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Summer Quinoa Salad with Fresh Berries, Goat Cheese, and Chicken or Chickpeas

This dinner-size salad is full of nutritious fresh ingredients and healthy protein, including quinoa, baby spinach, poached chicken or chickpeas, summer berries, red radishes, toasted nuts, goat cheese or feta, and a maple-balsamic vinaigrette.
5 from 11 votes
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Course: Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Keyword: poultry, quinoa bowl, supper salad, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 6 people
Cost: $15

Equipment

  • Medium saucepan
  • Large pot
  • Assorted mixing and prep bowls
  • Whisk

Ingredients

For the poached chicken (if using)

  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Vegetarian/Vegan variation

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the quinoa

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • cups water or broth

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons pure maple syrup or honey
  • teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad

  • ½ cup chopped pecans or sliced almonds
  • 6 small red radishes
  • 1½ to 2 cups fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries (or all blueberries)
  • ½ to ⅔ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (chevre) or feta cheese (or 1 ripe avocado, diced or mashed)
  • 6 cups baby spinach, spring mix, or chopped romaine lettuce

Instructions

To poach the chicken (if using)

  • Put the chicken in a medium or large pot in a single layer, if possible. Sprinkle with the salt and pour in enough water to cover the chicken breasts by at least 1 inch.
  • Place the pot over medium heat. [Rinse the quinoa and start the quinoa NOW.] When the water looks restless and small bubbles start rising to the surface, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a cutting board. Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, or shred it with two forks.

To cook the quinoa

  • Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve under cool running water.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rinsed quinoa and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it begins to pop and smells nutty.
  • Pour in the water. Increase the heat to high and bring the water to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  • Remove the pan from the heat. Let it sit, covered, for 5 more minutes. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork.

To prep the other salad ingredients (while the chicken and quinoa cook)

  • Make the balsamic vinaigrette: Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey or maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Then, add the olive oil a little at a time, whisking in between additions, until the dressing looks creamy (emulsified).
  • Toast the nuts: Put the pecans or almonds in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook for 3-ish minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts are toasted and aromatic. Transfer the toasted nuts to a ramekin or small bowl.
  • Prep the other ingredients: Thinly slice the radishes, rinse the berries, and crumble the goat cheese or feta. Put them in separate bowls.

To assemble the salad

  • Grab some wide, shallow bowls or rimmed dinner plates. If you're saving a few portions for later, find a few lunch-size airtight containers. Divide the spinach and quinoa among 6 bowls, plates, and/or airtight containers. Top each serving with some shredded chicken or chickpeas, radish slices, berries, toasted nuts, and crumbled goat cheese or feta.
  • If you're serving the salads now, drizzle the vinaigrette over top and serve. If you're saving them for later, spoon a couple tablespoons of vinaigrette into a mini airtight container or zip-top sandwich bag and tuck it into the container with your salad; seal and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Notes

Timing is everything: If you're making the salad with chicken, make sure you start that first. Then, as soon as you turn the heat to medium in step 2, rinse the quinoa and get it cooking. That way, the chicken and quinoa will be done at the same time (ish), and while they both cook, you'll have plenty of time to prep all the other salad ingredients.
To make it vegetarian (and save some time): Skip the chicken, and use 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas instead, drained and rinsed. This way, since you don't have to poach and shred the chicken, you'll get dinner on the table in just 30 minutes!)
To make it vegan: If you want a completely plant-based 30-minute meal, use the chickpeas instead of the chicken, use maple syrup for the vinaigrette, and swap out the cheese for diced or mashed avocado.
*Recipe adapted from this one on EatingWell.com