Thai Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette

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Packed with protein and fresh veggies, this flavorful Thai quinoa salad is a healthy eater’s dream!

Thai quinoa salad with fresh herbs and lime vinaigrette in a square bowl.

This vibrant and fresh Thai Quinoa Salad is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. Similar to my Southwest-style quinoa salad, it’s a healthy eater’s dream: flavorful, chock-full of protein and veggies, satisfying, and low in fat. I usually make it as a light lunch, but you can also serve it alongside other Asian-style dishes for dinner—or make it a meal in itself by adding cooked shrimp, crab, or lobster.

“Delicious! This is a go-to recipe for my family. Great salad to pack and go.”

Pamela

What You’ll Need To Make Thai Quinoa Salad

ingredients to make thai quinoa salad
  • Quinoa: The base of the salad, quinoa is a high-protein seed that’s fluffy and slightly crunchy. Though it looks like couscous and is eaten like a grain, it’s actually related to leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
  • Bell Pepper, Carrot, and Cucumber: A trio that adds sweetness, crunch, color, and crispness to the salad.
  • Scallions: Contribute a mild oniony sharpness.
  • Cilantro and Mint/Basil: Offers a fresh, herby flavor typical of Thai cuisine.
  • Lime Juice: Adds acidity and brightness.
  • Fish Sauce: Not fishy but savory and salty, this dark, pungent condiment is frequently used in Southeast Asian cooking. If possible, buy a brand imported from Thailand or Vietnam. And don’t worry about buying a large bottle—it keeps forever.
  • Vegetable Oil: The base of the dressing; blends the flavors together and coats the salad ingredients.
  • Sugar: Counteracts the acidity and saltiness of the salad, adding a touch of sweetness.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Lends a spicy kick.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by cooking the quinoa. The key to success is not following the package instructions, which always call for too much liquid and result in mushy quinoa. The ideal ratio is 1 cup of quinoa to 1-2/3 cups of liquid. Simply combine the water, salt and quinoa is a pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the quinoa is done, about 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the little white “tails” sprout from the grains.

cooked quinoa in pot

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the vegetables. For the cucumbers, I like to use English (or hothouse) cucumbers because the skin is edible and you don’t need to peel them. They’re sometimes called seedless cucumbers but you still need to seed them, otherwise, they’ll make your salad watery.

Slice the red pepper into bite-sized pieces, thinly slice the scallions and shred the carrot.

Next, make the dressing by combining the fresh lime juice (no bottled stuff!), sugar, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes and fish sauce in a small bowl.

Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

whisked dressing for thai quinoa salad

Combine the quinoa with the dressing, vegetables and fresh herbs.

Toss the salad.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with more fresh herbs, if desired.

Thai quinoa salad with fresh herbs and lime vinaigrette in a square bowl.

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Thai Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette

Packed with protein and fresh veggies, this flavorful Thai quinoa salad is a healthy eater’s dream!

Servings: 2 as main course, 4 as side salad
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint or basil (optional)

For the Dressing

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from 3-4 limes
  • 2½ teaspoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less if you don't like heat)

Instructions

  1. Add quinoa, salt and 1⅔ cups water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. You'll know it is done when the little "tails" sprout from the grains. (If necessary add 1 to 2 tablespoons more water if the quinoa is not cooked by the time all the liquid is absorbed.) Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool in the refrigerator.
  2. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the lime juice, fish sauce, vegetable oil, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Once the quinoa is cool, add the red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, fresh herbs and dressing. Toss well, then taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, sugar and lime juice if necessary (I usually add a bit more of all). Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This salad keeps well for several days in the fridge.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 263
  • Fat: 8g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 42g
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Sodium: 603mg
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • This is a delicious salad that is very adaptable to personal tweaks. The dressing is excellent. I often roast or grill bell peppers and onions and omit the grated carrot. Black beans, mango and corn are also great add-ins. It keeps well and the flavour improves each day. The quinoa seems to soak up the dressing so I hold back some of the dressing to add as needed.

    • — Sadie on May 26, 2024
    • Reply
  • I took a small bite to taste for seasoning before serving it to my family, and I can’t stop eating this! It might not make it to the table, it’s soooo good!

    • — Rachel on April 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • It was really yummyyyy

    • — Janet Oliver on April 8, 2024
    • Reply
  • Can I use Hoisin instead of fish sauce

    • — Asra on April 1, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Asra, I’d go with soy sauce instead.

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2024
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! It was easy to prepare and what a crowd pleaser. Thanks Miss Jenn!

    • — Karen on March 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this several times and it is one of my very favorite ways to eat quinoa! I too throw away the package instructions for making quinoa, but use even less water: 1 1/2 cups. After rinsing the quinoa I usually let it dry overnight, and then toast it in a dry pan until it smells, well, toasty and rich before adding the water & salt. I made the recipe exactly as written with the exception of adding an additional scallion and using 1 T each of the basil and mint. Heavenly! Thanks, Jenn!!!

    • — Shel on January 31, 2024
    • Reply
  • I don’t understand how EVERY SINGLE RECIPE of yours I have made is this good. You are my chef idol at this point.

    I made this salad with seared tuna and my fiancé asked that this be in the weekly rotation. Thank you for all the time you take to make us minions look like we can cook. You’re a real one.

    • — Gina M. on December 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • ❤️❤️

      • — Jenn on December 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, Love your site! Your recipies NEVER disappoint! I’m planning on making crab cakes and was wondering if you think this Quinoia salad would go good with them. I’ve never made Quinoia before so I”m somewhat in the dark. If so great! If not, do you have a suggestion as to what you think would be a good accompaniment to the crab cakes? Also, would this take the place of a carb and vegetable or do you think I should add another dish along with the Quinoi salad to go with the crab cakes? Thanks in advance for your help!
    Rebecca Peerless

    • — Rebecca Peerless on September 4, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, so glad you like the recipes! I think the crab cakes would pair nicely with this as they are pretty neutral in flavor. If you choose to go with that, I don’t think you need to make another side. It would also be nice with this corn salad. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on September 4, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you so much for your quick reply!

        Rebecca Peerless

        • — Rebecca Peerless on September 5, 2023
        • Reply
  • A friend made this today for our cookout and it was the most amazing compliment to my Thai Sticky Ribs! I wanted to dive into the bowl and roll around in it lol She used orange and yellow bell pepper to add some color and used just the mint and cilantro. Amazing recipe, thank you!

    • — Diana on September 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • OMG…what is this voodoo magic! I tasted the sauce and thought it’s good. Mixed everything together and it transformed into something magically delicious! This was fabulous. I doubled the recipe and added both mint and basil. Just wow!

    • — CS on August 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this according to the recipe early yesterday morning. Luckily I had mint, cilantro and Thai basil in my garden. To make this batch lean a bit closer to a salad than a starch, I added a large amount of shredded cabbage.

    Served it – don’t laugh – last night alongside cheese tamales, Mexican rice and refried beans. Everything was well infused with the dressing, the cabbage was slightly wilted and it added the zingy, light touch the meal would have been missing.

    Everyone loved this Thai salad, including a couple of kids (11 & 8). Will definitely keep it in my rotation to make according to the recipe or as a base to adjust as the need arises.

    This recipe is a winner. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • — JCarol on July 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jen. I’m thinking about making this as a side dish for a baby shower. Do you have any recommendations of what protein inspired dish that might pair well with it? Something for a large crowd that I could prepare at least a day ahead? Thank you!
    I love all of your recipes and am forever sharing your website with so many people.

    • — Kim on June 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, These chicken lettuce cups would be nice. (I would serve the cups next to the chicken and let people assemble themselves.) If you make them, I hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on June 26, 2023
      • Reply
  • I need to make this for a large crowd…around 25 people as a side dish. Does it double, triple well?

    • — Linnea on May 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Linnea, I think you could double or triple this without a problem. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on May 30, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn. I quadrupled the recipe and it turned out beautifully. I had many requests for the recipe which I happily shared as I do for so many of your recipes. Thanks again.

        • — Linnea on June 5, 2023
        • Reply
        • So glad it came out nicely — thanks for reporting back and for sharing the recipe! 🙂

          • — Jenn on June 5, 2023
          • Reply
  • I have now made this countless times for various functions and I get asked to share the recipe EVERY SINGLE TIME. It is the perfect make ahead salad as it is even better the next day. And who doesn’t love that! I’ve paired it with just about every leftover meat for work lunches and honestly, it tastes great with everything. Dresses up bland chicken, compliments BBQ, and shrimp are just divine. I find it lasts the better part of the week in the fridge, but it’s always been finished off so who can say how long it could really last. I tend to be pretty liberal with the amount of lime juice as I really like that fresh zing. Also, don’t skimp on the pepper, it’s not overwhelming at all, just gives the salad more depth. One of my all time favorite recipes.

    • — Kristen on May 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. This looks really good. Pearled barley is a great food for my body. Thoughts on substituting barley for quinoa? I don’t usually change anything in your recipes (other than avocado oil for vegetable oil) but I’m wondering if this might work?

    • — Lori on May 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure (just follow the cooking instructions on the box). I’d love to hear how it turns out with barley!

      • — Jenn on May 19, 2023
      • Reply
      • Jenn! This was so good with pearled barley!!! I served it with your Asian inspired chicken thighs and steamed broccoli. The kids got white rice with the extra sauce. This was a really good salad and I will be making it again. Thank you for making cooking so easy and fun!! Sunday was carne asada with the salsa from your shrimp tacos and a side of the cilantro lime corn! 😋😋😋

        • — Lori R on May 23, 2023
        • Reply
        • So glad it came out nicely — thanks for taking the time to report back (and so glad you enjoy the recipes)!

          • — Jenn on May 24, 2023
          • Reply
      • So glad it came out nicely — thanks for taking the time to report back! 🙂

        • — Jenn on May 24, 2023
        • Reply
  • I made this for a December holiday office gathering using mostly red/green vegetables to make it look even more festive. Everyone raved about the fresh flavor and taste and many added it was a nice change from all the sweet desserts and heavy foods. At least 5 people asked for the recipe.

    • — Jane, San Anselmo on February 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Oh my word!! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It’s so refreshing, light and most importantly, delicious! This is definitely a keeper! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • — Elle Harrington on September 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • I plan to make some of your recipes that contain quinoa, but wanted to check if it’s ok to use the tri-color quinoa? Will it make a difference? I don’t have any plain right now. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Sandy on July 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • Tri-color quinoa is perfectly fine to use. 🙂

      • — Jenn on July 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’ve already commented about how delicious this salad is but I had to come back to reiterate how dang delicious this salad is. Made a double batch last night so I could share the love.
    Seriously, make this. As written.
    My mouth is so happy.

    • — Michael on July 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Haven’t made yet, but sounds fabulous and will do so in a minute. I’m thrilled to find someone who “gets” Quinoa. In fact, I go lower than you do and do a 1/1 ratio. The first time I made it following package directions it was tasteless mush. I bet many people who don’t like it don’t like it precisely because the ratio is wrong. I find that’s true for nearly every grain, including rice. For some reason, the manufacturers have us putting in twice the liquid we need with regrettable results. Both Quinoa and lentils taste incomparably better if they still have “tooth” to them. I just found your website and am so excited to try your recipes. I can tell you really think through the details that make a difference. Thanks!

  • THAI QUINOA SALAD

    Looks yummy – but I am not a huge quinoa fan – Do you think this would work with couscous, Israeli couscous or farro?

    • Sure, any of those grains will work. Enjoy!

      • THANKS!!!

  • I’ve made this many times and it’s always a hit! I use olive oil and add
    1/2 tsp of fresh grated ginger
    2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, to brighten.

  • Soooo tasty! I loved the combination of fish sauce and lime juice in the dressing. I substituted corn for red peppers due to nightshade allergies. Great summer dish!

  • Hi Jenn,

    We have a fish allergy in our family. What would you recommend as an alternative to fish sauce?

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, You can use soy sauce in place of the fish sauce — the salad will lack that traditional Thai flavor, but will still be good. Hope you enjoy!

  • Love this salad, the herbs and fresh lime dressing makes this so refreshing, we love making a large batch and packing it for lunch through the week. Also pairs really well with the Honey Lime & Sriracha chicken skewers from this website, especially for serving a crowd. Thanks Jenn!

  • OMG. This salad is delicious. I’m not a fan of cilantro so used fresh basil and fresh mint from the garden. No pepper flakes either. And the directions for cooking the quinoa make it perfect. The fish sauce is a must.

  • I made it. Super easy, yummy and healthy. ❤️ Thanks, for the recipe 😋

  • Hi Jenn,

    Do you think I could add crabmeat to this salad? I’m looking for ways to use up some lump crab.

    Thank you,

    Kristen Berry

    • — Kristen A Berry
    • Reply
    • Definitely!

      • THANKYOU:-)

        • — Kristen A Berry
        • Reply
      • I made this yesterday with the crab and it was delicious! It only took me 2 months! LOL I am so excited to get your new cookbook this week! Congratulations! I know it will be a huge success!

        • Made this with the mini Northern Shrimp and the whole family loved it. Healthy and Delicious. Definitely adding it to my list.

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