Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

4.75 from 4 votes
1 hour
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Here’s a bright, vibrant salad with summer written all over it! Protein-packed Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with grilled vegetables has fresh herbs, a lively lemon and olive oil dressing, and tangy feta cheese. It’s perfect for entertaining or a healthful grab-and-go lunch!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables on round white platter with serving utensils garnished with herb sprigs.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with grilled vegetables is a salad you’ll want to make all summer long!  It has all the best, bright summery flavors with a touch of healthy!

Protein-packed gluten-free quinoa, smoky grilled vegetables, fresh herbs, a lively lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and tangy feta cheese are irresistible together in this vibrant, colorful Mediterranean-inspired salad.

This bright, beautiful Mediterranean Quinoa Salad makes a showstopping side dish for a cookout or poolside entertaining and is perfect for a healthy grab-and-go lunch!

Let’s make it!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables garnished with herb sprigs.

How to Make Mediterranean Quinoa Salad:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe, along with how to prep the ingredients. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables in glass bowl.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Quinoa: Quinoa is actually a seed from an annual flowering plant in the amaranth family. Considered a whole grain, it’s exceptionally nutritious and high in plant-based protein, fiber, iron and a wide range of amino acids and vitamins. Although numerous varieties exist, the most common types readily available at most markets are white, red and black. Here’s more information on the nutrition of quinoa from Medical News Today.
  • Olive Oil: No need to use your best olive oil; a good everyday extra-virgin olive oil will do.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is always best!
  • Feta Cheese: Buy a block of feta cheese and crumble it yourself. Pre-crumbled feta cheese can sometimes be crumbled too fine, resulting in feta cheese that looks like white dust on your salad. This recipe can be made vegan by using vegan feta cheese
  • Kalamata Olives: Pitted and also pitted and halved Kalamata olives are available at most markets. However, just because they’re labeled “pitted” and or “pitted and halved” doesn’t mean the mechanical pitter didn’t miss one or two. Buy whole pitted Kalamata olives, then cut them in half so you can inspect each one. The olives also look nicer in your salad than something mechanically halved.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • First, you’ll need to rinse the quinoa because it contains a bitter coating called saponin. Place it in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cool running tap water for a minute or two. Let that drain.
Quinoa in sieve set over a glass bowl.
  • Combine water, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some black pepper to a boil.
  • Add the rinsed quinoa, return to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 12 to 15 minutes or until water is almost absorbed and the germ of the quinoa (the little curly thing) is beginning to appear.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let it sit for 10-12 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Cooked quinoa in stainless steel saucepan.
  • While the quinoa is cooling, grill the vegetables.
  • Cut the zucchini and yellow squash into three thick “planks” each and cut the bell pepper into thick strips.
  • Toss with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
  • Grill on the stovetop on a grill pan or on an outdoor grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until nicely marked and the vegetables are just tender. The squash should be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Cut the squash into pieces as desired and cut the bell pepper strips into three pieces widthwise.
  • Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt and black pepper to taste.
Lemon dressing for salad in glass bowl.
  • Combine the quinoa, olives, feta cheese, scallions, mint and parsley in a bowl.
Quinoa, olives, feta cheese, scallions, mint and parsley in glass bowl.
  • Add the vegetables, the dressing, toss it all together and voila! Mediterranean Quinoa Salad!
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste, add an extra squeeze of lemon juice for more zing or tone it down with a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs and serve.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables on round white platter garnished with parsley sprigs.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables on platter with serving spoon.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • When I make this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe for clients, I leave off the feta cheese and only add a small amount of dressing to flavor the quinoa and keep it moist. When the client is ready to enjoy, they can add the feta cheese and the rest of the dressing (or as much as they want).
  • Pre-crumbled feta cheese can sometimes be crumbled too fine, resulting in feta cheese that looks like white dust on your salad. Buy a block of feta cheese and crumble it yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why do I have to rinse quinoa?

Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponin, a built-in defense mechanism to deter birds and insects. Fortunately, this bitter coating is easily rinsed off under running tap water. Ancient Harvest is pre-rinsed and cooks up beautifully.

Is quinoa better for you than rice?

Although both are considered “whole grains” and gluten-free, quinoa has more protein than rice and slightly more fiber than white and brown rice. Quinoa has fewer calories and carbohydrates, with more nutrients overall.

Why is my quinoa not fluffy?

Probably because of too much water. Although I frequently cook quinoa for clients, I’ve found it challenging to cook it right by following the instructions on most brands of quinoa.

Typically, the instructions say to rinse to remove the bitter coating known as saponin, add it to boiling water in a 2:1 ratio, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  The result I got was usually undercooked quinoa with water remaining in the pot or not very fluffy quinoa.

The method I’ve found that works better is:
–Use the 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio, but then…
–Leave the cover off while it’s simmering so I can watch it. Some of the water will have boiled OUT.
–After about 12 to 15 minutes when much of the water has been absorbed or cooked out and the “germ” begins to appear THEN cover it.
–Take it off the heat and let it stand for 10 to 12 minutes. With this method, I now end up with fluffy quinoa every time!

Can I roast the vegetables for this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe?

Yes, absolutely! Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast until the vegetables can be pierced with a paring knife but still have some “bite.”

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables on white platter with some served up on small white plate.

Serve with:

More summery Mediterranean-inspired salads you’ll love!

Get all my side salad recipes at: Side Dishes – Salads – From A Chef’s Kitchen

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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables on round white platter with serving utensils garnished with herb sprigs.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

4.75 from 4 votes

Click to Rate!

By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Protein-packed Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with grilled vegetables has fresh herbs, a lively lemon and olive oil dressing and tangy feta cheese. It's perfect for entertaining or a healthful grab-and-go lunch!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Side Dishes – Salads
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 8
Calories 282 kcal

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 2 cups water - or as needed
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil - or as needed, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa - rinsed
  • 2 small zucchini - cut into 3 planks each lengthwise
  • 2 small yellow squash - cut into 3 planks each lengthwise
  • 1 medium red bell pepper - seeds and membranes removed, cut into thick slices
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper - seeds and membranes removed, cut into thick slices
  • 1 bunch medium-sized scallions - white and light green part only, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley - plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese - or more if desired

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice - (approximately 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste

Instructions
 

Salad

  • Bring water, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to a boil.
  • Add quinoa, return to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes or until water is almost absorbed and the germ of the quinoa is beginning to appear.
  • Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10-12 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
  • Brush the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes per side or to desired doneness. Let cool.
  • Combine quinoa, scallions, parsley, mint, olives and feta cheese and gently stir to combine.
  • Slice the zucchini and yellow squash into 1-inch pieces widthwise and cut the bell peppers into three pieces each widthwise. Add to quinoa combination.

Dressing

  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour desired amount over salad and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper or more lemon juice.
  • Serve garnished with parsley sprigs.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Best served immediately, however, can be assembed 1 day ahead. Drizzle a small amount of dressing over the salad and refrigerate. When ready to serve, add the feta cheese and the remaining dressing as desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 282kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 355mg | Potassium: 384mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 947IU | Vitamin C: 64mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 2mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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4.75 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this for Sunday lunch and the whole family loved it. Left out the olives because some don’t like them but full of flavour without them. Definitely a keeper. Healthy and delicious!

    1. Hi, Gloria, Thanks so very much!! Glad everyone enjoyed! Because not everyone likes olives, I’ll often serve a small dish on the side so people can enjoy them alongside the salad. Thanks again!!