Zesty Quinoa Salad

This Zesty Quinoa Salad recipe is foolproof, comes together quickly, and is oh so delicious! It makes a tasty side dish when serving Tex-Mex recipes such as my Gluten-Free Vegan Quesadillas.

This salad also makes a perfect stand alone lunch paired with a healthy tortilla, such as a Siete grain-free tortilla. Their almond flour tortillas are my favorite; crisp them up on a pre-heated cast iron skillet before serving 🙂

Zesty Quinoa Salad in a white bowl with spoon; halved lemon to the side

The Color of Jalapeños

Did you know that green jalapeños are actually not ripe? If left on the vine to fully ripen, jalapeños will turn a lighter green, then eventually a gorgeous red color, indicative of their heat. You can turn the level of heat up or down for this Zesty Quinoa Salad depending on how many peppers are added, and how ripe/hot they actually are. Can’t find hot jalapeños to liven up your salad? Maybe opt for another variety that’s a bit higher on the Scoville scale.

Zesty Quinoa Salad ingredients on a plate before combining with quinoa
I only used two small jalapeños for this salad. As you can see, they’re very red, and very hot 🙂

Why Rinse Quinoa?

Quinoa should be rinsed, unless it’s already been pre-washed by the manufacturer, because the seeds are coated with bitter and soapy tasting saponins. These saponins are harmless but will make your quinoa salad taste “off” if not rubbed and washed away.

How to Rinse Quinoa

Put the measured dry quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer, then rinse. Rub the grains together with your hands, rinse again, then drain.

Please note that you need to use a fine mesh strainer, not a colander, when rinsing quinoa. The small grains slip right through the holes of a colander.

Zesty Quinoa Salad in a white bowl with spoon; halved lemon to the side
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Zesty Quinoa Salad

Course: salad, side dish
Servings: 8 side dish servings
Calories: 115kcal


  • 2-quart covered saucepan
  • mesh strainer
  • serving bowl


  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups chopped grape tomatoes
  • 2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 cups chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 2 (or more) jalapeno peppers, diced small
  • 8 Kalamata or black olives, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice


  • Cook the quinoa using the "Pasta Method."
    Pour the cooked quinoa into a fine mesh strainer. Set it aside to cool and continue draining while you prepare the vegetables. Stir the quinoa with a wooden spoon or soft spatula periodically to release steam and help it cool down.
  • Put the fully cooled quinoa and chopped vegetables into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and cumin, then drizzle with the olive oil and lime/lemon juice. Stir well and let marinade for at least 10 minutes before serving.


This recipe is absolutely heavenly when prepared with high quality, sweet and a bit syrupy, balsamic vinegar. Simply eliminate the lime/lemon juice and substitute with an equal amount (or more) of balsamic.


Calories: 115kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 176mg | Potassium: 310mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 658IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

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