Citrus quinoa salad with cranberries and avocado is a perfect side dish or make-ahead lunch! It's all about the sweet-tart citrus dressing.
Y'all, I am addicted to this flavor-packed citrus 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.
Ingredients and substitutions
- citrus vinaigrette - This is a mix of lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. You make it in the blender, so the garlic clove breaks up and makes the dressing a little bit thicker. It will cling so well to the quinoa!
- cooked quinoa - If you're cooking the quinoa from scratch, you'll need 1 cup dried quinoa and 1 ½ cups water.
- dried cranberries - You can use other dried fruit, if you like, or chopped up orange or tangerine slices.
- roasted cashews - You can use salted or unsalted cashews. You can also sub in other nuts or seeds, if you prefer.
- green onion - Red onion or sweet onion will also work.
- avocado - Chop the avocado right before using, so it won't brown. The citrus dressing in this quinoa salad will help prevent it from browning after you mix it in.
How to make citrus quinoa salad
If you need to make your quinoa, start it cooking now, then prep all of the salad ingredients.
Then, make the citrus vinaigrette. Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in your blender, and puree until completely smooth.
Now, it's time to assemble the citrus quinoa salad!
In a large serving bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together. Add the citrus vinaigrette, and toss to coat everything well. Chill until you are ready to serve.
- If you have to cook your quinoa from dried, start it cooking first thing, so it can cook while you prep all of the other ingredients.
- Speaking of prep! Wait to cut into your avocado until it's ready to go into the bowl to avoid browning.
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.
Frequently asked questions
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.
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
→ nutritional yeast tofu
→ eggplant and tomato soup
→ BBQ vegan pulled pork sandwich
→ vegan quiche Lorraine
More quinoa recipes
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
- If you haven't made the quinoa yet, combine 1 cup of dry quinoa with 1 ½ cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. For Instant Pot or rice cooker directions, see my post on how to cook quinoa. Your quinoa is ready when all of the water is absorbed. While that cooks, prep everything else.
Make the citrus vinaigrette.
- Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in your blender, and puree until completely smooth.
Assemble the 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