This is seriously the best grain salad ever! Quinoa salad with cranberries and avocado is perfect tossed with sweet-tart citrus vinaigrette.
Y'all, I am addicted to this flavor-packed quinoa salad! Sweet dried cranberries and creamy avocado are perfect paired with earthy quinoa. And the citrus vinaigrette is the perfect punch to tie it all together.
Even my quinoa-averse husband says that this salad is tasty!
I created this salad as a side dish, but it also makes a great lunch all on its own. If you've been struggling with weekday lunches, struggle no more. Fix this salad at the start of the week, and you'll have at least three lunches waiting in the fridge for you.
How to cook the quinoa
This recipe calls for three cups of cooked quinoa, and that's because you have so many options for the actual cooking! If you're cooking from dried, using 1 cup quinoa and 1 ½ cups water will yield what you need.
Quinoa fluffs up when cooking, which is why 2 ½ cups of ingredients gets you 3 to 3 ½ cups of finished product.
If you are cooking it from dried, I have a great guide for how to cook quinoa right here. It has instructions for on the stovetop, in a rice cooker, or in a pressure cooker.
You can also find frozen quinoa at some grocery stores, which will also work in this recipe. Just thaw it according to the package directions before assembling your salad.
Quinoa also freezes well, so you may as well cook a bunch to freeze for the next time you want this salad. Just freeze in an airtight container, and thaw in the microwave or let it thaw on the countertop.
How to make quinoa taste good
On its own, quinoa isn't for everyone. It has a bit of an earthy, bitter flavor. I personally like that taste, but I can see how it can be a lot, if that's not your thing.
The secret to unlocking quinoa's full deliciousness is to complement that bitterness with sweet flavors and creamy textures.
The dried cranberries in this quinoa salad recipe are a great start. Top things off with an easy, citrusy dressing, and you'd better get ready to love quinoa salad!
On top of the fruit elements, this salad gets a crunch and creaminess from cashews. If you don't have or can't eat them, pumpkin seeds will bring a similar texture party to the table.
Making the simple citrus dressing
Oh my goodness, y'all. This dressing is incredibly flavorful and so, so easy to make! It combines orange and lemon juice with a touch of maple syrup and garlic to bring some serious oomph to this salad.
To make the dressing, combine lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, maple syrup, a garlic clove, and a touch of salt in your blender. Puree until you have a nice, smooth mix.
Blending the dressing gives this vinaigrette a somewhat creamy texture. The blender whips up the olive oil, which is why the dressing is white after you puree it.
Feel free to double or triple this recipe! This is a lovely vinaigrette to have on hand for all kinds of salads, so it never hurts to have a jar of it in the fridge.
Making the quinoa salad
Like the dressing, this salad is incredibly simple to make.
First, cook your quinoa (unless you have leftover quinoa handy). Then, add it to a large serving bowl. Add dried cranberries, chopped green onion, cashews (or pumpkin seeds), and chopped avocado.
Now, gently toss the quinoa together with the fruits, vegetables, and cashews until you have a nice, even mix. Add the dressing and toss again, so everything gets well-coated in dressing.
How to store it
The citrus in the dressing will help keep the avocado from browning, so this salad is fine to store in an airtight container for leftovers. It will keep for around three days in the refrigerator.
The cashews will soak up some of the dressing and soften as they sit in this salad. That does reduce their crunch, which isn't necessarily a problem. If you do want crunchy cashews, leave them out, adding them just before serving.
What to serve with quinoa salad
I love this as a side dish, but you could really just dish yourself up a double portion of this salad and call it a meal, if you wanted.
As an appetizer or side, I like it with a warm plant-based protein alongside it. It's also nice next to a sandwich or as part of a soup-and-salad meal.
If you're looking to serve this as a side, I have some ideas for you to round out the meal:
- crispy baked tofu
- yellow split pea soup
- quinoa lentil meatloaf - a double quinoa meal!
- nutritional yeast tofu
- eggplant and tomato soup
- BBQ vegan pulled pork sandwich
- vegan quiche Lorraine
Quinoa salad with cranberries and citrus dressing recipe
For the citrus vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice - fresh squeezed or bottled is fine
- ¼ cup orange juice - fresh squeezed or bottled is fine
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt - or more, to taste
Make the citrus vinaigrette
- Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in your blender, and puree until completely smooth.
Assemble the cranberry quinoa salad
- In a large serving bowl, toss all of the quinoa salad ingredients together. Add the vinaigrette, and toss to coat everything well. Chill until you are ready to serve.
- 1 lemon yields approximately 2 tablespoons of juice
- 1 large orange yields approximately ¼ cup of juice