The Best Quinoa Salad

5 from 34 votes
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This quinoa chickpea salad is packed with versatile mixed veggies, chickpeas, and avocado in a zesty lemon-garlic dressing, for a delicious and nutritious side salad packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats!

A bowl with quinoa chickpea and veggies salad

Recently, I’ve shared a lot of simple chopped salads like an easy Greek salad, beet and carrot, and red cabbage salad. Now, it’s time for something a little heartier with what I can only dub as the BEST quinoa salad I’ve ever tried. This quinoa chickpea salad is bright and colorful and tastes even better than it looks!

This quinoa salad recipe combines lightly chewy quinoa, hearty chickpeas, several rainbow vegetables (including cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, and avocado) tossed in a zingy lemon-garlic dressing. The result is a cold quinoa salad packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, plant-based protein, and heart-healthy fats. A truly well-balanced meal made entirely of plant-based ingredients!

Better yet, the combination of quinoa and chickpeas makes for a vegan salad with extra “staying power”, keeping you satisfied for longer. Plus, it’s also surprisingly versatile. Mix out the veggies based on what’s in season and in your crisper drawer. In fact, this chickpea quinoa salad is fantastic for cleaning out the fridge.

A bowl with quinoa salad with veggies and a wooden spoon

Enjoy it as a hearty side or light main, perfect for meal prep or impressing at BBQs, picnics, potlucks, and dinner parties. And if you’re looking for more hearty salads, you might enjoy this lentil tabbouleh, Caprese pasta salad, Middle eastern chickpea salad. Or perhaps you can browse through this list of 40+ easy salad recipes!

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The Easy Quinoa Salad Ingredients

This summer quinoa salad is a wonderful blend of colors, flavors, and textures, including the likes of:

  • Quinoa: this salad requires pre-cooked and fully cooled quinoa. White, red, or tri-color will work well.
  • Chickpeas: you can use canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed) or cooked chickpeas from dry. White beans (or black beans) would work well as an alternative.
  • Tomatoes: use fleshy tomatoes rather than overly seedy ones. I used Heirloom tomatoes, but you can also use cherry/grape tomatoes in halves or quarters.
  • Cucumber: use a low-seed variety like Persian or English cucumber. If you only have regular or thick-skinner cucumber, it’s best to peel it before chopping.
  • Onion: I used red onion as I prefer its flavor in raw salads to yellow/white onions.

Soak the chopped onion in ice water or lemon juice for 10-15 minutes for a more mellow flavor. Then pat it dry and add to the zesty quinoa salad.

  • Bell Pepper: any color will work, though I prefer orange, yellow, and red bell pepper for this salad as they are sweeter than green peppers. Jarred roasted pepper would also work.
  • Avocado: cubed avocado will add healthy fats and wonderful creaminess.
  • Parsley:  I use flat-leaf parsley as an easy way to infuse the healthy quinoa salad with plenty of flavor.
  • Quinoa salad dressing: I used a simple olive-oil vinaigrette with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice (or lime juice), apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar/red wine vinegar), garlic (I use fresh, but roasted garlic could also work in an increased amount), and salt and pepper, combined with dry mint (though thyme or oregano would work too).
Ingredients for quinoa chickpea salad

Optional Add-ins

You can play around with this versatile salad with quinoa in several ways, including with the addition of:

  • Protein: shredded chicken (or tofu), shrimp, or fish (like grilled salmon) would increase the protein in this cold quinoa salad further.
  • Kale/Spinach: with spinach, I like to finely ribbon it. If using kale, you can buy bags of pre-chopped kale. Massage it in the salad dressing to break down slightly and naturally wilt the leaves without the need to cook it.
  • Cheese: several types of cheese would work in this quinoa avocado salad, including crumbled feta/goats cheese. To keep this as a vegan quinoa salad, you might enjoy this simple Herby Vegan Feta Cheese or Simple Smoky Vegan Cheddar Cheese.
  • Nuts/Seeds: to boost the protein, omegas, and heart-healthy fats further, add a few tablespoons of nuts or seeds. i.e., pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, this omega seed blend, finely chopped walnuts/almonds, etc. Only add them when serving to avoid them softening.
  • Preserved lemons: for extra zing, add a few spoonfuls of very finely chopped preserved lemons.
  • Fresh herbs: instead of or alongside the parsley, you could increase the flavor in the zesty quinoa salad with finely chopped scallions, dill, cilantro, or basil.
  • Leafy greens: you could serve the vegan quinoa salad over a bed of lettuce or arugula.
  • Other vegetables: experiment with what you have available. I.e., shredded cabbage, carrot, corn, edamame, kalamata olives, sugar snap peas, corn, zucchini/summer squash, shredded broccoli, etc.
  • Fruit: for a combination of sweet and savory, you could add finely chopped apple, blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate, etc.

One of the reasons this is my favorite quinoa salad recipe is because it’s so easy to play around with lots of different colors and textures for a salad that impresses in all regards!

Optional Add-Ins for the Dressing

  • Mustard: add a small amount of mustard for extra zingy flavor.
  • Sumac: A pinch of sumac added to the lemon dressing will help to increase the Middle Eastern flavor. Ramp it up further with pita chips added when serving (like Fattoush salad).
  • Spice: add a small amount of finely chopped chili or a pinch of red pepper flakes to the dressing.

How to Make Quinoa Salad?

First, if you don’t already have some, you need to cook the quinoa and allow it to cool completely. If you plan to cook the chickpeas from dry, that should also be done now.

If you’re unable to make the quinoa a day in advance, you can still speed up the cooling time. Spread it over a large tray in a thin layer and place it in the fridge. The extra surface area will help the quinoa cool down much quicker.

Next, prepare the lemony quinoa salad dressing. To do so, first mince/grate the garlic. Then juice the lemon and combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, whisking well to mix.

Showing grated garlic and salad dressing in a bowl

Then, rinse and finely chop all the vegetables using a sharp knife or food chopper. I chopped the pieces as finely as possible apart from the avocado, which I left in slightly larger chunks.

Steps for chopping salad ingredients

Feel free to remove the seeds from the tomatoes/cucumber if they feel overly so. This will help to stop the salad from becoming “soggy” quickly.

Finally, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Leaving it to “marinate” for 20-30 minutes will help all the flavors to meld, though it’s possible to enjoy it immediately if preferred!

Steps for mixing quinoa chickpea salad

How to Store?

Make ahead: it’s actually best to prepare the quinoa a day in advance to give it a chance to fully cool. Likewise, I often make large batches of cooked chickpea to store in the fridge/freezer. You can also prepare the vinaigrette 1-2 days in advance, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge.

Lastly, it’s possible to pre-chop the vegetables (not the avocado) and store them in a separate container. Then, when it comes time to combine everything, drain out any excess liquid from the veg.

Store: once assembled, store the quinoa salad with chickpeas in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The veggies will soften over time, though, so it’s best within 2-3 days.

A bowl with quinoa chickpea and veggies salad

How to Serve?

Thanks to the addition of quinoa, this mixed vegetable cold quinoa salad is packed with nutrients, satiating ingredients, and texture. This makes it perfect for impressing at potlucks, picnics, BBQs, and more! Enjoy it as a side dish or part of a main with:

FAQs

Can you freeze the quinoa salad?

With all the fresh vegetables, I wouldn’t recommend it. However, the quinoa and chickpeas are freezer-safe for 3-4 months. I recommend making a double or triple batch; that way, it’s ready for next time.

Can I substitute the quinoa?

Yes, you could experiment with using several other grains such as brown rice, bulgur wheat, farro, barley, etc. Couscous would also work (regular or Israeli couscous).

Can I cook quinoa freshly for the salad?

Technically, yes, but you still need to allow it to cool down (usually 1-2 hours). I recommend spreading it across a large tray to speed up the cooling process.

Can I use roasted chickpeas?

I don’t see why not. Follow this method for simple roasted chickpeas for a crunchier addition to this best quinoa salad.

A wooden spoon in a bowl with quinoa chickpea salad

Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Day-old quinoa is best: it needs to be 100% cooled so it doesn’t wilt or negatively impact the raw veggies in any way.
  • To increase the quinoa flavor: lightly toast the quinoa in the saucepan until fragrant before cooking it. Also, cook the grains in vegetable stock rather than water.
  • For crunchier quinoa: after cooking the quinoa, optionally toast it in the oven for 10-15 minutes at a low temperature for a more crunchy rather than chewy texture.
  • To reduce prep: using a food chopper/mandoline speeds up the chopping time.
  • Allow it to “marinate”: leaving it for 20-30 minutes allows the dressing to meld with the quinoa and veggies to enhance the overall flavor.
  • Use the best ingredients: use high-quality, ripe, in-season veggies wherever possible for the best flavor and texture.

More Simple Salad Recipes

If you try this healthy chickpea quinoa salad recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

The Best Quinoa Salad (Quinoa Chickpea Salad | Quick + Easy)

5 from 34 votes
By: Samira
This quinoa chickpea salad is packed with versatile mixed veggies, chickpeas, and avocado in a zesty lemon-garlic dressing, for a delicious and nutritious side salad packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

  • 11 oz cooked quinoa 2 cups; white or tri-color
  • 7.7 oz cooked chickpeas 1 cup, or use canned
  • 1 cucumber seedless varieties like English/Persian are best
  • 2 large tomatoes heirloom or any ripe, in-season ones; cherry/grape tomatoes are good out of season
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 red onion small
  • 1 bell pepper red, yellow, or orange are best.
  • 0.9 oz parsley 1 cup chopped

The Simple Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice or lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or white wine/red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic or roasted garlic (increase amount)
  • 1/2 tsp salt adjust amount to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper adjust amount to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint optional; or thyme or oregano

Instructions 

  • If you don’t already have some, you need to cook the quinoa and allow it to cool completely. If you plan to cook the chickpeas from dry, that should also be done now.
    If you’re unable to make the quinoa a day in advance, you can still speed up the cooling time. Spread it over a large tray in a thin layer and place it in the fridge. The extra surface area will help the quinoa cool down much quicker.
  • Prepare the lemony quinoa salad dressing. To do so, first mince/grate the garlic. Then juice the lemon and combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, whisking well to mix.
  • Rinse and finely chop all the vegetables using a sharp knife or food chopper. I chopped the pieces as finely as possible apart from the avocado, which I left in slightly larger chunks.
    Feel free to remove the seeds from the tomatoes/cucumber if they feel overly so. This will help to stop the salad from becoming "soggy" quickly.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Leaving it to "marinate" for 20-30 minutes will help all the flavors to meld, though it’s possible to enjoy it immediately if preferred!

How to Store?

  • Make ahead: it's actually best to prepare the quinoa a day in advance to give it a chance to fully cool. Likewise, I often make large batches of cooked chickpea to store in the fridge/freezer. You can also prepare the vinaigrette 1-2 days in advance, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. 
    Lastly, it's possible to pre-chop the vegetables (not the avocado) and store them in a separate container. Then, when it comes time to combine everything, drain out any excess liquid from the veg.
    Store: once assembled, store the quinoa salad with chickpeas in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The veggies will soften over time, though, so it's best within 2-3 days.

Notes

  • Day-old quinoa is best: it needs to be 100% cooled so it doesn’t wilt or negatively impact the raw veggies in any way.
  • To increase the quinoa flavor: lightly toast the quinoa in the saucepan until fragrant before cooking it. Also, cook the grains in vegetable stock rather than water.
  • For crunchier quinoa: after cooking the quinoa, optionally toast it in the oven for 10-15 minutes at a low temperature for a more crunchy rather than chewy texture.
  • To reduce prep: using a food chopper/mandoline speeds up the chopping time.  
  • Allow it to “marinate”: leaving it for 20-30 minutes allows the dressing to meld with the quinoa and veggies to enhance the overall flavor.
  • Use the best ingredients: use high-quality, ripe, in-season veggies wherever possible for the best flavor and texture.
Check the blog post for optional add-ins, serving recommendations, and answers to top FAQs!
Course: Appetizer, Main, Salad, Side
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 231kcal, Carbohydrates: 26g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Sodium: 161mg, Potassium: 622mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1520IU, Vitamin C: 43mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 34 votes (33 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. Renny D says:

    5 stars
    Love it. I used store-bought wholegrain mustard since that what I have at home.

    1. Support @ Alphafoodie says:

      Hi Renny,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Glad you are loving the quinoa salad and hoping you give the other recipes a try too 🙂

    2. Nan says:

      Hi what did you use mustard for?

      1. Support @ Alphafoodie says:

        Hi Nan,
        Mustard can be added to the salad dressing.