This cold quinoa salad with feta cheese, chickpeas, vegetables, and fresh herbs is made with red quinoa and will be your new favorite healthy lunch recipe! Learn how to quickly cool down cooked quinoa to make a cold quinoa salad so the raw vegetables stay crunchy. Ready in under 30 minutes, this salad is perfect for meal prep and makes 4-6 servings.

large bowl of red quinoa salad with wooden salad spoons

As a Registered Dietitian, cold quinoa salads are my favorite healthy recipes for lunch for a few reasons.

They’re filling & nutritious thanks to lots of vegetables and protein-packed quinoa, quick & easy to prepare, and keep well in the fridge.

If you’ve tried my popular Mediterranean quinoa salad, beet quinoa salad with butternut squash, cilantro lime quinoa salad, or Greek quinoa salad with lentils, then you’re going to just love this red quinoa salad with feta cheese!

The red quinoa makes this salad so pretty and colorful.

This salad is made with fiber-rich red quinoa, chopped cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, chickpeas, feta cheese, fresh herbs, toasted slivered almonds for some crunch, and a light homemade champagne vinaigrette.

Since you can cook quinoa in 15 minutes on the stovetop, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

This recipe is vegetarian, gluten free, and soy free.

Red quinoa vs white quinoa

Are you wondering, “what’s the difference between red and white quinoa”? The truth is, there is not much variance between the two, besides the color.

Red and white quinoa taste very similar.

White quinoa has a slightly milder flavor and softer texture. Red quinoa is slightly chewier and takes a few more minutes to cook than white quinoa.

White quinoa cooks up perfectly on the stovetop in 12 minutes; red quinoa needs an extra 2-3 minutes of cooking time.

Red vs white quinoa nutrition

Nutritionally, red and white quinoa are nearly identical, and quinoa is a nutrition powerhouse! One cup of cooked quinoa provides:

  • 5.2 grams of dietary fiber (19% of your daily needs)
  • 8.1 grams of plant-based protein
  • 2.8 mg iron (16% of your daily needs)
  • 77.7 mcg folate (19% of your daily needs)
  • 118.4 mg magnesium (28% of your daily needs)

Quinoa is also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc, and an excellent source of copper, manganese, and phosphorus.

Compared to other whole grains, quinoa is a high protein choice.

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids. Because of this + it’s relatively high iron content, quinoa is an excellent food to enjoy regularly if you follow a plant-based diet.

Red quinoa salad ingredients laid out on a light grey backdrop

Ingredients in red quinoa salad

Everything you need to make this recipe, below:

  • Red quinoa: You can purchase red quinoa at many grocery stores or order it online. If you can’t find red quinoa, you can certainly make this recipe with white quinoa or tri-color quinoa.
  • Mini cucumbers: Mini cucumbers are super crunchy and have smaller seeds than large cucumbers, so they are less likely to get soggy in this salad.
  • Red bell pepper: When shopping for bell pepper, look for firm peppers with no bruising, wrinkles, or scratches. I prefer red bell pepper because they are sweetest, but you can swap for yellow, orange, or green bell pepper if you’d like.
  • Red onion: Red onion adds sharp and zingy flavor to this salad. Red onion is best eaten raw, like in this salad!
  • Fresh parsley: You can use either flat leaf or curly parsley. Store fresh parsley in a jar filled with water in the fridge to make it last for weeks!
  • Fresh mint: The fresh mint adds such a fresh and slightly sweet flavor to this salad, and contrasts nicely with the salty feta cheese.
  • Toasted slivered almonds: Toasted almonds add a lovely crunch to this quinoa salad. You can use another toasted nut, such as toasted pecans, pine nuts or walnuts.
  • Homemade champagne vinaigrette: you’ll need extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot, Dijon mustard, honey, and salt to make this easy salad dressing recipe.
pot of cooked red quinoa

How to cook red quinoa on the stovetop

I encourage you to jump over to this post to learn how to cook perfect quinoa. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. Combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a 2-4 quart pot.
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil on the stovetop.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 12-15 minutes.

Red quinoa takes a few more minutes to cook than white quinoa, so set your timer for 15 minutes once simmering.

Quinoa is done cooking when all the water is absorbed and the grains are light and fluffy.

Does quinoa need to be rinsed?

Quinoa produces a compound called saponin, which acts as a natural insecticide to protect the plant. Saponin is perfectly safe to eat, but can have a bitter flavor. Therefore, some recommend rinsing dry quinoa in a sieve before cooking it.

I personally never rinse quinoa before cooking it. Most quinoa sold in stores today has been cleaned enough to remove the saponin and is sold pre-rinsed, and I have never prepared quinoa that tastes bitter!

How to make red quinoa salad

pot of cooked red quinoa
1. Cook quinoa on the stovetop until grains are light and fluffy and all the water is absorbed.
Red quinoa cooked and spread out on a small baking sheet.
2. To quickly cool down cooked quinoa, spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Pop it in the fridge to cool it down in 10 minutes or less!
four small bowls with chopped pepper, cucumber, herbs, and red onion
3. Chop up bell pepper, mini cucumbers, red onion, and fresh herbs.
hands whisking up a homemade vinaigrette in a small speckled bowl
4. Prepare the champagne vinaigrette by whisking together champagne vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, diced shallot, and salt.
red quinoa salad ingredients in a salad bowl before being mixed
5. Combine all the quinoa salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and add the vinaigrette.
large bowl of red quinoa salad with wooden salad spoons
6. Use salad spoons to thoroughly mix the salad up until well combined.

Serving suggestions

This quinoa salad is a balanced meal when served on its own – it provides plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and lots of micronutrients.

You could serve this quinoa salad as a side dish with your favorite protein, such as tofu, tempeh, salmon, shrimp, or cod.

Storage

Since this recipe is meant to be enjoyed cold, it keeps very well in the fridge. Store in an airtight container for up to five days. This is a perfect healthy dish to bring to a cookout!

small bowl of red quinoa salad with a fork

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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red quinoa salad ingredients in a salad bowl before being mixed

Quick & Healthy Red Quinoa Salad with Feta Cheese

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh, RD
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 5
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian
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Description

This cold quinoa salad with feta cheese, chickpeas, vegetables, and fresh herbs is made with red quinoa and will be your new favorite healthy lunch recipe! Learn how to quickly cool down cooked quinoa to make a cold quinoa salad so the raw vegetables stay crunchy. Ready in under 30 minutes, this salad is perfect for meal prep and makes 4-6 servings.


Ingredients

Scale

Red quinoa salad

  • 1 cup dry red quinoa
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slivers
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 3 mini cucumbers, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced small
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Champagne vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tbsp shallot, minced
  • 3/4 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt


Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa on the stovetop according to package instructions, about 15 minutes. Cooked quinoa is done when grains light, fluffy, and all the water is absorbed.
    pot of cooked red quinoa
  2. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a baking sheet and spread it out into a thin layer. Put the baking sheet in the fridge to cool the quinoa down quickly, while you prep the rest of the salad.
    Red quinoa cooked and spread out on a small baking sheet.
  3. While the quinoa cooks, toast up the almond slivers in the oven if you purchased raw almond slivers.
  4. Dice the pepper, cucumber, and onion, and finely chop the herbs.
    four small bowls with chopped pepper, cucumber, herbs, and red onion
  5. Drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.
  6. Prepare the champagne vinaigrette: add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Using a small whisk or fork, whisk vigorously in a zig-zag motion for a minute or so until the dressing is emulsified.
    hands whisking up a homemade vinaigrette in a small speckled bowl
  7. Transfer the cooled, cooked quinoa to a large salad bowl. Add the chopped veggies and herbs, toasted almond slivers, chickpeas, and feta cheese.
    red quinoa salad ingredients in a salad bowl before being mixed
  8. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad – I used nearly all the dressing with about 1/4 cup left over.
  9. Use salad spoons to mix everything together until well combined and the ingredients are coated in the dressing.
    large bowl of red quinoa salad with wooden salad spoons
  10. Serve cold or room temperature.

Notes

Does quinoa need to be rinsed?

Quinoa produces a compound called saponin, which acts as a natural insecticide to protect the plant. Saponin is perfectly safe to eat, but can have a bitter flavor. Therefore, some recommend rinsing dry quinoa in a sieve before cooking it.

I personally never rinse quinoa before cooking it. Most quinoa sold in stores today has been cleaned enough to remove the saponin and is sold pre-rinsed, and I have never prepared quinoa that tastes bitter!

Storage

Since this recipe is meant to be enjoyed cold, it keeps very well in the fridge. Store in an airtight container for up to five days. This is a perfect healthy dish to bring to a cookout!