Cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, pecans, and greens, all tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette. This wholesome salad is simple to make and serves as a light meal or healthy side dish.
It’s filling, super yummy, and the quinoa makes it a gluten-free option, which is a bonus for my family since I am always looking for meals, sides, and snacks to cook that are naturally gluten-free without substituting ingredients.
If you aren’t familiar with quinoa, it’s a versatile grain that’s prepared on the stovetop and served as a base for salads, stir-fry, and power bowls. It’s also an excellent source of nutrients which we will cover later, but first, let’s get into the recipe.
Fall Quinoa Salad Side Dish
This fall quinoa salad has a perfect blend of crunchy and tender textures from the cooked quinoa and chopped pecans. The cranberries and citrus vinaigrette also give it a delicious tangy-sweet flavor that sets it apart from plain quinoa.
Cranberry Quinoa Salad Ingredients
To make this simple quinoa salad you will need:
- spinach: fresh and finely chopped!
- cooked quinoa: an ancient grain with 8 grams of protein per serving.
- dried cranberries: gives a tart-sweet flavor to this healthy salad.
- chopped pecans: for healthy fats and a little crunch.
- fresh orange juice: compliments the tart cranberry.
- olive oil: can’t have a vinaigrette without oil.
- apple cider vinegar: the acid component of our vinaigrette.
- salt: balances all the tart, sweet, and savory ingredients in this salad.
Make sure to grab the ingredient measurements and full cooking directions at the very end of this post.
Of course, if you have picky eaters, you can always leave the spinach out. It’s wholesome enough with quinoa, pecans, and dried cranberries.
How to Make Cranberry Quinoa Salad
I recommend cooking the quinoa ahead of time, that way it’s at room temperature when you prepare this salad. Cook it according to package directions and bring it to room temperature before refrigerating for up to 4 days.
To reheat, simply add 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup water to 2 cups of cooked quinoa, and microwave until just warmed through- about a minute.
With no further ado, here’s how to assemble the Cranberry Quinoa Salad:
In a large bowl, combine spinach, quinoa, cranberries, and chopped pecans.
- Make the dressing
In a small bowl, whisk orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.
- Drizzle and toss
Add as much dressing into salad bowl as desired and toss to combine.
Is Quinoa Healthy?
Now for the nutritional benefits! Quinoa contains essential amino acids like lysine, making it a good source of protein compared to other grains. It’s also high in trace minerals which can be difficult to get into our daily intake. Each serving of cooked quinoa (¾ cup) provides:
- Calories: 170
- Fat: 2.6g
- Carbohydrate: 32g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 6g
- Manganese: 58%
- Magnesium: 30%
- Phosphorus: 28%
- Folate: 19%
More Fall Side Dish Recipes
I’ve got more delicious fall-inspired side recipes you can serve for weeknight dinners or on any Thanksgiving menu right below. I made sure to select dishes that are also gluten-free and the kind of comfort food that’s good for you.
- Fall Roasted Vegetables
- Easy Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
- Roasted Radishes & Carrots
- Sausage & Apple Stuffing
Cranberry Quinoa Salad
- 4 cups spinach, finely chopped
- 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, combine spinach, quinoa, cranberries, and chopped pecans.
- In a small bowl, whisk orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.
- Drizzle as much dressing into salad bowl as desired, toss to combine.
- Optional: add in chopped roasted chicken or turkey.