When you don’t know what to make for lunch or dinner, what do you usually end up making? My go-to is the almighty quinoa salad! I usually have a batch of quinoa on hand in my fridge or freezer (note: quinoa freezes exceptionally well), which makes salads like this easy to put together at the last minute. Quinoa salads are a versatile way to show off the seasons, and this one is my little tribute to spring.
For this recipe, I lightly blanched some beautiful broccolini and tossed my quinoa with kale, fresh mint, roasted chickpeas, avocado, and my favorite part – crisp, pink slices of watermelon radish. Don’t worry, if you can’t find watermelon radishes, thinly sliced red radishes will provide the same crisp bite. And if you can’t find broccolini, regular broccoli will work just fine.
I simply dress everything in lemon and olive oil and then finish the salad with big dollops of my favorite lemony pea pesto. This kale quinoa salad recipe has the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, fresh, and hearty elements, and to me, the bright colors and lemony, herby flavors make it the quintessential spring dish.
Quinoa Salad Meal Prep Tips
This dish makes a great light & healthy (yet still pretty filling) dinner. Hopefully, you have leftovers because this recipe is great for meal prep! If you do make this salad ahead, follow these simple steps for meal prep success:
- Don’t slice the avocado until you’re ready to serve. Like bananas and apples, avocados oxidize, or turn brown, as they sit out. As they brown, they can become bitter – not what you want in your lunch! Save them for the last minute to get perfectly green, creamy bites.
- Store the pesto separately. Storing the pesto in a separate container allows you to season it to taste and adjust its consistency before serving. If it’s too thick, stir in more olive oil, or if it needs a boost of brightness, add a little more lemon.
- Taste and adjust. When you make a grain salad ahead of time, always taste it before serving. Because the grains absorb the dressing, I find that they often need extra lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, or more salt and pepper on day 2 or 3.
Prep and store individual servings ahead of time (I like to use these glass containers), or toss everything together in a big bowl and bring this salad to a spring picnic or gathering!
Quinoa Salad Variations
Feel free to play with the veggies and herbs in this recipe! Blanched asparagus or snap peas would both be great additions, or you could also sub in arugula or spinach in place of the kale. For extra crunch, top it with your favorite nuts or seeds (pepitas would be a great choice), and if you’re not vegan, a little feta would be a fun finishing touch.
Broccoli Pesto Quinoa Salad
Author: Jeanine Donofrio
Recipe type: Main dish
- 1 bunch broccolini (or broccoli), cut into pieces
- 3 large kale leaves, chopped (about 3 loose-packed cups)
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
- 2 heaping cups cooked quinoa
- 1 watermelon radish, or 3 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, cubed
- ½ cup mixed fresh herbs (I used mint and dill)
- 1½ cups Roasted Chickpeas
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 small garlic clove
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- 1 cup packed fresh spinach (or sub basil)
- ¼ cup fresh dill (or sub basil or mint)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more if desired
- Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water and a large bowl of ice water. Drop the broccolini into the boiling water and blanch for about 1 minute, or until tender but still vibrant green. Transfer the broccolini to the ice water for 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
- Make the Lemony pea pesto: In a food processor, place the hemp seeds, peas, garlic, and salt and pulse until combined. Add the spinach, dill, lemon juice, and mustard and pulse again. While the processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil. For a thinner pesto, add more olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Place the kale into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, pinches of salt and pepper, and the lemon juice. Massage the leaves until they soften and wilt down. Portion into serving bowls with the quinoa, watermelon radish, avocado, herbs, and broccolini. Season to taste with additional olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the roasted chickpeas and serve with dollops of pea pesto.