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5 Key Ingredients in Great Quinoa Salad, Plus a Recipe to Get This Superfood In Your Diet

Evidence-based Reviewed Article

An image of a Quinoa Salad in a bowlQuinoa is a food that is growing in popularity and for good reason. It’s not a genetically modified crop and is highly nutritious, with numerous health benefits. It’s categorized as a whole grain, but it is a seed and not a grain. Still, quinoa is a healthy alternative to grains like rice, oats, and barley. Being gluten-free makes it a great option for people who are sensitive or allergic to gluten. Additionally, quinoa is resistant to oxidation and heat and maintains most of its nutritional value during cooking. Read on to learn how to use this super healthy food to make the most delicious quinoa salad.

What Is Quinoa?

According to an article published in the journal Nutrients, quinoa, scientifically known as Chenopodium quinoa Willd, is a summer annual dicotyledonous herbaceous crop that belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. It’s native to the Andean region of South America. Interestingly, the Incas of old considered quinoa a sacred crop and referred to it as the “mother grain”.

With roughly 250 species, today, quinoa is also called a “superfood”. Quinoa grains are gluten-free and are known for their nutritional value. Specifically, it contains high levels of protein, essential amino acids, dietary fibers, carbohydrates, and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and vitamins. Additionally, from a health and wellness standpoint, including quinoa in your diet can have a positive effect on metabolic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health.

Is Quinoa Healthier Than Rice?

Quinoa is included in the “whole grains” nutritional category. During quinoa desaponification, the nutrient-rich embryo and endosperm remain intact. However, with traditional cereal grains, like rice, the nutrient-rich germ and bran are stripped away during processing. Research shows that both quinoa’s protein quantity and quality are generally superior to those of cereal grains. Quinoa contains 10–18% protein, in contrast to rice, which has roughly 7.5% to 9.1% total protein content.

Also, according to an article published in the journal Plants (Basel, Switzerland), the lysine (an essential amino acid) content in quinoa is twice as much as that found in rice. Furthermore, the amylase (polymer found in starch) in quinoa, ranges from 7% to 27%, which is much higher than that found in rice. Quinoa also has a low glycemic index, is gluten-free, and offers high digestibility.

Keep in mind that rice can be healthy. Rice has a high mineral content, which includes iron and calcium. It also has other essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly, like magnesium, copper, selenium, ferulic acid, lignans, and phytic acid. However, all rice is not equally healthy. Brown rice is an excellent source of fiber and does not raise blood sugar levels as fast as white rice. Additionally, wild rice, which is a whole grain, is the best option for health benefits, giving you 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.

In general, though, and particularly compared to white rice, quinoa would be the winner in terms of which one is healthier for you.

Advantage of Adding Quinoa Salad to Your Diet

A bowl of Quinoa SaladIf you are wondering if you can have quinoa every day, the answer is, yes.  It’s a highly nutritious food that can help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease and supports your bone, muscles, blood, and skin health. It’s okay to eat one to two cups of cooked quinoa in a day. Also, research shows that if you eat a bowl of quinoa every day, it can boost your health without any side effects, and may even reduce the risk of early death.

However, you should stop eating quinoa salad or other quinoa dishes if you experience itchiness, stomachache, or vomiting. Additionally, since it’s high in fiber, eating quinoa in moderation is also encouraged to avoid symptoms like upset stomach, bloating and gas, and constipation.

Things You Can Add to Your Quinoa

If you are looking to add more flavor to your quinoa, there are numerous additions that you can mix with it. These include:

  • Vinaigrette
  • Lemon dressing
  • Caramelized onions
  • Dried fruit and fruit scraps
  • Sauteed garlic
  • Spices (cinnamon or nutmeg for sweet dish, red pepper flakes or cayenne for spicy dish)
  • Almonds
  • Corn
  • Bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Chili Flakes
  • Chickpeas

What Pairs Well With Quinoa Salad?

Specifically, foods that go well with a quinoa salad include:

  • Baked salmon
  • Baked tilapia
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • Cauliflower steaks
  • Chicken burrito bowl
  • Gazpacho
  • Grilled chicken
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Healthy egg salad
  • Homemade vegetable soup
  • Homemade vegetarian chili
  • Kimchi pancakes
  • Mushroom frittata
  • Roasted beetroot
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Red cabbage and carrot slaw
  • Shrimp skewers
  • Stuffed bell peppers
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Steam garlic mushrooms
  • Steamed kale
  • Steamed black beans

5 Cornerstones of A Delicious, DIY Quinoa Salad Recipe

To make the best quinoa salad, you should think about foods that make it nutritious, fresh, colorful, and tasty. There are several variations of quinoa salad recipes, but the best ones are easy to prepare and made of simple and nutrient-packed ingredients. And your favorite will probably be one you customize to your own tastes.

The best quinoa salads have ingredients in five main categories: quinoa, veggies, fruit and nuts, dressing, and legumes.

So What Is Quinoa Salad Made Of?

1. First, you need to have your base ingredient, which is your cooked quinoa.

2. Secondly, you can choose a variety of colorful vegetables of different textures (crispy, crunchy, cooked, etc.). Your options may include:

  • Cucumber for crunch and freshness
  • Bok choy for its mild taste and crunchy texture
  • Carrots for color, antioxidant, and vitamin A
  • Bell peppers for color, crunch, sweetness, and nutrients including vitamin C and B vitamins
  • Fresh herbs, like parsley and basil, for color, flavor, and nutrients

You can really add any vegetable based on your personal preference.

3. Thirdly, dried blueberries and cranberries can add a bit of sweetness, and nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios), and seeds(sunflower or pumpkin seeds) can add texture and healthy fats.

4. Fourthly, select a bright and flavorful salad dressing to add some flavor to your quinoa salad. You can dress your salad by making it:

  • Citrusy with lemon juice, olive oil, shallots, and chopped herbs
  • Savory soy-ginger dressing with soy sauce, grated ginger, rice vinegar, scallions, and optional sesame oil
  • Smoky-spicy dressing with adobo sauce from canned chipotles, and some agave or brown sugar to cut the heat
  • Warm spiced dressing with spices, such as cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, turmeric, and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little heat
  • Pesto dressing that is saucy, not pasty, traditionally made with garlic, basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and Parmesan

5. Finally, add some kind of bean (black bean, kidney beans, pinto beans) or peas (chickpeas or green peas) to make your quinoa salad hearty and satisfying.

Quinoa and Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

An image of a happy woman with her hands upQuinoa provides nutritional benefits that help to support your body while recovering from adrenal fatigue and restoring balance to the body. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is the non-Addison's form of adrenal dysfunction, where the body's stress response cannot keep up with life's chronic stressors. It's an increasingly common condition it today's stressed-out world.

Diet is an important part of optimal health, especially for those who suffer from AFS. A poor diet can reduce the resources your body needs to make essential hormones and respond to stressors, potentially causing or worsening adrenal fatigue symptoms. Addressing your diet by focusing on a greater intake of proteins, fruits, and vegetables is a solid beginning to managing adrenal fatigue.

Quinoa supports your entire body and most systems in your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. Also, it provides protein, which helps prevent sugar highs and lows, iron, which supports your blood for optimal nutrient delivery, and fiber, which helps cleanse and detoxify your gut. Additionally, quinoa is gluten-free, and will often not trigger an immune response.

Benefits of Grilled Veggies and Quinoa Salad in the Summer

One of the best benefits of grilled vegetables and quinoa salad in the summer is that the combination is light, fresh, vibrant, and nutritious. As such, it’s great for a cookout or picnic, and it could easily be added to your menu as a side dish. If you are trying to figure out a hearty and flavorful dish for your main event for your summer bash, grilled veggies and quinoa salad is a great option.

Healthy Sauteed Veggie Quinoa Salad Recipe

Ingredients A:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into small pieces
  • 4 stalks spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Ingredients B:

  • 1 cup white quinoa, soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups water

Ingredients C:

  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes

Ingredients D:

  • ½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped and roasted
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt

Ingredients E:

  • 2 limes, halved


  1. Rinse the soaked quinoa under running cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. In a large saucepan, add Ingredients A, and sauté over medium heat until tender, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Stir in the quinoa and Ingredients B. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in zucchini; simmer for around 5 more minutes or until quinoa is tender.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in Ingredients D.
  6. Cool, drizzle with lime juice, and serve.

You can get 4 servings out of this quinoa salad recipe.

The Takeaway

There are several reasons to love quinoa and a quinoa salad. Quinoa is nutritious and supports your body's overall health. It provides your body with essential nutrients like protein, iron, fiber, and amino acids. You can get your fill of quinoa by trying the healthy salad recipe highlighted above. Additionally, it’s great for breakfast, lunch, potlucks, picnics, and road trips. Best of all, it’s allergy-friendly, vegan-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free. Boost your nutrition with a quinoa dish. If you are interested in more recipes like this for adrenal fatigue, you will love Dr. Lam's Nutritional Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Program, which comes with a 30-day meal plan, recipes, and shopping list made easy for those who need to recover from adrenal fatigue. In addition, it comes with vital supplements and comprehensive education on what are the right things to do for adrenal fatigue. Click here for more recipes!

© Copyright 2024 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Hussain, M. I., et al. "Botany, Nutritional Value, Phytochemical Composition and Biological Activities of Quinoa." Plants, vol. 10, no. 11, 2021,

Pathan, Safiullah, and Rafat A. Siddiqui. "Nutritional Composition and Bioactive Components in  Quinoa (Chenopodium Quinoa Willd.) Greens: A Review." Nutrients, vol. 14, no. 3, 2022,

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

A healthy quinoa salad recipe should have tender and fluffy cooked quinoa, a variety of colorful, textured, and nutrient-rich vegetables, peas or beans for heartiness, nuts and seeds, dried fruits for added nutrients and texture, and a flavorful dressing to give it a kick.

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