Pesto Quinoa Salad

This pesto version is a nice twist on the classic quinoa salad. It's easy to make and quite healthy. I add in a ton of chopped veggies and feta cheese!

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!

Cooked quinoa for salad

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.

Making pesto in food processor

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.

Chopping Practice

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.

Lots of chopped vegetables.

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.

Combining everything

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!

My Pesto Quinoa Salad Recipe

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Quinoa mixed with a bunch of veggies, some feta, and a nice homemade pesto makes for a great weekday lunch dish!
3.41 from 42 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings



  • 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

Basic Pesto:

  • 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.


Serving: 1bowlCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 11gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 240mgPotassium: 335mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 1058IUVitamin C: 26mgCalcium: 89mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Easy lunches, Homemade Pesto, Lunch Salad, Quinoa Recipes

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11 Responses to “Pesto Quinoa Salad” Leave a comment

  1. Nick: I couldn't find anything on here concerning "prepping" the Quinoa. Basically, it comes in two forms…"washed and unwashed". The "pre-washed/rinsed" is good for the recipe as stated, but if one purchases the "raw" or "unwashed", version, they must first rinse it COMPLETELY, otherwise, they will get a "soapy" tasting quinoa from the residue on the outer hull. This residue needs to be removed first.

  2. I've read about soapy quinoa for years, but for some reason, I've never ran into a problem by not rinsing mine. It's the world's simplest grain to cook, and I've discovered it cooks up perfectly in a rice cooker. Set it and forget it.

  3. Thanks for another great recipe using Quinoa. You inspire me, and b/c of you I've throwing Quinoa into a weekly pot of Lentil-Quinoa Soup I've been making for my own lunches — very hearty, and the Quinoa adds more protein to the already protein rich Lentils.

    Since you bring up the point of staying satisfied a trick I use is to incorporate some Organic Chia Seeds into my salads like this one. Chia Seeds will not only fill you up, when saturated they expand 10X there own mass in your tummy. Richer in Calcium than milk, more potassium than a banana, and more iron than spinach.

    I have an easy source for Organic Chia Seeds and anyone can too by going to our website — just click on my name.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for all the great food ideas……….keep 'em coming :)

  4. I agree with you 100%, quinoa is the salad king. I just love it. It's so versatile.
    You can make great salads, soups, stews or even desserts from it.

    Great post BTW! Thanks for sharing:)

    Merry Xmas

  5. I tried quinoa for the first time just before Christmas – it's safe to say it will be a staple in my home for good. Talk about versatile!! I'm now on the hunt for recipes that cover everything you can do with it – if anyone here has links to sites (or more recipes to share) … just point me in the right direction.

    The best part is that it's gluten free. I don't have celiac disease, but I'm positive that I have gluten sensitivity as every time I eat breads, pasta's, etc….the bloating, gas and pain they can cause make my life miserable. Thank heaven for friends that take the time to introduce new and healthier lifestyles, in meaningful ways!

  6. 5 stars
    Made this yesterday with herbs from my garden. Substituted white quinoa, otherwise, prepared as written. I must say I have really enjoyed it. Very refreshing. Had some again today with some baby spinach. I will be making this again. A side of any grilled protein would be perfect. Thanks Nick.

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