Power up with this tasty high-protein quinoa salad packed with fiber, healthy fat, micronutrients, and antioxidants.
Providing about 20 to 30 grams of protein, this salad comes together with 7 simple ingredients that you can easily substitute with other vegetables and grains.
The 2-ingredient dressing is a snap, and you can shake up the flavors with optional seasonings and other ingredients, too.
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WHY THIS WORKS
- A balanced, filling, and tasty meal that checks off all the boxes with protein, fiber, and healthy fats
- 7 ingredient salad
- 2 ingredient dressing
- Meal prep friendly
- Easy to customize with other ingredients and flavors
- Make it all plant-based by swapping the poultry for beans or lentils
- Can be served as a complete meal or side dish
INGREDIENTS AND NUTRITION
Quinoa is a seed that originated from South America. However, because it’s consumed the same way as other cereal grains, quinoa is classified as a whole grain.
Touted as a “superfood”, quinoa has an impressive nutrition profile. The term “superfood” is not a scientific term, nor is it regulated. Nonetheless, it’s a marketing term used to describe exceptionally nutrient-dense foods that offer health benefits.
Even though they’re a tiny-sized grain, one cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. In addition, quinoa contains a good amount of the following nutrients.
- Copper – an antioxidant mineral that’s important for heart health.
- Folate – a B vitamin needed for cell function and tissue growth and essential to take for a healthy pregnancy.
- Iron – helps transport oxygen in the blood.
- Manganese – involved in bone formation, immune response, and metabolism.
- Magnesium – supports regulation of muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, blood sugar, and bone formation.
- Phosphorus – works with calcium for bone health, plays a structural role in the body’s cells, and is involved in energy production.
- Zinc – plays a role in many chemical reactions in the body.
Low in calories, leafy greens are loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds as well as fiber which we need to keep the gut and heart healthy. Additionally, leafy greens offer the following nutrients.
- Vitamin A – supports the body’s growth and development and the immune system.
- Vitamin C – a key nutrient and antioxidant that promotes immune function, collagen production, and absorption of iron from plant-based foods.
- Vitamin K – essential for blood clotting and building of bones
- B-vitamins – needed for proper cell function and helps with metabolism and creation of new blood cells.
- Potassium – an electrolyte and mineral that helps with blood pressure regulation, proper nerve signals, and muscle contraction.
Leafy greens tend to wilt when they’re mixed into a salad immediately. Since I prefer that they keep their texture, I don’t add them until right before serving.
If you don’t like the wilted texture like me, pack the leafy greens in a separate container. However, if this doesn’t bother you, go ahead and add them right into the mix.
A colorful and nutrient-packed vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked, bell peppers are especially high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants help fight oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause cellular damage as they try to steal electrons from other atoms.
Antioxidants do their job by donating an electron to free radicals, consequently neutralizing free radicals and reducing their reactivity .
Crunchy with a slightly peppery and spicy taste, radishes are also chock full of vitamin C and contain a small amount of micronutrients.
While radishes add a zesty flavor to salads, don’t limit yourself to eating them this way. Consider incorporating them into other dishes such as sandwiches, tacos, coleslaw, and dips.
Additionally, you may cook radishes to lessen their pungent flavor and enhance their earthy taste. Try them roasted with olive oil and garlic for a simple side dish.
Cooked turkey or chicken (omit if vegan)
For this recipe, I’m including leftover cooked turkey but feel free to incorporate chicken or go all plant-based and use beans or lentils.
A popular source of protein, turkey also boasts other nutrients including B vitamins, phosphorus, and zinc.
Another nutrient found in high amounts in turkey is selenium. It plays an essential role in DNA synthesis, reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, and protection from infection.
For a 100% vegan salad, use beans, chickpeas, or tofu as a protein source.
Although I use pistachios in this recipe, you may elevate the texture of your salad by adding other nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts.
Or if you don’t care for nuts or have an allergy to them, try adding seeds such as pumpkin, hemp, and sunflower seeds. Alternatively, roasted or chickpeas will also boost the nutritional value and add crunch.
Rich in micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, nuts give a crunchy taste and boost satiety when added to meals or snacks.
What’s more, the consumption of nuts is associated with numerous health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory effects and improved blood sugar and lipid levels .
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Take your salad up a notch with the luxurious taste of cheese.
Smooth in texture and mild in flavor, fresh mozzarella contains protein, phosphorus, and calcium much like other cheeses.
However, mozzarella is lower in sodium and saturated fat compared to other cheeses.
Naturally extracted from olives, olive oil is teeming with healthy monounsaturated fat as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
These compounds have been shown to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
A little acidity like the juice of a lemon helps balance out the overall taste by competing with bitter flavors and enhancing other flavors.
For a more citrusy flavor, you can also add the fragrant yellow zest of the lemon if you’d like.
STEPS TO MAKE HIGH PROTEIN QUINOA SALAD
Firstly, rinse the quinoa with water and then add it to a saucepan or small pot along with the water. Bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
The cooked quinoa will look like the photo on the right. Remove the cooked quinoa from the heat and set it aside. After 5 minutes, fluff the quinoa with a fork and continue to let it cool down.
While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your other ingredients. Wash the radishes and bell pepper in addition to any other vegetables you’re adding.
Remove the stems and roots of the radishes and discard them. You can eat the stems of the radishes if you want but they have a fuzzy texture that some people don’t like. Even so, you do what tastes best for you!
Slice the radishes into 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces. Chop the bell pepper into small bite-sized pieces.
Then add the sliced radishes and chopped bell pepper to a large food storage container or a serving bowl if you’re planning to serve the salad immediately.
Next, add the pistachios to the container. Pistachios are already small in size. However, if you’re using other nuts, you may want to chop them.
Tear the fresh mozzarella and add it to the container. You may also chop the mozzarella with a knife if you want even pieces.
Besides chopping the vegetables, you’ll need to chop or shred your turkey or chicken if that’s not already done. When you’re done with that go ahead and add it to the container.
Once the quinoa has cooled down, add it to the container along with the olive oil, and juice of the lemon.
Add the zest of the lemon and everything but the bagel seasoning or seasonings of your choice if you’d like.
Lastly, combine all the ingredients well and taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve immediately on a plate or bowl of leafy greens and add a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days. You may also store salad in smaller containers if you’re prepping to-go meals.
Keeping the leafy greens separate from the quinoa salad until serving time will prevent the greens from wilting.
While rinsing quinoa may be a pain, I recommend doing it.
Quinoa is coated with saponin, a naturally occurring chemical that repels insects and has a bitter taste. Saponins are a component in many different types of plant foods including peanuts, beans, lentils, and soy. 
Some people have built up a tolerance to saponin. While others cannot tolerate saponin because it’s hard to digest.
As you rinse the quinoa, pay attention to the water–the bubbles are an indication of saponin. Rinse until the bubbles disappear.
Use a fine sieve to rinse the quinoa. Another way to rinse is by using a bowl and your hand. Rinse the quinoa in a bowl and drain the water using your hand to hold the quinoa in the bowl as you carefully pour the water out.
Even if you don’t have any issues with saponin, it’s a good idea to rinse quinoa and other saponin-containing foods when you’re serving a crowd. You never know how other people may react to saponin.
Here are some other healthy grains you can incorporate into your diet in place of quinoa.
– brown rice
Shake up the flavors of your salad and experiment with one or a combination of these different flavors. You can use fresh herbs or dried spices.
Mix dried herbs with the olive oil, a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting and adjusting as needed. If you use fresh herbs, add about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup to the recipe and taste and adjust as needed.
– curry powder
Add tahini or Greek yogurt for a nutritious and creamy dressing. You may double or triple the dressing recipes below to have extra on hand.
Tahini is made from ground sesame seed and is a versatile condiment used in dips such as hummus.
To make a simple tahini-based dressing, add about 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons of water, and the juice of 2 lemons to a bowl. Mix well, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Greek yogurt is a strained yogurt made by the removal of whey and other liquids, resulting in a thicker texture, tangier taste, and higher protein content.
For a basic Greek yogurt dressing, add about a 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 clove minced garlic, the juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch or two of black pepper to a bowl. Mix well, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
High Protein Quinoa Salad – 7 Ingredients (+ variations)
- 1 pot
- 1 cutting board
- 1 sharp knife
- 1 large food storage container
- 1 zester or grater for optional lemon zest
- 1 cup dry quinoa (makes about 3 cups cooked)
- 1 bell pepper (see notes)
- 8 to 10 radishes (see notes)
- 1 bag or plastic box leafy greens
- 9 ounces cooked chicken or turkey (may use canned or cooked beans)
- ½ cup chopped nuts
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 lemon
- ¼ olive oil (plus more for drizzling if desired)
Optional: 1 tbsp of everything but the bagel seasoning or you may add other seasonings and ingredients of your choice (see notes).
- Rinse the quinoa and cook according to package instructions.
- While the quinoa is cooking, rinse the vegetables and chop them. Chop the bell pepper into bite-size pieces. Cut the stems and ends of the radishes and slice them into ⅛ to ¼ inch slices. Place the chopped bell peppers and radishes into a large food storage container or a serving bowl if you're planning to serve the salad immediately.
- Chop the nuts if needed and add them to the container along with chopped or hand-torn fresh mozzarella.
- Chop or shred cooked chicken or turkey and add to the container.
- When the quinoa is finished cooking, set it aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork afterward and transfer to a large plate or rimmed dish to cool off.
- Once the quinoa has cooled down, add it to the container with lemon juice and olive oil. If you want to add a more citrusy flavor to the salad, add lemon zest using a grater or zester.
- Optional: add the everything but the bagel seasoning or seasonings of your choice.
- Combine the ingredients well. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. When you're ready to serve or eat the salad, add to a bowl along with leafy greens and drizzle with olive oil if you'd like. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days.
Tried this recipe? Share in the comments how it worked out for you and how you made it your own with variations or adaptations you made.