This delightful quinoa salad with chickpeas will tempt your tastebuds with the textures and flavors of cucumber, pickled onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and more. Top with a flavorful and easy-to-make rose balsamic vinaigrette, (vegan) feta cheese, and avocado, and you will be wondering where this flavorful crunchy salad has been all of your life!
This healthy quinoa chickpea salad is the vegan version of the famous “Jennifer Allen” salad that she allegedly ate on the set every day on Friends. Well…that is perhaps an exaggeration…urban legend…or some such. But, why wouldn’t she?
What’s not to love here? With its combination of crunchy, flavorful, savory, salty, and slightly sweet, I make a batch and eat it throughout the week as a main dish for lunch or dinner…and sometimes breakfast too!
Table of contents
- Pin now to save for later:
- Ingredients needed to make this healthy chickpea quinoa salad:
- What makes this a healthy quinoa salad?
- How to make quinoa chickpea salad
- Looking for some other tasty healthy vegan salad recipes?
- The printable recipe card for quinoa chickpea salad
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Ingredients needed to make this healthy chickpea quinoa salad:
For the quinoa salad:
- ½ cup dry uncooked quinoa and water to cook
- fresh cucumber, diced
- chopped Roma tomatoes
- diced red bell pepper
- diced red onion
- minced fresh parsley
- finely chopped mint leaves
- canned chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 cups pickled onions – you can use my recipe for Pink Onions
- shelled pistachio nuts- I like salted and roasted
- feta cheese – see below for vegan options and suggestions
- diced avocado
And for the balsamic dressing:
- rose balsamic vinegar (can you sub in white balsamic)
- extra virgin olive oil (see below if oil-free)
- minced garlic
- salt and pepper
What makes this a healthy quinoa salad?
This crunchy veggie-filled salad recipe has some pretty special ingredients that make for a plant-based healthy complete meal. Let’s look at some of the key players.
Quinoa is a lower-calorie, gluten-free, whole-grain carbohydrate, as well as a whole protein. I have always thought of quinoa as an ancient grain. As it turns out, quinoa isn’t a grain at all, but a seed. It does, however, substitute well for higher-carb grains such as rice and wheat.
One cup of quinoa has eight grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber with only one graham of sugar! Quinoa is also filling and when added to other ingredients like this veggie-filled salad, can be a filling meal. Read more about the health benefits of quinoa in this helpful article by Everyday Health. (See below in the cooking steps to learn why it is important to rinse the quinoa.)
Pistachio nuts aren’t actually true nuts, but seeds from the pistachio tree. They are a lovely distinctive shade of yellowish-green and are covered with a hard shell that is impossible to remove unless it’s been opened.
Do I crack open and shell my pistachios? Heck no! Just buy them already shelled. I also use the roasted and salted pistachios in this recipe. If you are unable to find pistachios, any small seed/nut will do. Pumpkin seeds can be tasty as well as sunflower seeds.
While pistachios are NOT a low-fat item, the fats are unsaturated. They are also fiber-rich and contain minerals and vitamins such as manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6. I learned this and much more by reading an article about the health benefits of pistachios on WebMD.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a popular plant-based legume. They are extremely versatile and can be used to make hummus, as a protein substitute in sheet pan meals, or marinated or roasted.
One of my favorite way to use chickpeas is in a chickpea salad sandwich like my Egg Salad Salad, Crunchy BBQ Chickpea Sandwich, or my basic Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich – which is just the opposite of “basic”!
Chickpeas are not super high in calories but crazy high in protein and fiber. Better yet, they contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals too numerous to list here. But you can read more about the Science-Backed Benefits of Chickpeas in this article by Healthline.
And all the veggies!
Are we done yet? I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the powerful plants that make up the bulk of this salad! In addition to the pistachios, quinoa and chickpeas, you’ve got a salad bowl of chopped veggies with all their fiber-filled vitamin-strong goodness.
We have Roma tomatoes, fresh parsley, red bell pepper, fresh cucumber, red onion, and avocado. All of these combine together to make this an absolutely delicious salad and a powerfully nutritious salad as well! (If you are oil-free, please see the directions below to make this an oil-free salad too.)
How to make quinoa chickpea salad
Step 1: Prepare and Plan for the pickled onions and Feta Cheese
Make sure to plan a little extra time and effort to source or make the vegan feta and the pickled onions. The time to prepare these ingredients are not included in the total time on the recipe card below.
Vegan Feta Cheese
Feta cheese adds a tangy salty flavor component to this quinoa salad. We are a vegan family so, of course, we do not eat dairy feta cheese. Luckily we live in a time when vegan cheese options are readily available. If you are also vegan, consider one of the following.
My go-to vegan feta is made by Follow Your Heart. It has the right tang and is able to hold up well in recipes such as this salad. I have also tried Myokos and it was quite tasty. Where I live it’s easier to source Follow Your Heart so that is what I usually use.
I realize it’s not always easy to find commercial vegan feta, nor does it always fit with one’s dietary goals. Here are some fabulous vegan feta cheeses you can make at home from some of the best vegan bloggers on the WWW!
- Vegan Feta Cheese Recipe (made with cashews and oil-free) from Veggies Don’t Bite
- Tofu Feta Cheese (oil-free) from Kathy’s Vegan Kitchen
- Homemade Vegan Feta Cheese with Tofu from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen
If you are not vegan then, of course, use the feta you’d like – but you might be interested in trying some of the above suggestions
Pickled onions are an important flavor addition. I have run short on time before and have not included them. The salad is still quite tasty. But oh my goodness! The pickled onions really bring this salad to the next level.
I have not found pickled onions in the grocery store. Perhaps you might find them on a salad bar or in the deli section. I have a fabulous Pickled Pink Onions recipe that you will adore. It’s easy to make with red onion and red wine vinegar but does require six hours for the flavors to properly meld. So do be aware of the time needed.
Step 2: Cook the quinoa
It is important to rinse quinoa before cooking. The first time I cooked quinoa, I skipped this step and ended up with an upset stomach. That is because each tiny seed of quinoa is coated with a chemical called saponin.
Saponin is a naturally occurring chemical meant to ward off insects. But if you don’t rinse it off, it can leave a strong somewhat bitter flavor, and for some people (like me) an upset stomach. Learn more about rinsing quinoa in this Epicurious article.
I rinse my quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. I love this strainer because it’s part of a set of three in varying sizes so you always have the right size for the right job.
Place the rinsed one-half cup quinoa along with one cup of water in a smallish pan that has a lid. Cover and bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. By that time the water should have evaporated and the little curly-cue quinoa tails will have formed. That’s how you know it’s done.
Quinoa is super easy to make. But if you choose to use prepared /cooked quinoa, you will need about one and a half cups. The volume of quinoa triples when cooking.
Step3: Prepare the vegetables
Cut and chop everything except for the avocado. Leave the avocado for the last minute and open and dice it right before serving. I am really not a fan of avocado that has been sitting. The flavor is just…off.
As I am working, I just chop and add directly to a large bowl. Chop/dice the tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and fresh bell pepper. If you are off a little in the measurements, this salad recipe is very forgiving!
Step 4: Make the Balsamic vinaigrette
For this flavorful dressing, I use rose balsamic vinegar. It is light and fruity and perfectly compliments the flavors in this quinoa chickpea salad. I was able to find it at my grocery store. You can also buy it on Amazon.
You can substitute white balsamic vinegar if you rather. By the time you toss everything together, there is not much of a flavor difference. I definitely don’t recommend dark balsamic. The flavor will be too heavy for this salad.
I use extra virgin olive oil. I prefer the flavor of robust olive oil – but really any will do.
If you are oil-free, you may substitute in the liquid from your chickpeas. It is called aquafaba and is used in many plant-based recipes. Will the texture and flavor be the same? No. But you are eating oil-free for a reason and probably already know that:)
The dressing whisks together super fast. If you want to make it ahead of time you can. Just give it a quick stir before adding it to your salad.
Final step: Toss it together and serve
By now you will have added all of the ingredients to a med/large bowl. Just as a reminder, wait to add the vegan feta and avocado till right before serving.
Pour on the vinaigrette and gently toss it together. Portion out and serve with crusty bread like my Olive Oil Herb Bread or Garlic Herb Beer Bread, and you’ve got a completely delicious nutritious meal!
Looking for some other tasty healthy vegan salad recipes?
The printable recipe card for quinoa chickpea salad
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Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas
- ½ cup quinoa dry
- 1 cup water
- 1¼ cup cucumber diced
- 5 roma tomatoes diced
- 1½ cup bell pepper diced
- 1 cup red onion diced
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- 10-15 mint leaves chopped
- 15 ounces chickpeas drained
- 2 cups pickled onions see below
- ½ cup pistachio nuts shelled
- ½ cup vegan feta
- 1 avocado diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup rose balsamic vinegar can substitute white balsamic
- 2 cloves garlic minced finely
- 1 Tablespoon agave
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Rinse the quinoa before cooking. This is a step you should not skip. (See blog post above.) In a small saucepan, add the rinsed quinoa and water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil on high.Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Keep the lid on and let stand for 5 minutes till the water has all absorbed. Drain any excess
- While the quinoa is cooking, drain the chickpeas, mince the mint leaves, and shell the pistachios (if not already). Dice the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and bell pepper. Measure out the pickled onions and feta cheese. Set the feta aside separately. Save dicing the avocado till just before serving.
- Place the cooked quinoa in a large salad bowl and allow to cool somewhat.
- While the quinoa is cooling, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the rose balsamic, olive oil, minced garlic, agave, salt and pepper.
- Place all the ingredients except for the feta cheese and diced avocado into the salad bowl along with the cooked quinoa. Toss together with the vinaigrette.
- Add the vegan feta cheese and diced avocado right before serving. See notes.