A simple, healthy, super versatile sun dried tomato basil quinoa salad with lemon garlic vinaigrette. It’s packed with plant-based protein and perfect for effortless weekday lunches and dinners.
Pizza has been on my mind lately (more on that below) and whenever I’m craving pizza but don’t want to abandon my healthy eating habits, I make this salad and feel totally satisfied.
OK, I deserve the eye roll you just gave me.
Honestly, I probably deserve worse for even suggesting that a quinoa salad—even a really, really good one like this one—could stand-in for pizza.
Because who am I kidding? There’s really is no substitute for pizza.
This plant-based sun dried tomato basil salad definitely shares the same flavor profiles as your favorite slice of pie. So it does have that going for it…
It also takes less than 30 minutes to make, too, which is about how long it would take the pizza delivery man (or uber driver) to get to your house anyway sooooo it’s pretty much the same thing, no?
The reason that I have pizza on my brain is because we are currently in the process of packing up our entire apartment (I say that as if it’s a huge space when it’s all of 700 square feet) to move to a HOUSE in Sonoma. My excitement is uncontainable.
And moving makes me think of pizza, naturally.
Mostly because moving is always really hectic and pizza is really convenient, as it requires little to no utensils or plates—key when everything you own is jammed in a box and your living space in shambles. But instead of packing our apartment (which is what I should’ve started doing last weekend), I’ve been cooking up a storm and photographing recipes like crazy.
I figured that batching a bunch of recipes and blog posts in advance would make things less stressful later since our kitchen will take a few days to reassemble once we’re in the new place. Plus, I have no idea what the lighting situation will actually be like so let’s hope it’s as good as here. Regardless, I’m SUPER excited about all the fun new recipes and can’t wait to share them with you guys in the weeks to come!
I decided to start with this crazy flavorful, sun dried tomato basil quinoa salad with lemon garlic vinaigrette because in the same way that moving makes me think of pizza, so does the match-made-in-heaven combination of tomato and basil.
Hence why this salad is basically like eating a slice of margarita pizza pie!
OK, I can tell that this whole “you’ll love this quinoa salad because it tastes like pizza” analogy isn’t my strongest argument, but it was worth a try.
Anyway, enough pizza talk. Let’s talk salad!
ABOUT THIS SALAD
Chewy sun dried tomatoes, salty kalamata olives, crunchy red onion, and slightly sweet basil—swoon. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be equally smitten with this recipe.
Like I said, this sun dried tomato and basil quinoa salad can be thrown together in half an hour making it perfect for a busy week.
It keeps really well—in fact the flavors are even better after they marinate in the zesty lemon garlic vinaigrette for a day or two. You’ll also be able to enjoy it for multiple meals because the recipe makes a ton.
And if you’re at all like me—which you are, based on your requests both here and on social media for “healthy,” “simple,” and “quick” lunch and dinner recipes—any recipe that keeps me out of the kitchen any longer than necessary is a winner.
This sun dried tomato and basil quinoa salad is one of my go-to dishes to take on picnics and to bring to parties or potlucks because while the flavors may be simple, they are widely loved by most.
(Ahem not to bring up pizza again but I think it’s the tomato basil thing—it’s irresistible).
It’s also great for brown bagging to work or class and equally lovely as a side dish when paired with chicken, fish, or any other protein. You can even put it on top of a heaping pile of greens and make an epic salad on a salad.
QUINOA: PROS + CONS
Plus, quinoa is an excellent source of plant-based protein, as it actually has the highest protein content of any “grain.” I say “grain” because technically quinoa is a seed but it’s considered a pseudo grain.
It’s gluten free, high in lysine—an amino acid known for its stress-relieving properties—and a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins.
While most people have nothing but good things to say about quinoa, I always like to at least mention that some people may not tolerate or digest it very well.
The reason is because quinoa and other grains and seeds contain saponins and anti-nutrients that do exactly what you’d think they do—inhibit the absorption of nutrients.
So these anti-nutrients and saponins can be irritating to the sensitive lining of the digestive tract, especially for anyone who already has a compromised gut (i.e. anyone with IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.).
As I’ve talked about before in this other quinoa recipe, one way to reduce the effects of anti-nutrients and saponins is by soaking grains and pseudo grains like quinoa really well before preparing.
Of course if that’s not possible, it’s not going to be the end of the world but if you can soak it, soak it. The longer the better—ideally overnight. Bonus points for doing so with a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, as the acid will further help breakdown the antinutrients and saponins.
MAKE IT YOURS
Like all salads, this one is super versatile. Feel free to substitute ingredients according to what you have in your fridge, personal preferences, food allergies, etc.
I’d also wholeheartedly encourage you to add more vegetables to the salad. I always recommend that my nutrition coaching clients and anyone in general aim to eat at least ONE POUND of fresh veg a day.
A few ideas include greens (kale, spinach, arugula), diced cucumber, fresh tomatoes, summer squash, red cabbage, or eggplant…
Or try the whole epic salad on a salad thing that I mentioned earlier. No such thing as too many greens. Preach emojis galore.
Optional Add-Ins To Boost The Protein Content:
1 cup organic boneless skinless chicken breast, baked and diced
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup toasted pinenuts
1/2 cup toasted almonds
2 cans wild-caught albacore tuna packed in water
1 cup buffalo mozzarella globes, chopped into small pieces (for a true pizza flavor!)
1 cup feta cheese
The sky’s the limit.
Ready or what?! Let’s do it.
SUN DRIED TOMATO BASIL QUINOA SALAD WITH LEMON GARLIC VINAIGRETTE
Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes
3/4 cup white quinoa (soaked for 20 minutes and rinsed well)
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
sea salt and pepper
Simple Mediterranean Red Wine Vinaigrette
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs dried oregano
1 lemon juiced
1 tbs crushed garlic puree (sub 2 garlic cloves pressed)
sea salt and pepper to taste
- In a small pot, add the quinoa and 1 1/2 cups filtered water (the ratio for quinoa to H2O is always double) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.
- While quinoa is cooking chop/dice remaining salad ingredients, set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the vinaigrette.
- Once quinoa is finished cooking, fluff it with a fork and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Add salad ingredients and vinaigrette and toss combine.
- Feel free to add any of the other suggested proteins to the salad if you like, but there is plenty of plant-based protein in the salad as it is if you want to keep it super simple!
There you have it!
A simple, nourishing, satisfying quinoa salad to make your weekly meal prep a breeze. I hope you love this salad and if after all this pizza talk you decide to pair it with pizza, you have my full support.
Because I can guarantee one thing, we will likely be eating pizza on Sunday night after we move into our new digs in Sonoma (it’s sort of a move-in day tradition) and probably washing it down with a celebratory glass of wine because #winecountry.
I can’t wait to share more about our new place once we get settled. If you want to see sneak peeks, be sure to add me on Snapchat—”honstlynourishd.”
OK time to pack for reals!
YOUR THOUGHTS >>>
How do you stay healthy during hectic weeks when it feels impossible to make time to meal prep or choose nourishing options? What are your go-to healthy and quick meals? I’m taking any and all suggestions this week!