This Quinoa Cranberry Salad is full of fresh, feel-good flavours that everyone will love! With nutrient-rich spinach, sweet dried cranberries and a zippy lemon dressing, it is able to stand alone as a protein-packed, healthy meal, or can be served as a side. It's easy to make ahead of time and is naturally gluten-free.
This super yum Quinoa Cranberry Salad with Lemon and Spinach is what we need to talk about. Nutty quinoa, fresh, green spinach, chewy, sweet, dried cranberries and a really fresh and zippy lemony dressing to bring it all together in a very happy way.
I know quinoa salads aren't always top of everyone's list, because you know ... Q-U-I-N-O-A. That healthy, superfood, vegan stuff. But this is quinoa salad for quinoa salad and non-quinoa salad people and the rule for my salads ... Must. Taste. Amazing. Did you already try my Peach Quinoa Salad? Man, it's good, and you'll know exactly what I mean!
Bathe that quinoa in zingy lemon dressing and holy moly it's good. It's citrusy, grainy and totally satisfying. Anytime you are craving a healthy and zesty quinoa salad, this (or my quinoa-based gluten-free tabbouleh)is your friend.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a gluten-free, nutrient-rich seed that is high in protein and easy to cook. It's often mistaken for a grain because it is prepared and eaten in the same way.
Quinoa seeds come from a plant called goosefoot which is closely related to amaranth, and although it is technically a seed it can be classified as a wholegrain because of its high fibre and protein content.
Our ingredients list is pretty short and simple with a base of protein-rich and filling quinoa, leafy green spinach, fresh lemon for zippy flavour and dried cranberries for bursts of chewy sweet texture. That's pretty much it. Simple, hearty and so good.
How To Make Quinoa Cranberry Salad
This quinoa cranberry salad is really easy to make. Here's how it's done:
- Cook the quinoa and allow it to cool completely. If you aren't sure how to cook quinoa, I've included instructions.
- Shred the spinach.
- Mix the spinach together with cooled quinoa and the dried cranberries.
- Add all of the lemon dressing to a jar with a lid, shake them up, then pour over the quinoa and toss together. And just like that, you have a Quinoa Cranberry Salad!
- It's important to cook the quinoa and allow it to cool completely before you start. I find it easiest to cook the quinoa the day before I actually want to make the salad or to make extra for another meal and save the leftovers. If you are in a hurry though, cook it then spread it in a thin layer on a plate or baking tray so that it cools quickly.
- Don't use fresh cranberries in this recipe. They are way too sour. Dried cranberries work best.
With quinoa salads just about anything goes because quinoa is a bit of a blank slate. Additional ingredients that I think would work really well in this quinoa salad are:
- toasted nuts or seeds. Pecans or walnuts in particular
- other dried fruits like raisins or chopped dried apricot
- greens like spinach, kale and arugula instead of the spinach or as well as
- vegan feta cheese or vegan ricotta
- fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro
- diced apple or pear
- fresh orange pieces
- green onions
- roasted vegetables, squash would be great
Feel free to use my recipe as a base and switch it up with any or all of the above! If you want to make life easy though, just follow the recipe as stated, and know that it will be just perfect.
Storing & Making Ahead
This quinoa cranberry salad can easily be made ahead of time so is perfect for taking along to picnics or potlucks. It's also a great accompaniment for grilled food and packs up really well for packed lunches.
You can make it up to 2 days ahead but you must be sure to use very fresh spinach. If you want to keep the spinach extra fresh and textured, make the rest of the salad as instructed and shred and stir the spinach through just before serving. You can also cook the quinoa and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days before and the dressing can be mixed and kept in a jar in the fridge for a few days too before using.
Store quinoa salad leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment and rating below! And be sure to join my mailing list for more deliciousness!
Quinoa Cranberry SaladAuthor:
- 1 cup (170 grams) dry uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups (480 mls) water (or 1 cup of water if you are using an Instant Pot)
- 4 large handfuls spinach , shredded
- 1 cup (120 grams) dried cranberries
- 2 medium lemons , zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 mls) maple syrup , real maple syrup not pancake syrup. Agave can be used as an alternative.
- 2 tablespoons (30 mls) extra virgin olive oil (omit to make the recipe oil-free)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper , plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt , plus more to taste
To cook quinoa on the stovetop
- Rinse the quinoa well in a fine sieve then add it to a dry pan and gently toast it over medium heat for a couple of minutes, keeping it moving, until it starts to smell a little nutty. Once it does turn off the heat.
- Add the water, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes until the water has mostly absorbed.
- Turn off the heat, cover tightly and leave to steam for at least 5 minutes but longer is fine. Allow to cool completely before fluffing with a fork and continuing with the recipe. If you are in a hurry to cool it, you can spread it out in a thin layer on a cool plate or baking sheet.
To cook quinoa in an Instant Pot
- Add 1 cup of water to the quinoa, stir, then put the lid on and seal the vent. Set to 2 minutes high pressure and leave the pressure to naturally release. Remove the lid, allow to cool and fluff with a fork before using.
To make the salad
- Shred the spinach and stir it through the cooled quinoa. Add the cranberries and stir them through too.
- Zest the lemons and add it to a small jar or bowl. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the jar/bowl with the zest. Add the maple syrup, optional olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake it or whisk it together.
- Pour over the quinoa mixture and toss well to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
This recipe was originally published in July 2015. I've updated the post and now I am republishing it for you. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for following A Virtual Vegan!