Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
This Mediterranean quinoa salad is bursting with fresh, vibrant Mediterranean flavors! It’s wholesome, filling, and high in protein. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, nut-free, and refined sugar-free.
While many “light and fresh” salads leave you hungry in an hour, this one is different thanks to quinoa, a great protein source.
Studies show that protein is the most filling macronutrient. It changes the levels of several satiety hormones, including ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). (1, 2) Quinoa is not only a good source of protein but a complete source of protein, meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids. (3)
Salads definitely don’t have to stop at a bed of greens and a light dressing! In fact, high-protein salads should just become the new ‘salad’ in my opinion.
Tips for Making Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
This simple Mediterranean quinoa salad is completely versatile. If there’s any ingredient in this recipe you’re not a fan of, omit it. The ingredients I typically use are:
- Quinoa: the star ingredient in this salad is quinoa. I prefer white quinoa over red or black quinoa as it has a milder flavor and a fluffier texture, but you can use any variety you like.
- Arugula: peppery baby arugula complements other Mediterranean flavors well. If you can’t find arugula or simply don’t like it, use an equal amount of baby spinach or baby kale.
- Cucumber: English cucumber is best for this recipe as it has less water content than other cucumber varieties. If using an American cucumber, just peel some of the skin away and scoop the seeds with a spoon.
- Tomatoes: any ripe, flavorful tomato, like heirloom, grape, cherry, or a combination of the three will work in this salad. I typically reach for grape tomatoes because they hold their shape well, even when tossed in a salad. You can substitute the tomatoes for bell peppers.
- Kalamata olives: these dark-colored oblong olives are a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and provide a rich, salty flavor to this recipe. If you can’t find kalamata olives, black olives work as well.
- Red onion: I love flavorful aromatics in salads. Red onion gives the salad a slightly spicy and sharp taste. Shallots or green onions are a great substitute for a milder taste.
- Basil: sweet basil adds freshness and highlights the Mediterranean flavors. When purchasing fresh basil, look for vibrant, deep green leaves with no discoloration or wilting and a strong, clean aroma.
- Italian dressing: this dressing is made with olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and Italian herbs. It’s bright, tangy, and ties the whole salad together.
How to Make Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
The best thing about this salad (besides how delicious it tastes) is how effortless it is to make.
- Cook the quinoa. Everyone has their own method for cooking quinoa, but I’ve been using this one for years, and it always comes out perfect. Quinoa is coated in naturally occurring insecticides called saponins, which can give the seed a bitter taste and make it difficult to digest, so make sure to rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer first. Then, add the quinoa, water, and salt to a medium pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the quinoa until all the water is absorbed, for 12-15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet, spread it into an even layer, and refrigerate until cooled completely, for about 10 minutes.
- Assemble the salad. Add the cooled quinoa and vegetables to a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour the Italian dressing over the salad and give it a gentle stir until well combined.
How to Serve Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Feel free to enjoy this quinoa salad freshly-made, after a few hours at room temperature or cold from the fridge over the next few days.
How to Store Quinoa Salad
- Refrigerating: transfer the salad to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. If it’s an option, store the salad and the dressing separately and mix before serving.
More Healthy Salad Recipes
- Beet and citrus salad: beet salad is a fantastic fall side dish. It features sweet roasted beets, tangy citrus, and peppery arugula. The bright, gorgeous colors make it perfect for holiday gatherings!
- Garden salad: garden salad is one of the most basic salads, yet it’s also one of the most popular. This garden salad is made with fresh garden vegetables tossed in a light, tangy vinaigrette dressing. It’s a great side that pairs well with almost anything and is one of the best healthy salad recipes.
- Apple Kale Salad: this massaged kale salad is full of fresh ingredients tossed in a simple lemon-mustard dressing.
- Cucumber Zucchini Salad: featuring fresh cilantro, chili pepper, and lime juice, this cucumber zucchini salad recipe is a refreshing summer side dish.
Did you make this recipe? I would love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a review and rating below.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Cook the quinoa. Add the rinsed quinoa, water, and salt to a medium pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the quinoa until all the water is absorbed, for 12-15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet, spread it into an even layer, and refrigerate until cooled completely, for about 10 minutes.
- Assemble the salad. Add the cooled quinoa, vegetables, and fresh basil to a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour ~ ½ of the Italian dressing over the salad and gently stir until well combined. Taste and add more dressing as needed (I usually use about ⅔ of the dressing the recipe calls for).
- Serve at room temperature or chilled.
- Store. Leftover quinoa salad keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If making the quinoa salad beforehand, store the salad and the dressing separately and assemble before serving.