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

  • The dressing is a delicious complement to the vegetables. So fresh!

  • This salad is delicious. Great for lunch. I made just as written. Loved the detailed instructions. Your recipes are my go to recipes and always turn out fantastic.

  • Loved this fresh soft, crunchy, mildly sweet salad that gets tastier with time in the fridge. Just substituted 1 Tbsp agave for the sugar.

  • Hi. Love your recipes! I want to make the Thai Quinoa Salad but don’t want to have to go out to buy the “fish sauce.” Will it work without this?

    • Hi Sheryl, Unfortunately, the fish sauce really makes the recipe. The good news is that you can buy a small bottle and it keeps forever.

  • I love this simple but yummy salad! I paired it with a (less healthy) slice of take-out pizza, and it was a nice complement, and probably led to less pizza-eating…which is never a bad thing. 🙂

    Thanks for yet another lovely recipe, Jennifer!

  • This is one of my fave salad now! I can eat it every day as a side or as a main course. Delicious!

  • This was so good my picky hubby even gobbled it down! Will make again!

  • Every recipe I have tried has turned out to be a first-rate winner. This salad is no exception. The blend of textures and flavors even satisfied my meat and potatoes husband. It’s rather addictive so I wouldn’t change a thing. I especially like the detailed instructions, tips and photos. This is my go-to website.

    • — Laurice Mortenson
    • Reply
  • Absolutely fantastic recipe! I added fresh diced pineapple and was delicious! THANK YOU!

  • My go-to healthy lunch salad! Husband raves about it, too! Yum!

  • Great Salad. I put my fresh garden vegetables and herbs in it. So Fresh! Also made this in July to feed a large crowd and it was well received.

    • — Susan Campbell
    • Reply
  • Thank you for making a GREAT salad without the typical variations on vinegrette! The dressing is absolutely YUM. Citrusy and light.

  • Would this recipe complement or clash with a potato salad that includes tarragon? I’m serving whole lobsters and am looking for an additional side dish. I am already planning on making your corn and basil salad as well. I love your do ahead recipes – makes planning parties so much more fun.

  • Oh. My. Goodness. This salad is simply superb! It’s fresh, bright, crunchy, and healthy! To anyone skeptical of fish sauce, please find Red Boat Fish Sauce in your grocery store or on Amazon. I hate, absolutely hate, even the suggestion of a fishy taste, but Red Boat brings something to this dressing (and therefore the entire salad) that is subtle, delicious and very Thai. Jenn, I’ve been cooking for 50+ years. I feel like I can always count on your recipes to be laid out well and delicious. Thank You!

    • Geni, thanks for the referral on the fish sauce,LOL. You read my mind. This sounds so delish and then I saw fish (“fishy”) sauce. I will have to try this recipe now. Thank you Jenn!

  • What could I use instead of fish sauce?

    • Hi Judy, you can use soy sauce instead. The salad will still be good, but it will lack that traditional Thai flavor.

  • Question-does fish sauce smell and taste like fish? I’ve been afraid of trying it since I don’t like seafood or the smell. I’m assuming it does since it’s FISH sauce :o)

    • Hi Carmen, On its own, it does smell and taste a bit like fish, but coupled with all the other ingredients it won’t taste fishy at all– it just adds a savory, salty flavor to things. Hope you enjoy!

  • Salad is delicious. I have a seafood allergy, but found vegan “fish” sauce on Amazon, made from seaweed. It may be an option for others with a similar condition.

  • Delicious! Light, satisfying, great for those hot days when you need to eat but don’t want to heat up the kitchen or fuss much. We had a simple supper of this with some pork loin from the grill and it was terrific.

  • In the dressing – I didn’t have fish sauce (don’t really like it) but I added a hefty splash of orange juice, white wine vinegar, and (as always) swapped out cold-press flax seed oil for the vegetable oil and used honey instead of sugar. Finally, I have a little jar of Chat Masala spices from the local Savory Spice shop in Charlotte, NC – that made it all SO wonderful! Thanks!

  • Hubby has hard time digesting cucumber so I substituted zucchini and sub’d honey for sugar. Loved the addition of shrimp. Great, delicious, and healthy meal!
    PS… use recipes from your blog often !

    • Hi Kathryn,
      I’m not a cucumber fan myself. Did you cook the zucchini first? Thanks for your help.
      Stacy

  • This salad is delicious! I wanted to try it and found that I had most things on hand. I subbbed an orange pepper for the red, and juiced a lemon when I ran out of limes before I reached the quarter cup mark. The basil and mint add a very refreshing finish. Served with Asian grilled salmon. Your blog is my go to site when searching for a delish recipe that looks pretty on the plate. I’ve never been disappointed. Thanks!

  • Have you been peeking in my ‘frig?
    How did you know I have a container of cooked quinoa and all the other ingredients sitting in the vegetable drawer. This is on the menu for tonight! No rating yet because I haven’t made it. But if past experience with your recipes is any guide, I’m sure I will give 5 stars.

  • Hello, Jenn!
    Could I make this salad with bulger rather than quinoa? I don’t have it on hand. Thank you. 🙂

    • — Valerie Bianchi
    • Reply
  • I make a large salad or entree every Monday to take to work through the week. Usually by Wednesday I am so sick of what I’ve made it goes to waste.
    Not this one! I was scraping the sides of my Tupperware.
    Made as written and going into heavy rotation.

  • Loved the salad. Used Thai Basil from my garden. The flavors really popped.

  • I bought a huge bag of quinoa at Costco and got tired plain quiona so when I saw this salad I had to try it! I even managed to find the fish sauce at an asian market for $2.50! Let me say I was a bit skeptical of the fish sauce but it worked, of course. I didnt change anything, and I went with fresh basil instead of mint. If I would do anything different it would just be adding slightly less sugar to the dressing. Other than that delicious and will make again! Totally worth all the chopping and slicing.

  • Amazing!

  • Sounds delicious! Has anyone added Salmon for additional protein?

  • I love coconut in all my Thai food, so when I made this, I doubled the recipe and used a 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk in place of that amount of water when cooking the quinoa… it adds really good extra flavor to it in case you coconut fans are wondering!
    (also used an orange bell pepper and a jalapeno in place of two red bell peppers)

  • Another “knock it out of the park” recipe from Jenn! Sharpen your knife skills and make this salad. It’s light and very tasty. I suggest not omitting the mint. It gives the dish a wonderful finish in the mouth.

  • Loved this salad. It helped to bring my husband over to the world of quinoa.
    I was wondering if I could prepare a large amount of the salad dressing and keep it in the refrigerator?
    Just trying to make things easier when I have all 3 of my little ones home.

    • Glad you like it. The dressing should keep nicely for about a week in the fridge.

  • This salad is fantastic and there are so many variations I’ve come up with when I’m out of one ingredient! A wonderful addition that I would highly recommend: right before serving, top with Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili Cashews. YUM YUM.

  • Is there a replacement for fish sauce?

    • — Jill Bernstein
    • Reply
    • Hi Jill, you can use soy sauce in place of the fish sauce. The salad will still be good, but it will lack that traditional Thai flavor.

  • Absolutely loved this salad! Salads are normally boring, but if every vegetarian dish is this good, I don’t have to have meat. Also my first time trying quinoa and am a fan! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    • This was amazing and I substituted Orzo for the Quinoa. Big hit at work party.

      • I also tripled the batch and added more fish sauce.

  • This salad is amazing! Even folks who claim to not “like’ quinoa, rave! It is fresh, flavorful, and now my favorite salad to bring to potlucks. I have made this a dozen times. The fish sauce is pungent, but essential to the recipe.

  • Even when I’m using recipes from other sites, I come to Jen when something goes wrong! Case in point – just tried to make quinoa using another recipe and it turned out messy. Found this recipe and will be trying again using Jen’s instructions!

  • Absolutely beautiful salad. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Delightful recipe for a healthy and tasty side dish.
    Thanks

  • How to double this recipe for 20?

    • Hi Amy, It’s fine to just multiply all of the ingredients by 5.

  • Simple, fresh, and delicious! I prayed I wouldn’t be disappointed, as I had no time to try this in advance of the get-together I needed it for this evening. It was a hit! This will go on my list of stunning salad staples!

  • This is my go to dish for pot lucks and synagogue suppers since the food has to be dairy. I am always asked for the recipe. I bring my herb pots into the house over the winter just so I can continue to make this.

  • I love all your recipes…so do my friends..I never seem to have enough at our tennis luncheons so I plan on tripling this recipe…does it follow that I should also triple all the ingredients or not? Also, can’t wait for your cookbook to come out….I do like that you include the nutritional information at the bottom of each recipe…have you thought about adding symbols for whether you can make recipe ahead of time and/or whether the recipe freezes well….these two questions come up alot in the reviews.

    • — Wendy Schoenburg
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoy the recipes, Wendy! Yes, if you’re tripling the quinoa salad, you’d need to triple all the ingredients. And thanks for the suggestion regarding adding symbols to indicate if recipes can be frozen and/or made ahead. I will add it to my list of potential enhancements to the site!

  • This salad is a regular in our house! I’ve made it for casual dinners, and potlucks and everyone loves it. It’s a nice refreshing salad. Don’t be nervous about the fish sauce-the flavor is subtle 🙂

  • This is a winner – so easy to prepare too! I make it as a side with grilled chicken, and the leftovers are great for lunches!

  • This salad is exceptional! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I omitted the red pepper, added about 1/4 cup more water to cook the quinoa, used mint versus basil, and used the juice of two limes. It is light, refreshing, and super tasty!

  • Excellent salad. Prepared exactly as directed and refrigerated overnight. I will be making this often. Thank you!

    • — Joanne Butcher
    • Reply
  • I don’t particularly like cilantro…is there some other fresh herb I can use instead?

    • Hi Marcia, you could go with mint or flat-leaf parsley instead. Hope you enjoy!

  • Thank you for this salad- its one of our favorites. Its fast to make, healthy and tastes great. I love making a complete meal out of it with some cooked shrimp….really compliments the dish nicely. Winner!

  • Thank you so much for this recipe – it’s my new daily lunch. Your instructions are very clear and easy to follow, with great photos. Once in a while I add corn and edamame to this, and always 1/2 the amount of sugar. It is so wonderful – thanks for sharing what has quickly become a staple of my weekly meal planning.

  • Great summer salad – the flavors are very well-balanced. I used all three herbs in great supply with success. Only had to toss a little extra oil at the end. Dressed salad holds its flavor overnight.

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