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Thai Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette

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This flavorful Thai quinoa salad is a healthy eater’s dream!

This vibrant and fresh Thai Quinoa Salad is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. 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 dishes for dinner — or make it a meal in itself by adding cooked shrimp, crab or lobster.

What you’ll need to make Thai Quinoa Salad


How to make Thai Quinoa Salad

The ingredients are pretty straightforward. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has become mainstream in the past few years and is available at most large supermarkets. It’s a high protein seed that has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. It looks like couscous and is eaten like a grain, but it’s actually a cousin of spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens.


Fish sauce is also fairly easy to find. Most large supermarkets carry it in the Asian section and you can always find it at Whole Foods or Asian markets. It’s a dark, pungent liquid used in Southeast Asian cooking. Contrary to what you might expect, it doesn’t add a “fishy” taste to foods at all, but rather a salty, savory flavor. If possible, buy a brand imported from Thailand or Vietnam. And don’t worry about buying a large bottle — it keeps forever.


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.


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.


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


Toss, serve and enjoy!

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Thai Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette

This flavorful Thai quinoa salad is a healthy eater’s dream!

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


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)


  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 1-2 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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  • 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
  • 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!

    • — Jamie on June 21, 2022
    • Reply

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

    • — Susan on June 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, any of those grains will work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 16, 2022
      • Reply
      • THANKS!!!

        • — susan on June 16, 2022
        • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Steph on May 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • 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!

    • — Laurie on April 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

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


    • — Lisa on April 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • 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!

      • — Jenn on April 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • 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!

    • — Mel on March 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Susan on February 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made it. Super easy, yummy and healthy. ❤️ Thanks, for the recipe 😋

    • — Abi on October 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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 on July 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Definitely!

      • — Jenn on July 8, 2021
      • Reply
      • THANKYOU:-)

        • — Kristen A Berry on July 8, 2021
        • 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!

        • — Kristen Berry on September 13, 2021
        • Reply
        • Made this with the mini Northern Shrimp and the whole family loved it. Healthy and Delicious. Definitely adding it to my list.

          • — Ed Mangual on November 8, 2021
          • Reply

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