Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil

Judy’s Quinoa Salad

~ This gorgeous salad is perfect as a main course, or as a hearty side! Fabulous served warm or totally chilled, it can even be adapted for vegetarians. So easy and incredibly delicious – it’ll quickly become a favorite at picnics and at dinner! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Make Ahead    Gluten Free  

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Let’s take a little walk. Down memory lane, of course.

Walk with me … won’t you??

Many moons ago (okfine, it was 14 months), we published one of our most popular posts of all time. How to Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!) sorta took on a life of its own … and thousands (millions! billions!) have read it – and loved it!

Well, way back when … my mother-in-law left us a comment on that quinoa post. Shelley and I were super excited about this. Ya see, we really weren’t getting too many comments back then. Like when we did get a comment on a post, we literally called each other and each did our own respective happy dance in our kitchen.

It sometimes still happens …

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com} So anyhow. The comment. Yes.

My MIL (that’s short for mother-in-law, BTW … which is short for by the way. Ahem. I digress.) looooooves to travel. She’s been all over the world … north, south, east, west. And when she travels, she really tries to immerse herself in the culture. (I, on the other hand, would maybe try to find food I at least recognize and a Marriott. I’m kidding! Only kind of.) And in her comment, she shared that she had first tried quinoa while on a trip to Peru several years ago.

She also listed off a few ingredients that she loves to combine to create her favorite quinoa dish.

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com} Well, if you know Shelley like I do, then you know that was enough to send her into a flurry in the kitchen.

So the next time we got together, Shelley presented me with her version of my MIL’s quinoa salad. (With chicken. Which is funny because I had wanted to add chicken to it. It’s only slightly scary that we think exactly alike.)

And then we sat and tasted and added a pinch of salt, and a tad more parm, mixed in a few more bites of chicken. Hmmm … more tomato? Less tomato?

And then it was perfect, so we sat and ate this phenomenal salad. By the heaping forkful. There were mumblings of “mmmm sooooo good” and “I could eat this every day” while we still had food in our mouths. Whatever. Don’t judge.

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com} ‘Cause once you try this, all manners will probably go out the window. And that’s ok … really. Anyone who thinks you aren’t showing your utmost best … well, just serve them up a plate of this salad. And then they’ll understand.

I mean, really … just look at it. Bright, cheerful little tomatoes, crunchy walnuts, salty parmesan, tangy lemon, fresh basil, loads of healthy spinach … it’s so delicious it’s worthy of a celebration.

A celebration?!? Why that’s totally perfect for today! Because today is my world-traveling, quinoa-loving, sweet mother-in-law’s birthday! Yayyyy!

So I’m sending very Happy Birthday wishes to Judy! (Everybody sing! Happy Birthday to youuuu …)

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

And Shelley and I are sending our thanks for the inspiration for this fantastic salad!

THK by Gretchen

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Loving Quinoa? You’ve Gotta Try:

Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil

Preparation 17 min. 2017-08-17T00:17:00+00:00 Cook Time 10-12 min. (plus cooling) 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00
Serves About 13 cups     adjust servings


  • 1 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups quartered grape or cherry tomatoes (from about 1 1/2 pints)
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken breasts (see note)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. After cooking, allow to cool, then fluff with a fork. (If serving as a warm, main-dish salad, allow to cool just enough that the basil and spinach won't wilt when added and the cheese won't melt.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, chicken, basil, walnuts, parmesan, and garlic. Stir to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, until serving.


Recipe Notes

Chicken: Nearly any boneless, skinless chicken breasts will work in this recipe, as long as they're not overly flavorful from spices or marinades. A store-bought rotisserie chicken is an easy option, or you can plan ahead and cook a couple of extra chicken breasts whenever you're making chicken, so you have extra cooked chicken for this recipe without any extra work.

Make-Ahead Tip: This recipe can easily be made in advance and refrigerated until serving. It makes a large bowl of salad – perfect for sharing at a party, or for storing leftovers in the fridge for lunches and snacks throughout the week.

For a Vegetarian Version: You can simply omit the chicken completely, especially as the quinoa offers so much protein. Or, you can offer the diced chicken on the side, and diners can mix some in if they choose.

Not Sure How to Zest a Lemon?: Check out our post on the easiest way to zest lemons (and grate other stuff, too!).

We'd love to see your photos of this recipe! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and tag @TwoHealthyKitchens!


Our Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa recipe has been mentioned or featured in:
Easy, Frugal Recipes Using Leftover Chicken at Feeding Big
Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}


Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil — 40 Comments

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Don! We really do just love this quinoa recipe – it’s so flavorful and filling, yet light and refreshing, too! Just a really satisfying, super-nutritious meal that truly would be perfect to take to work and power through the rest of the workday (no more mid-afternoon energy slumps 🙂 )! ~G&S

  1. This is the third item I have made off of your website and I think it’s my favorite. Everything has been great and I tell everyone I know about you 🙂

  2. I agree with you ladies I love love love quinoa and get so excited whenever I find great new ways to spice it up! I love the look of this quinoa salad – the combo of tomatoes, basil and Parmesan is always a superb one!! Now my only dilemma is trying to figure out if I should make this quinoa salad or your Mediterranean confetti quinoa salad for my grandma’s 75th this weekend!! 😀

    • Hi Jess! You are totally right … the lemon and basil together are just so yummy – so bright and fresh! And with those cheery little tomatoes and super-healthy spinach … it’s like a little ray of sunshine on your plate! 🙂 ~G&S

  3. Hi girls! This is the second quinoa recipe in a row I’ve just read, so of course now guess what I’m craving for lunch?! This sounds just perfect for a summer lunch, as well. I love the combination of yummy veggies, walnuts, parmesan and lemon juice you’ve added. Great idea!

    • Hi Rachel! Our favorite parts of any recipe are delicious and healthy! And an absolute bonus is when it’s easy – and this recipe doesn’t disappoint at all! Simple, yummy, fabulously good for you – totally a win! 🙂 ~G&S

    • Hi, Kathy! We just can’t tell you how excited we are to hear that you tried this already … and LOVED it! It means so much to both of us that you took a moment to let us know! So appreciated! No matter how much we love a recipe, and how many times we make our guinea pigs (aka family members 😀 ) taste-test various versions, it always make us so happy to know that our readers enjoy our recipes just as much as we do! Thanks a million – really! 😀 G&S

    • Hey, Kristi! You know, I really love salad recipes, too. They’re probably one of my favorite things to concoct (but since our blog isn’t called Two Healthy Kitchens Brimming with Salads … you know, we only get to post them now and then 😀 )! I’m always so happy when I have two or three really great loaded-with-goodies salads hanging out in my fridge … all week long, I look forward to piling the yummy different flavor combinations onto my plate for lunch or snacks – like having my own awesome salad bar! Mmmmmmm … you’re gonna looove this one! Cheers, my dear! 😀 ~Shelley

  4. This is such a nutritious salad…I love everything that you have in it…this is a perfect meal for the warm weather…delicious!
    Have a wonderful weekend 😀

    • Oh, Juliana! It really is so, so good – such a perfect combination of ingredients – like summer on a plate! The fresh hit of basil … the sweet, juicy tomatoes … the crunchy walnuts and salty-umami of parm … Oh, wow – I wanna go make this again right now! I looooove this – and I just know you will, too! Happy weekend, my friend! 😀 ~Shelley

  5. Always looking for new ways with quinoa as I am not a huge fan! I know it is a great protein and can take on so many ingredients well. So, this looks like a winner and may just turn the tide for me. Thanks so much, Gretchen! I NEED to get on that quinoa train!

    • Lori, you’ve got to make this! Like, immediately!! Shelley and I literally were shoveling this into our mouths! Thank heavens nobody saw us!! 😉

      The fresh basil and lemon, the sweet cherry tomatoes, the salty parm, the awesome crunch of the walnuts … it’s just SOOOO good! I really hope you make this – and let us know what you think! ~Gretchen

    • Haha! So funny you mention all the cherry tomatoes! My dad is growing them – he’s got the exact same problem! Well, not really a problem … but he’s putting tomatoes in everything right now! 🙂
      Yes … this is the perfect way to use up a bunch – and basil, too! I’ve got TONS of basil growing! Ohhh … maybe I can send you basil and you can send me tomatoes?? 😀 ~Gretchen

    • Thank you, Arpita! This salad comes together in a snap, but tastes gourmet! We love those quick and easy recipes! 🙂 This salad is perfect to take to a picnic – you’ll really impress everyone! ~Gretchen

  6. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Glad to have provided a little inspiration. You took a good thing and made it better!!!

    • It’s perfect for dinner … and then lunch the next day … and then a quick snack during a busy afternoon … and it’s just sooo yummy every single time (we may or may not have tasted it during all hours of the day!) 😀 ~G&S

  7. This salad looks fab! So healthy and colorful. I love it. It’s always so great when you can recreate a food memory! And, your story made me laugh. Thanks so much! Happy birthday to your MIL. Pinned for sure!

    • So glad we could bring a smile to your face with our antics! Shelley and I really do have a great time – despite our lack of manners sometimes! Lol!!
      Thanks so much for the pin – hope you try it! We just love how totally fresh and delicious it is! 😀 ~Gretchen

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