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

ingredients

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

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.

preparing-quinoa

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

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.

seeding-cucumbers

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

veggies

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.

dressing

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

mixing

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

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed)
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint or basil (optional)

For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from 3-4 limes
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less if you don't like heat)

Instructions

  1. Add quinoa, salt and 1-2/3 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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Reviews & Comments

  • I have made this countless times and I get asked for the recipe everywhere! Makes a great potluck dish or make it for lunches for the week. Easy to toss in some protein if wanted. Although it’s not heavy at all, it really keeps me satisfied all afternoon. Always happy with the recipes from this site!

    • — Kristen on March 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Would this salad taste the same if I used tri- colour quinoa?

      • — Lynda on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
      • Yep — hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
        • Reply
  • Great recipe! Fresh tasting, easy and healthy! I now rely exclusively on your instructions whenever I cook quinoa, although I sometimes use chicken stock instead of plain water for more depth of flavour. The ratio of quinoa to liquid that you recommend is perfect! No more mushy quinoa for me! Thanks, Jen.

    • — Emilie Lamy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is perfect to make when you are trying to eat healthier during the work-week. I make it on the weekend then pack it for lunch for several days. I love the Asian and herb flavors…filling but not too heavy. I will make it again and again!

    • — Katie Little on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was so delicious and so fresh tasting. I made it as a side dish to my friend’s homemade potstickers and it was a great combo. It was also good for leftovers the next day.

    • — Carla on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Amazing salad! Once again the flavour profile is delicious. I make this salad regularly.

    • — Kathy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! This is a go to recipe for my family. Great salad to pack and go.

    • — Pamela Kennedy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Loved the salad but next time, I’ll allow time for the quinoa to cool before adding the other ingredients!

    • — Kelly on September 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Charlene here again. After the pictures it goes straight to the comments.

    • — Charlene on September 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Charlene, That happens if you’ve been reading the reviews and then click on “jump to recipe” at the top of the page. Scroll to the very top of the reviews and immediately above that, click on the word “recipe.” That will show you the recipe and on the right side of the recipe box, click on the print icon. Please LMK if you have any other questions.

      • — Jenn on September 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Thanks for getting backing to me so quickly! I have done both of those things but the recipe still doesn’t show up. I have made this before and LOVED it but it has been awhile. I can manage the slaw part but have no idea about the dressing.🤷‍♀️

    • — Charlene on September 2, 2020
    • Reply
  • The recipe doesn’t give the quantities of the ingredients for the dressing.

    • — Charlene on September 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Charlene, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, under the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on September 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is my go to recipe for pot lucks. I tried the recipe because people want gluten free and/or vegetarian dishes (happily, the fish sauce does not include fish). It became my go to recipe because whenever I serve it, I always got asked to make it again, and I always get asked for the recipe.

    The one thing that I would say about the recipe is that the mint should not be optional. Even though I am not a big mint lover in general, in this recipe, it just ups the flavor profile.

    With the red peppers and green cucumber, cilantro and mint, this dish is festively coloured for Christmas. For Halloween, I swap out the red pepper for an orange one and throw some black sesame seeds on top.

    Thanks for this amazing recipe.

    • — Brenda on August 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • Well, I made a few substitutions with the veggies and used couscous instead of quinoa, but it was still delicious!

    We actually ate this as a warm side dish and still thought it was wonderful!

    • — Brooke on July 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! I make it regularly with red quinoa, 2T finely chopped red onion instead of scallions, Thai basil, no oil, and slightly less lime juice and sugar. Great topped with chopped avocado. Made it for my nephew’s birthday party and everyone wanted the recipe!

    • — Mamakitty on May 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Great! Replaced the fish sauce with soy sauce and it was delicious

    • — Tobey on October 18, 2019
    • Reply
  • Loved this salad. The mint and fish sauce really added to the overall flavour of this salad. Would definitely make again.

  • Beautiful refreshing salad, and an excellent way to use extra cucumbers from the garden. Using both basil and mint leaves is warmly recommended.
    I also made it with udon noodles (realized too late that I have no quinoa, replaced it with udon noodles). The salad was initially too sour, so I added 1 cup of chopped unsalted peanuts – perfect!

  • Another great recipe! Keeping this on rotation, thanks so much!

  • I Just made this salad! It is absolutely delicious 😍.

    Thank you so much for putting the recipe up.

    I have so many more of your recipes saved to my homescreen to try.

  • Would it be good to add avocado to this recipe?

    • — Brenda Elander
    • Reply
    • Sounds like a delicious addition!

    • Can I use tomatoes in this recipe?

      • Sure, Marie, tomatoes will work here. Enjoy!

  • Made this salad in double the quantity for the family and everyone loved it, said it was a game-changer, amazing… The only change I made was I used Sesame Oil instead of vegetable oil and liked it that way and added more of the dressing ingredients. Thank you for the lovely recipe!

  • Hello Jenn,
    I would like to make this for a dinner party. Due to allergies, I can’t use cilantro. Can I only use mint?

    • Sure, Joanne – that’ll work. 🙂

  • This is the best quinoa salad I’ve tasted! It makes a perfect light lunch. I was able to find the Red Boat fish sauce at Whole Foods and it seemed to make a big difference. Thank you for all of your amazing recipes. The cookbook is beautiful too! Your recipes never fail to make a great impression.

  • I love this dish! I followed the recipe as written and was very pleased. It’s light and delicious! I might add some shredded chicken next time I make it, but it’s great without it.

  • Wow this is spectacular! I used half olive oil and half vegetable oil and a little more lime juice than called for . As well as adding a can of chick peas as another reader suggested. Wish I could find Thai basil to try in it as well. Overall, another keeper!

    • How long before you serve salad can you add the dressing to the ingredients?

      • — Sharon megaffin
      • Reply
      • Hi Sharon, No need to wait to add the dressing if you’re not serving the salad right away. You can combine the dressing with the other ingredients and refrigerate for up to a few days. Enjoy!

  • Hi there, I can’t wait to try this. One question, 2 tb of sugar seems like a lot for a dressing, more than the actual oil. Have you tried cutting back or does it change the balance on acids etc?

    • Hi Louise, I think the sugar helps to balance out the other flavors in the dressing, but some readers have commented that they’ve cut back on the sugar and have been happy with the results. Hope that helps!

  • By far our favourite quinoa salad recipe!!!! The cilantro is a must, and when I have it I also add Thai basil.

  • Delicious!

  • Hi. I would like to add chickpeas to add more protein. I would like the chickpeas to be thai infused before adding them to the salad. Is there any thai marinade you would suggest please?

    • Hi Lesley, you could just toss the chickpeas with a Little bit of the dressing before adding them to the salad. Or, you could sprinkle them with a touch of dried seasonings such as garlic, coriander, and/or turmeric. Hope that helps!

  • Amazing salad and it held up beautifully for lunches this past week. I only needed one lime for 1/4 juice, so I have limes leftover to make another batch! Used both mint and basil, but have cilantro for the next round. For fish sauce, I like Red Boat. The salad IS NOT fishy!! This is a 5 star recipe, but for some reason the system won’t let me rate it.

  • I have not been a fan of quinoa but made this salad yesterday as a request for a gluten free salad. I followed the recipe except for the cilantro as I don’t like the taste. I couldn’t decide whether to use basil or mint so used them both.
    It was delicious. I only used half the dressing so plan on making another batch today. This recipe is a keeper! Thanks for sharing.

  • Best, most flavorful quinoa recipe I’ve made (and I’ve tried plenty)! The Thai flavors are spot on. Thank you…followed recipe exactly and it was perfect.

  • Love this recipe. Don’t skip out on the fish sauce it makes this dish. The combo of the lime, sugar and fish sauce is perfect. I always make extra of this so i can take it for lunch the next day. While I’ve made it with both mint & cilantro i really prefer the mint!! This recipe made my husband a convert to quinoa.

    • — Brenda Johnson
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I reduced the fish sauce to one teaspoon due to my husband’s preference and it still tasted “Thai” enough. Makes a huge amount.

  • Fantastic recipe- you can vary the veggie ingredients a little and still great- I had no lime but used lemon instead. Still delicious!

  • Is there a substitute for the fish sauce in the dressing or does that make it yummy? Can’t wait to make this salad with all the wonderful reviews. Thanks!!

    • Hi Coleen, the fish sauce adds a wonderfully authentic Thai flavor to the salad so I would recommend it. You can use soy sauce instead — the salad will still be good, but it will lack that traditional Thai flavor. Hope you enjoy!

  • Thanks again for this great recipe!! It’s been requested that I bring it to another summer party. It’s always a huge hit!!

  • Hi Jenn-Is there a vegetarian substitute for the fish sauce?

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

    • Have you ever tried FUSH sauce? It’s a vegan alternative. Available on Amazon and expensive, but you only use a little bit at a time.
      Loved this recipe, but added a bit of chopped jalapeno to suit my taste…

  • Delicious dish!!! I added some crushed up peanuts which tied in perfectly with the dressing.

  • Hello Jenn…I want to make this salad this weekend and can’t decide if I want to use basil or mint since I love them both. Have you ever tried using both? Which do you prefer if using only one? Thanks…..am enjoying your recipes immensely.

    • Hi Judy, that’s a tough call as I really don’t think you could go wrong! If I had to choose, maybe I’d suggest mint. Hope you enjoy!

      • I made recipe yesterday using both basil and mint…..it was sooooo good. Could have eaten whole thing myself!

    • Made this recipe yesterday and added both basil and mint … soooooo good. I didnt want to share with anyone.

  • This recipe was absolutely delicious! I just made it for our annual Mother’s Day bbq and everyone loved it. I used mint but I’m sure it would be delicious with basil as well. Also I used extra virgin olive oil in the dressing but that is the only change I made. I love that you can make a filling meal out of this salad without feeling weighed down. Thank you for sharing this delightful recipe!

  • Would it make a huge difference if I used safflower oil or olive oil instead of vegetable oil?

    • Hi Danielle, I think this is best with vegetable oil because it’s so mild tasting, but several readers have used olive oil successfully so you could go that route. Enjoy!

  • Delightful and refreshing salad is my new go to weekly staple. Fresh, flavorful and easy to make. Double some of the ingredients to make a different quinoa salad for some variety!

  • Yum! This is the first time, ever, that quinoa actually turned out for me! Usually, I purchase a limited quantity of quinoa at the Bulk Barn because I don’t want to “commit”. But I took a leap of faith and went all in! Yay, me! I served this salad alongside your salmon recipe here https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/baked-salmon-honey-mustard-pecan-crust.html. Wow!!! This salad recipe is such a nice change to the usual.

  • So good. The brand of fish sauce makes ALL the difference. Haven’t gone wrong with any of your suggestions- ate the heck out of this last night!

  • This dish is delicious! I love to cook and I slightly altered this recipe. I cooked the quinoa in vegetable broth, added daikon radish and mangos, subtituded macadamia nut oil instead of vegetable oil and used smoked Thai chili paste instead of pepper flakes to the dressing. YUM!

  • We have yet to make anything from Once Upon a Chef that disappoints. This recipe has become one of our staples. It’s easy, healthy, adaptable, can be made in advance & keeps well for a fast go-to lunch. I’ve used zucchini instead of cucumber, added snow peas and cherry tomatoes. The dressing has that perfect blend of salty, spicy, sweet & sour. Enjoy!

  • We love this salad for lunch or dinner when I add chicken or shrimp. It jazzes up quinoa and is particularly great on a hot summer day. It’s one of those salads that is still delicious for a couple of days or can be made ahead.

  • This quinoa salad is the BOMB! Very easy to assemble with all ingredients already on hand. Fresh and satisfying taste, but different enough that guests will think you went to far more trouble than you did.
    Thanks, Jenn, for a great recipe that will be used often, very Florida friendly year-round!

  • At my house, we love this salad.
    I did added red onion, just because we love onion!🤗, and I also added some chapped garlic, it came out great.

    • — Rosanna Borbon
    • Reply
  • This salad has been a regular in my weekly meal prep. I love having it in the fridge for a light and healthy lunch. It is the prefect combination of flavors and textures!

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