on top, but it doesn’t need it. So good! Thanks for another favorite.
I’ve been eating this for lunch all week long. SO good! I made it just as written this week, but I’ve added beans to it before, too, and it’s good either way.
This was easy and so yummy! I’m not a vegan but need something to bring to a gathering that everyone could eat. This is definitely becoming a staple in my weekly meals. Thanks!
Did you change this recipe because it’s not the same…
Hi! I like the original recipe. Do you still have it?
Do you recall something different about it? I changed the name of this recipe a year or two ago, but I don’t remember actually changing any ingredients with it.
This is my favorite way to eat quinoa. It’s such a fresh tasting salad.
Delicious and easy to make!
Thank you! Perfect addition to my meal planning repertoire.
This salad is great as a stand-alone meal or as a side dish. It can be taken on the go easily and I LOVE how fresh it stays in the fridge for a few days so you can prep it once and enjoy it for multiple meals!
Can you freeze this????
This is so delicious! I have had a similar salad with pasta but prefer the quinoa! I used cilantro instead of the parsley and dill. It turned out so good! Thank you for the recipe!
Love this salad! It is great to make a big batch at the beginning of the week and have delicious and healthy lunches that last through the week. Highly recommend.
This is a phenomenal, versatile recipe!
This really is the best quinoa salad. I keep coming back to it. It’s so fresh tasting and yummy.
Loved this! Super quick to prep, tasted yummy and I’m still not hungry now, 6 hours after I ate it! I used mint instead of dill and used a packet of pre-cooked quinoa and it was all good. Will add this recipe to my lunch rotation. Thanks for sharing.