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Powerhouse Quinoa Salad (Gluten Free + Vegan)

Powerhouse Quinoa Salad – This healthy quinoa salad is PACKED with superfood nutrients and flavor. It’s the perfect healthy meal prep lunch! (Gluten-free + vegan)

Overhead view of a bowl of healthy powerhouse quinoa salad with balsamic dressing

Originally posted May 2012. Post and photos updated Jul 2021.

I talk about this a bit in my meal planning post, but one of the easiest ways I know to eat well is to have a few things pre-made (or the components prepped) ahead of time. I don’t hit every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack throughout the week with meal prep (that’s too much for me!), but I’ve found that picking just a few things to focus on frees up time and energy for other work during the week.

I often work on prepping my breakfasts and lunches. This might mean cutting up veggies for salad fixings or making a yummy dip or a batch of homemade ranch that I can use with veggies or to make wraps or sandwiches.

One of my FAVORITE things to have on hand is an awesome healthy quinoa salad. They store like a dream and are substantial enough to keep me full and satisfied all afternoon long. This Powerhouse Quinoa Salad is no exception. It truly is a nutrient powerhouse–packed with nutrient-dense superfoods and plenty of goodies to keep me going! Plus, it’s gluten-free and vegan, to boot. (AKA – A perfect mom lunch!)

Here’s all you need to get started…

Overhead view of a glass bowl of balsamic dressing for powerhouse quinoa salad
Front view of balsamic dressing being drizzled over Powerhouse quinoa salad

Here’s What Goes Into Our Powerhouse Quinoa Salad:

FIRST UP = THE QUINOA! To start this healthy powerhouse quinoa salad, I cook a simple batch of quinoa (this is my favorite way to cook quinoa). Quinoa has fiber and plant-based protein that help keep you full. Plus, it’s an excellent base for all the flavor to come! (For extra color, you can use red quinoa or tri-color quinoa. I used white this time. They’re all whole grain and absolutely delicious.)

THEN, THE GOODIES. Now that your quinoa is cooked, you’re ready to add the goodies that turn this into our Powerhouse Quinoa Salad. In this healthy quinoa salad, you’ll be looking at goodies like:

  • Apples – I like a mix of green (Granny Smith) and red (Honeycrisp) for both color and flavor.
  • Celery – Celery adds some veggie crunch and it’s a classic pairing with apples.
  • Spinach – Get in some greens with roughly chopped spinach. Or, swap in your some kale or arugula!
  • Cranberries – The sweetness of dried cranberries is delightful with the apples and celery.
  • Nuts – For a savory note and some more crunch, I love adding toasted pecans or walnuts to this healthy quinoa salad. It’s one of my favorite parts!

LASTLY, THE DRESSING. Now that the salad’s assembled, it’s time to dress it with another layer of flavor. Our simple balsamic dressing hits so many delicious notes–tangy, sweet, savory, salty. The balance is just right!

Close up verhead view of a bowl of healthy powerhouse quinoa salad with balsamic dressing

TIPS & TRICKS FOR THIS POWERHOUSE QUINOA SALAD:

DON’T KNOW HOW TO COOK QUINOA? This is my go-to method. It’s SUPER easy and gives you perfectly cooked, fluffy quinoa every single time. Perfect for all these yummy healthy quinoa salads!

ADD A LITTLE PROTEIN (VEGGIE OR NOT). This healthy quinoa salad is SUPER flexible, so you can absolutely stir in some cooked chicken or crumbled bacon (obviously not vegan/vegetarian), a drained and rinsed can of white beans, or even a little cheese if you like. (Before we went dairy-free, I loved using a little cotija or feta cheese.)

HOW TO STORE IT. If you’re making this powerhouse quinoa salad ahead of time, it’ll keep fully assembled for about 3-4 days. The apples and spinach will start to lose a little texture after that. You may also choose to wait to add the nuts until right before serving, so they stay nice and crunchy.

LOVE THAT DRESSING? I love the dressing in this powerhouse quinoa salad. It’s got so much flavor and really complements the other flavors of the salad. This recipe will make more than you’ll likely need, but I love that there’s enough that you can add as much or as little as you like. (Leftover dressing is great on green salad or makes a great chicken marinade!)

Front view of a bowl of healthy quinoa salad with apples and cranberries.
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Overhead view of a bowl of healthy powerhouse quinoa salad with balsamic dressing

Powerhouse Quinoa Salad (Vegan + Gluten-Free)


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: About 25 minutes
  • Yield: 67 cups 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Powerhouse Quinoa Salad – This healthy quinoa salad is PACKED with superfood nutrients and flavor. It’s the perfect healthy meal prep lunch! (Gluten-free + vegan)


Ingredients

Scale

For The Powerhouse Quinoa Salad:

  • 3 cups cooked, cooled quinoa (Made from 1 cup dry quinoa + 2 cups water)*
  • 1 small green apple, cored and diced
  • 1 small Honeycrisp apple (or another red apple), cored and diced
  • 12 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, torn or roughly chopped
  • 23 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • Optional: feta or cotija cheese to sprinkle

For The Balsamic Dressing:

  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (can sub honey if not vegan)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine cooked and cooled quinoa, apples, celery, spinach leaves, cranberries, walnuts, (and cheese, if using).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. (Dressing will keep 1 week in the refrigerator.)
  3. Add half of the dressing to the salad and stir to combine.
  4. Taste and add additional dressing, as desired.

Notes

How To Prepare the Quinoa. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Add 1 cup rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let steam 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Let cool.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish, Vegetarian
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Powerhouse Quinoa Salad, Quinoa Salad, Healthy Quinoa Salad

26 Comments

  1. Its crazy how close this is to what I made for dinner a few nights ago. I have so much love for Quinoa right now, in the last few weeks we have had quinoa salads, curried quinoa, and quinoa fritters (my current fave I even found time to post the recipe).
    I haven’t seen red quinoa in the UK though 🙁
    Hmm, I bet this salad would work well with couscous too.

  2. I finally had a chance to make this (having a baby between now and my previous comment really slowed down my cooking) and it’s wonderful! I brought it for lunch to work all week and enjoyed every bite. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. Quick question – can I make this in advance!? I would really love to make this to have on hand for lunches for a few days. Can I put the dressing on and then store it, or should I add it write before serving?

    1. Yes! Absolutely! You can assemble the whole thing (dressing and all) and pop it in the fridge, ready to go! If you like, you can keep the nuts and cheese out (if using) and sprinkle that on right before serving. I think that gives you the best texture 🙂 Hope that helps!

      1. Perfect! Thank you for your quick response!

        I just came across your site today, but I’m sure I’ll be back. I love your philosophy on food! and am also all about salads these days. I know this is an old post – but I’m so thankful for it!

        I’m off to make the salad. I will come back and review it 🙂

  4. This salad is AMAZING! I love quinoa based salads because they are so filling. This is probably my favourite one so far! DELICIOUS!

  5. Delicious!!! Hubby loved it too! I could drink the dressing! 😉 I didn’t have spinach on hand, so I used some kale instead. Worked perfectly.

  6. Made this for Book Club. I substituted kale for the spinach. It is delicious!! I hope there’s some leftover as I’ll be having this for lunch tomorrow with chicken!

  7. Hi, I don’t quite understand about the quinoa. Recipe says 3 cups cooked quinoa. Prepare the quinoa. Rinse in a fine mesh sieve. Add the rinsed quinoa and 3 cups of water. How much of the dried quinoa are we adding to the 3 cups of water?

    1. Gloria – I’m so sorry for the confusion! The directions could definitely have been more clear (I’ve updated them so they are!).

      3 cups of cooked quinoa comes from 1 cup uncooked quinoa. The directions in the recipe card were meant to help walk you through how to cook it if you were unfamiliar with that process. But I totally left out that crucial “1 cup dry quinoa” measurement. I apologize! Thank you for helping me make this more clear 🙂

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