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    Vegetarian Option    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!

Loving Quinoa? You’ve Gotta Try:

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

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

Yield: 13 cups
Prep Time: 17 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes

This chicken and quinoa salad is perfect as a main course or as a side! Serve warm or chilled – it can even be adapted as a vegetarian meal. Delicious!

  Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Make Ahead  Vegetarian Option •  Gluten Free  

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups quartered grape or cherry tomatoes (from about 1 1/2 pints)
  • 6 ounces 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

Instructions

  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.

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 meal prep, 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 a lemon (and grate other stuff, too!).

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 26 servings Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 107Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 258mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 7g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

Did You Make This Recipe?

We'd LOVE to hear! Please leave a star-rating above. And, tag us on Instagram @twohealthykitchens or use the sharing buttons below!

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}

50 thoughts on “Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil”

    • Hi, Kelly! Lemon is definitely supposed to be a prominent, fresh flavor to help the other summer flavors really pop. But, if you’re finding this recipe to be too lemon-y, I’d recommend first decreasing the amount of lemon zest. Lemon zest packs a LOT of lemon flavor, so decreasing it – or even eliminating it, if you prefer – should do the trick. Also, be sure when zesting the lemon that you don’t get more that just the very top yellow layer – don’t zest into the underlying white pith. The pith is very bitter and will take the lemon flavor from being bright and vibrant to being overbearingly bitter. I hope those suggestions help! ~Shelley

      Reply
    • Thanks so much, Maria! 😀 That’s a great question! I’d say a good rule of thumb would be that a serving size is about 1 cup, based on serving sizes for quinoa and other similar grain salads. But the real “serving size” you’ll want definitely depends on how you serve it — for example, you’ll want different servings if this is the entire main course, versus if it’s served along with some fresh fruit, versus if you’re eating it as one of the offerings at a potluck! 😀 ~Amy

      Reply
    • Hi there, Helena!

      So … a little explanation of why we have (at least thus far) opted not to include nutrition info with our recipes and how you might more accurately calculate your own. We’ve actually debated since the beginning of this blog whether or not we should supply nutrition info (and address it in our FAQ (http://twohealthykitchens.com/about/).

      Especially with Gretchen’s (my original business partner’s) master’s degree in nutrition, she could easily have calculated that all manually and very accurately – plus there are loads of online calculators to use. However, for a variety of reasons, we have decided over and over again not to do that. One big reason is that we generally don’t specify exact brands (although on some occasions we need to), so the final nutritional profile of a recipe can vary widely, depending on the purchasing decisions our readers make. In the end, it could almost be a bit misleading to quote nutritional info, if readers make significantly different purchasing choices than we did in testing. Although that problem wouldn’t be a big issue with this specific quinoa chicken salad recipe, it could be for a lot of other recipes on our site. For example, the final nutritional profile of our most popular recipe ever – our very simple 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos – could vary tremendously (particularly, in this case, the sodium) depending on which taco seasoning and which salsa someone purchases.

      Also, with recipes like this one, the serving size really might vary depending on how you’re using it – for this recipe, as an example, it might be served as a picnic side dish, or used as an entire meal.

      And lastly, there is such ongoing debate and struggle with the accuracy of many nutrition info calculators many bloggers use – so often, they’re just not very reliable, and I’m not comfortable providing info that I don’t feel is trustworthy.

      My best suggestion would be to use your favorite online nutrition calculator, and plug in the exact brands you use to get the most accurate information, as well as making decisions about your own personal daily calorie goals/activity levels. Also – do you subscribe to our newsletter? A few months ago, we sent out a whole list of different recipe calculators in our newsletter. Too long to publish here (this is already such long answer! ? ), but shoot me an email if you’re interested, and I can send that along for you!

      Also … having said all of this … I want you to know that we get questions like this from other readers from time to time, too. As a result, we are always re-evaluating this very good question and exploring how we may be able to offer nutrition information in a way that we can feel good about – a way that’s helpful and not potentially misleading. So stay tuned …

      Thanks so much for reaching out to us! I hope these explanations help you out at least a little! ~Shelley

      Reply
    • Hi Tina! I’m so excited for you to try this chicken and quinoa recipe! It’s so simple, so healthy … and yet so very delicious, too! Plus, I love the flexibility of serving it warm or cold, and being able to make a big batch ahead to have all week long! I’m always happy to open the fridge, knowing this is in there, waiting for me! Enjoy! ~Shelley

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Published on
Updated on August 3, 2021
Skip to Recipe