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 •
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 …
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.
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.
‘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 …)
And Shelley and I are sending our thanks for the inspiration for this fantastic salad!
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Loving Quinoa? You’ve Gotta Try:
- Citrus Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
- Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!)
- Mediterranean Confetti Quinoa Salad
- Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
- Kale Chopped Salad with Berries and Freekeh (or Quinoa)
- 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
- 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.)
- In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, chicken, basil, walnuts, parmesan, and garlic. Stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, until serving.
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!).
Our Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa recipe has been mentioned or featured in: Easy, Frugal Recipes Using Leftover Chicken at Feeding Big