I’m constantly on a quest to find good lunch dishes that are something different than the classic sandwich. It’s a tough deal because you want something flavorful and tasty, but it also needs to be filling and healthy. This Pesto Quinoa Salad is always a winner. It stores well and
If I don’t have a filling lunch, I find myself snacking on the chips at about 4PM. Ok. I sometimes snack no matter what, but it’s especially bad if I skip a hearty lunch.
Quinoa has been the perfect base for my lunch salad experiments. It has a good amount of protein and fiber which will keep you full. It also has a great texture and can be thrown in with a huge list of other tasty ingredients.
In short, quinoa is my salad king.
How to make Good Quinoa
Cooking quinoa can be tricky to cook. You can follow the instructions on the package and it will generally be okay, but personally, I like to boil the grain, much like I cook pasta.
As the quinoa cooks, spoon off a few grains of it every few minutes to test. When the quinoa has opened up a bit (you will see a little tail in the grain) and it is tender, then you want to drain the quinoa so it stops cooking.
Then return the quinoa to your pot and cover it. Off the heat, let it steam for 5 minutes and it will be perfect for salads!
Need a FULL tutorial on quinoa? Read my perfect quinoa instructions!
If you want to make a half batch of this salad, the quinoa freezes great actually. Just cool it down completely and then seal it in a freezer bag. Try to get out as much air as possible and it’ll keep in your freezer for a few months. Then you can just thaw it in the microwave (low power) when needed.
Making the Pesto for this quinoa salad
I make pesto all the time and I love playing around with the flavors. A bit more garlic or pine nuts can really change the flavor of it and make it very different. If you’re making it, don’t stress about the exact amounts. Just taste it as you go and adjust.
Sometimes I will substitute a different nut or seed like sunflower seeds or pistachios can make for a really interesting pesto.
It takes just a minute or two to toss all the ingredients into a processor and pulse it together. When I make pesto, I normally make a double or triple batch and then freeze some pesto for later.
If you’re in a super-rush, you can use jarred pesto without a problem also.
It’s okay that the quinoa takes a few minutes to cook because you’ll have a lot of chopping to do to finish off the salad.
The veggies I used in the salad are just a suggestion. I would definitely keep the onion, feta and chickpeas though. Those are really nice flavor additions.
Try to dice up all your ingredients so they are roughly the same size. The onions should maybe be a bit smaller.
Unless you’re an expert chopper, this will take a few minutes, but it’s worth it because you’re getting meals for days out of it.
A pesto quinoa salad like this is very flexible. Start by adding your quinoa to the veggies that you’ve chopped and then add enough pesto to lightly coat the salad. You should need about 1 to 1 1/2 Cups of pesto, but feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes.
Over the years, I’ve made many different variations of this salad. I’ve included things like roasted beets, or toasted nuts or seeds, and even spicy elements like roasted green chiles.
So let the record state that pesto plus quinoa plus a bunch of random veggies makes for a really good lunch!
Pesto Quinoa Salad
- 8 ounces quinoa, cooked
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and diced
- 1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/3 Cup parsley, chopped
- 2 Cups basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/3 Cup pine nuts
- 1/2 Cup olive oil
- 1/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Combine pesto ingredients in a processor and pulse until combined.
- Cook quinoa according to package and set aside.
- While quinoa cooks, chop all your vegetables.
- Combine veggies with quinoa. Crumble in feta. Toss with pesto.
- The salad is best if you let it chill before serving.