Dive into a bowl of Mediterranean quinoa salad for lunch or dinner. This Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe is the perfect quick and easy meal you can prepare in less than 20 minutes!
I create healthy cold salad recipes to cool down whenever the temperatures are hot outside. This Mediterranean quinoa salad is full of chopped vegetables, chickpeas, and red quinoa, dressed in an oil-free tangy dressing.
It's so simple to make and can be dressed in advance. I made a large portion and ate it all week long.
One of the things I love about quinoa is how quickly it cooks. And I love the various quinoa colors available. So today, I chose red quinoa for its vibrant color for the Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe.
- Red Quinoa: Red quinoa (which takes on a brownish hue when cooked) has a richer taste, slightly chewier and heartier texture, and somewhat nuttier flavor compared to white quinoa. It's often the quinoa of choice for cold salads as it holds its shape better during cooking.
- Red Bell Peppers: Red bell peppers are the sweetest of the bell pepper varieties while green peppers will taste more bitter because they are in their less mature and unripe forms.
- Capers: The taste of a caper is reminiscent of the lemony tang and saltiness of green olives, but with a smack of floral tartness all their own. Because they're packed in brine, capers also boast a bold salty, savory flavor.
- Kalamata Olives: Kalamata olives have a similar bitter taste to black olives when first harvested. However, when they have undergone a curing process, the flavor profile of kalamata olives becomes rich, fruity, and meaty with a notable sharpness that other olive varieties don't have.
- Tofu Feta Cheese: I make my own tofu feta cheese. It adds a creamy richness to the salad recipe.
- Orange Bell Peppers: Yellow and orange are similar to red but less sweet and citrusy.
- Red Cabbage: Red cabbage leaves taste a little peppery and turn sweeter as they get cooked. Furthermore, red cabbage looks perfect in coleslaw and adds a beautiful shade to leafy green salad mixes.
- Red Onions: The red onion is the mildest, sweet onion. Red onions have purplish-red skin whose color is layered through its white flesh.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas taste quite like beans, considering they're legumes themselves. Most people compare their flavor to cannellini and pinto beans because they're starchy. However, they also have an earthy taste with nutty undertones.
- English Cucumber: I like English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds and are less watery in salads.
- Grape Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes have a firmer outer skin and fewer seeds. I prefer to use them in salads, so they do not weigh down the other ingredients and get them soggy.
- White beans often replace chickpeas in recipes. For example, the beans, although softer, work with the ingredients in the salad recipe.
- Any color quinoa replaces red quinoa. However, black and red quinoa is a bit nuttier than white quinoa.
- Choose any bell peppers you prefer for both color and taste.
- Substitute green onions for red onions for a lighter onion flavor profile.
- Green cabbage has identical sturdiness to red cabbage.
- Skip the tofu feta cheese if you don't eat soy. Or opt for a premade tofu feta cheese from the health food produce section.
- Replace black olives with Kalamata olives.
- Green olives are often used to replace capers in recipes.
How to Make the Salad
First, cook the quinoa following the package instructions or my foolproof directions for how to cook quinoa. While the quinoa cooks, prepare the vegetables. To speed up food prep, I always use a vegetable chopper.
Vegetable choppers are a convenient way to cut vegetables quickly and to cut everything in uniform size. This way, the chopped salad is easy to eat and ensures a bite full of everything in each bite.
Once this quinoa is cooked, allow it to cool completely before adding it to all the chopped vegetables and other ingredients.
Then, prepare the dressing.
Since I don't cook with oil, I made an oil-free dressing with 6 simple ingredients.
- Red Wine Vinegar: Red wine vinegar has a particular flavor. It's tangy, of course, but it's much tangier than balsamic vinegar, which tends to be mellowed with sweetness. This vinegar may be a bit fruity, like red wine, but it doesn't taste like wine. Instead, the sourness is what you'll taste most.
- Lemon: The flavor of lemon can be described as being aromatic of rose, lavender, and pine with a slight note of herbaceous.
- Parsley: Parsley has a bright, herbaceous, and slightly bitter taste that serves as a contrast to emphasize the other flavors in a dish, similar to lemon zest.
- Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard is a unique and savory one. It is made from white wine vinegar, ground black pepper, shallots, and dried mustard seeds. Dijon mustard has a sweet and spicy flavor with salads or sandwiches. In a nutshell, Dijon mustard tastes like a smooth, slightly salty, complex tang.
- Mint: Fresh is always best. Mint tastes sweet and produces an excellent lingering effect on the tongue. Peppermint has a more robust flavor with a more menthol taste. The fresh leaves have the most flavor and scent, with those much reduced in dried mint leaves.
- Maple Syrup: Real maple syrup has a clean, complex maple flavor with hints of caramel, vanilla, and prune.
- White wine vinegar is a substitute for red wine vinegar. While there is a noticeable color difference, the flavor profiles of red and white wine vinegar are surprisingly similar.
- Although fresh lemon juice is best, bottled lemon juice is a good substitute.
- Stone ground mustard is the best substitute for dijon mustard.
- Use date syrup or agave nectar to replace maple syrup in recipes.
Whisk the dressing and toss it through the quinoa, chopped vegetables, chickpeas, and tofu feta. Next, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Although I served this Mediterranean quinoa salad as an entree, it's a great side dish for a picnic, barbeque, or family gathering.
I suggest serving it as a side with lentil burgers or Mediterranean vegan quiche.
Serve salad cold for best results. You can make the dressing a day in advance, roast the pepper the day before and chop veggies beforehand.
Some of the best seasonings for quinoa are cumin, dried bay leaf, turmeric, salt, and black pepper. I also love to flavor it with fresh garlic and herbs such as parsley, dill, and cilantro. You can add the seasonings of your choice into the pot simultaneously with the liquid and cook it as directed.
Quinoa is rich in fiber and protein, contains much more nutrients, and has a fluffy texture similar to rice. A cup of quinoa contains twice more protein and about 5 g of fiber than white rice. Quinoa contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than white rice.
- For a more flavorful salad, dress the Meditaarranean quinoa salad in advance to allow the herbs and flavors of the ingredients to enhance while chilling.
- Cook quinoa in advance. To speed up the cooing process, put the quinoa in the refrigerator after cooking.
- Use a vegetable chopper to cut uniform sized vegetables and speed up meal prep.
- Make sure the quinoa is cold before adding it to the salad. Ingredients like tofu feta cheese will melt or lose its texture if heated.
- Use English cucumbers to reduce the water content in the salad. They have fewer seeds.
You will love this Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe for lunch, dinner, or as a side dish.
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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- 2 cup cooked red quinoa (⅔ cup dry)
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 1 English cucumber diced
- 1 cup Grape tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ cup Red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup Orange bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Capers
- ½ cup Red cabbage, chopped
- ½ cup Tofu feta cheese
- ½ cup Red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ½ lemon juiced
- 3 Tablespoons Parsley, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Mint, chopped
- Cook quinoa in advance and refrigerate to expedite cooling.
- Use a vegetable chopper to cut vegetables uniformly for a chopped salad texture.
- Dress the salad in advance, so the flavors enhance while chilling in the refrigerator.
- Do not add quinoa to the salad until it is cool.
- Serve this salad as an entree, lunch or side dish.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂