This healthy quinoa salad is packed with protein, versatile mixed veggies, and tossed in a bright lemon vinaigrette for a fresh and summery main dish or side for BBQs, potlucks, picnics, and mid-week meals!
Fresh and Summery Quinoa Chickpea Salad
If you want a little taste of summer wrapped up in a nutritious dish, then this gluten-free, vegan quinoa salad is a must-try. This summery lemon quinoa salad combines slightly chewy quinoa with fresh cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, zucchini, and chickpeas; all tossed in a vibrant lemon-garlic-mustard vinaigrette, sure to satisfy!
Not only will this quinoa chickpea salad keep you satiated for longer (thanks to the high levels of protein and fiber), but it also offers several other health benefits. Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is an excellent source of numerous vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, folate, copper, etc. More so, it contains many beneficial plant compounds and antioxidants. When combined with several fresh vegetables and an extra-virgin olive oil-based dressing, this balanced meal is truly nourishing!
Best of all, it’s really simple to prepare with minimal hands-on effort; it’s also meal-prep friendly and is super versatile. This version errs on the side of delicious Mediterranean/ Greek flavors but is easily adjustable to what you have available (keep reading for plenty of recommendations).
And if you want to enjoy more summery salads (no matter the time of year), you might enjoy this brown rice salad, Mexican avocado salad, or healthy vegan pasta salad! If you’d prefer some more vegan quinoa recipes, perhaps you’d enjoy this quinoa vegetable pilaf or broccoli cheese quinoa casserole.
- Quinoa: You can use regular white or tri-color quinoa for this quinoa salad.
- Veggie bouillon: Use powder or a mini cube, reduced-sodium, if preferred.
- Vegetables: I packed this cold quinoa salad with several veggies, including cucumber, red onion, green pepper (or a yellow/orange/red bell pepper. Jarred roasted peppers would also work), tomatoes (large or grape/cherry tomatoes, chopped), and zucchini.
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): I used canned chickpeas, but use home-cooked chickpeas (or even crispy chickpeas) if preferred. You could also substitute these with other pulses, like green lentils or white beans.
- Dressing: This homemade lemon vinaigrette is perfect as a flavorful dressing for quinoa salad. It’s made with just a handful of ingredients, including EVOO, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley works particularly well, or cilantro, mint, or basil.
- Spice: You could add some finely chopped chili or a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Lemon zest: Add 1 tsp of lemon zest to the lemon quinoa salad for extra zing.
- Olives: This summer salad already contains several Mediterranean flavors, and some Kalamata olives would boost that further.
- Vegan feta: To enhance the Mediterranean flavors further, or use a similar crumbly ‘cheese.’
- Nuts/seeds: Lightly toasted pine nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, slithered almonds, etc., will add crunch, protein, and heart-healthy fats.
- Dried fruit: Raisins, cranberries, or blueberries work in a cold quinoa salad.
- Fresh fruit: If you like the combination of sweet and savory, then mango, blueberries, strawberry, or apple could work.
- Protein: To turn this quinoa chickpea salad into a complete meal, you can boost the protein content further with the addition of marinated tofu/tempeh or a meat-alternative chicken, etc.
This recipe makes a wonderful ‘base’ and works with almost any veggie you can think of (raw or grilled/roasted), making it an excellent option for clearing out your crisper drawer/pantry. Here are just a few options:
- Shredded carrot
- Leafy greens (spinach, arugula, massaged kale, etc.)
- Sweet potato (roasted/air fried)
- Cauliflower (roasted/air fried)
- Broccoli (blanched and shredded or cooked)
- Shredded cabbage
- Green beans (boiled/steamed)
- Marinated artichoke
- Eggplant (Roasted/broiled/broiled)
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How to Make Quinoa Salad?
There are only a few steps to making this simple quinoa salad with chickpeas, as follows.
How to Cook Quinoa?
- First, add the quinoa to a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well under cold water, rubbing it between your fingers.
- Then, transfer the rinsed quinoa to a saucepan covered with a cup of water and ½ tbsp bouillon powder (or a mini cube).
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and allow it to cook for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the water.
- Then, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool, fluffing it up with a fork.
It can be a good idea to keep the lid on for 5-10 minutes off the heat to allow any extra moisture to evaporate. Then remove the lid and fluff up the grains and allow to cool.
To Assemble the Quinoa Chickpea Salad
- While the quinoa cools, prepare all the vegetables. To do so, rinse and chop them into similar-sized pieces.
- Then, transfer the veggies and quinoa to a serving dish, drizzle with the lemon vinaigrette and toss to combine. Enjoy!
How to Store Quinoa Salad?
Make ahead: You can cook the quinoa (and chickpeas if made from dry) several days (2-3) in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, ready to combine with the remaining ingredients.
Store: Once assembled, you can store any leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge for between 3-4 days.
Can you freeze the quinoa salad? The assembled cold quinoa salad won’t freeze well because of all the fresh veggies. However, if you cook more quinoa, you can transfer leftovers to portioned airtight containers/Ziplock bags and freeze for 3-4 months.
You can enjoy this summer quinoa salad as a main with the addition of a few extra elements or enjoy it as a side dish alongside several meals, including:
- With vegan souvlaki/shawarma and gyros
- Alongside tofu kabobs and other BBQ dishes, like this vegan black bean burger, Portobello mushroom steaks/cauliflower steaks, etc.
- With other veggie side salads like coleslaw (keto), potato salad, and more.
- Adapt into a Mediterranean quinoa salad bowl with the addition of falafel, hummus, and pita bread
- Add it to or serve alongside wraps and lettuce wraps
I often create a ‘deconstructed’ version of this quinoa chickpea salad when serving to a large crowd. Serve it on a large platter with the quinoa in the middle (tossed with half the dressing) and the veggies in piles around the outside. Serve the jug of the remaining dressing on the side and some tongs for people to pick the elements they want.
Do I have to rinse the quinoa?
This step is important for ridding the quinoa of some of its anti-nutrients (like the saponins/tannins), which affects the flavor and nutrient absorption levels.
Can I use leftover cooked quinoa?
Absolutely! Pre-chilled cooked quinoa is perfect to use to make this quinoa salad recipe.
Can I substitute the quinoa?
Yes, actually. This salad would likely work well with several other grains like giant couscous, farro, bulgur, etc. The cooking times/methods will vary, though.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- For extra quinoa flavor: Before boiling it, lightly toast it in the saucepan until fragrant. This boosts the nutty, earthy flavor of the salad.
- Adjust the texture: Chopping all the veggies finely will allow you to have all the flavors in a single bite. However, chop them chunkier if preferred.
- To speed up the quinoa cooling: Transfer it to a lined tray/dish, spread it into a thin layer, then move to the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. The surface space will help it cool down much faster.
- When to add the dressing: Adding some of the dressing to the quinoa while still warm helps it better absorb. I recommend adding 1/3-1/2 while warm and tossing the rest into the fully assembled salad.
- Make sure it’s cool: If you add the fresh veggies to warm quinoa, you may lose some of the fresh-crispness/ cause wilting.
- Allow it to rest: While not necessary, allowing the lemon quinoa salad to sit for 20-30 minutes before serving will give all the ingredients a chance to marinate with the lemon dressing for better overall flavor.
Other Vegan Grain Recipes
- Greek tomato rice
- One-pot Djuvec rice
- Hibachi-style Japanese fried rice
- Lebanese Mujadara (lentils and rice)
- Spanish rice and beans
- Cheesy rice and bean casserole
- Turmeric coconut rice
If you try this healthy quinoa salad recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
- 1/2 cup (90 g) dry quinoa rinsed
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- 1/2 tbsp veggie bouillon powder or a mini cube
- 1 (140 g) cucumber chopped
- 1 small (90 g) red onion chopped
- 1 (100 g) pepper (I used green) chopped
- 2 (150 g) tomatoes chopped
- 1 small (130 g) zucchini chopped (see notes)
- 3/4 cup canned chickpeas drained and rinsed
- Lemon vinaigrette
- You can watch the short video for visual instructions.Add 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa to a saucepan, cover it with 1 cup of water, and add 1/2 tbsp of bouillon powder (or a mini bouillon cube). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the quinoa simmer until it has absorbed all of the water, about 15 minutes, then let it cool.
- Meanwhile, chop all the veggies into similar-sized pieces.
- Add the cooled quinoa and all chopped veggies and chickpeas to a medium-large bowl.
- Drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette (or dressing of choice), stir, serve, and enjoy!
- Check the blog post for substitutes, FAQs, and tips.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically