This vibrant salad showcases two of the most beneficial superfoods – quinoa & kale! This Quinoa and Kale Salad also contains sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. It’s the perfect side dish to add to your healthy holiday spread or enjoy as a satisfying fiber and protein pack meal on its own.
During the warmer months, we are all about fresh and flavorful salads made with seasonal produce, whereas when the cooler weather creeps in, we gravitate towards heavier soups and stews.
However, this quinoa and kale salad is a delicious and nutritious dish we have an appetite for all year long.
This gorgeous leafy greens and grains salad recipe delivers a colorful bowl of deep green kale and fluffy quinoa flecked with deep red dried cranberries and crunchy sunflower seeds.
This simple combination of nutrient-rich ingredients is tossed in a simple olive oil vinaigrette to brighten up every bite.
The best part? A big bowl of cooked quinoa and massaged kale is the perfect canvas for your choice of fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and salad dressings.
We love mixing and matching the ingredients with what’s in season. The possibilities are endless!
Why You’ll Love This Kale Quinoa Salad Recipe
- This delicious kale salad comes together in less than 10 minutes with a short list of protein and fiber-rich ingredients.
- This easy recipe is perfect for meal prep. You can customize the salad to your taste and dietary preferences, and it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.
- Great way to repurpose leftover quinoa.
- It yields a large portion of kale quinoa salad, perfect for year-round entertaining. From pool parties and outdoor potlucks to autumn dinners and holiday entertaining.
- This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Fresh Kale – You can use any variety of kale. Check out what your grocery store offers, and select the one that looks best. Curly kale and lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale are the types you usually see in the store.
- Quinoa – Though technically a seed, quinoa is considered a whole grain. It is an excellent source of fiber, minerals, and plant-based protein. Feel free to use white, red, or black quinoa (or a little of each). White quinoa is soft and fluffy, while red and black have a chewier texture.
- Sunflower seeds – For a boost of fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and some yummy crunch.
- Dried cranberries – Sweet-tart cranberries add Vitamin C and another fibrous element. Choose unsweetened dried cranberries for this salad.
- Oil & vinegar – A blend of rich extra virgin olive oil, tangy red wine vinegar, sweet balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt is just enough to wake up the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients.
How to Cook Quinoa for Salads
- Rinse and soak quinoa: Rinse the quinoa under cool running water. Add cold water to the bowl with quinoa and let it soak for 30 minutes to 4 hours. Drain and rinse again. You can skip the soaking if you aren’t sensitive to the slightly bitter taste of quinoa.
- Cook quinoa: In a small saucepan, add the quinoa and cover with twice as much water. So for 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, you’ll use 2 cups of water (which yields 3 cups of cooked quinoa). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, cover it, and simmer until all of the water is absorbed.
- Cool quinoa: The quinoa shouldn’t be hot when tossing it with kale (or the heat will wilt the kale leaves and make them soggy). You can speed up the cooling process by spreading the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet and placing it in the freezer to cool off.
How To Make Kale and Quinoa Salad
Step 1: Prepare quinoa and kale.
If you haven’t already, cook the quinoa (see above for instructions). Transfer chopped kale to a large bowl and massage it with clean hands to break down the fibers, making the kale easier to chew and digest.
Step 2: Make the vinaigrette.
Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt to a small bowl, and whisk until emulsified. Alternatively, you can add the vinaigrette ingredients to a mason jar with a secure lid and shake the jar vigorously for a few seconds.
Step 3: Toss the kale and salad ingredients with the dressing.
Add the cooked quinoa, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries to the bowl of kale and mix well. Then, pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss until the quinoa kale salad is well-dressed in vinaigrette. Adjust salt to taste and enjoy!
Rinse and soak your quinoa to wash away the leftover saponin residue (a natural insect repellent) that leaves behind an off-putting bitter taste.
You can cook your quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water for added flavor and nutrients.
Don’t skip massaging the kale, as it helps alleviate the bitterness and breaks down the chewy fibers so the leaves are nice and tender.
Massage your kale with olive oil and a pinch of salt until the leaves soften. You can also massage kale with a small amount of lemon juice.
Recreate this kale salad recipe with the add-ins of your choosing.
Here are a few of the many ingredients you can add to this recipe:
- Beans – Add rinsed chickpeas, edamame, red beans, kidney beans, black beans, or pinto beans.
- Dressing – Use lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar instead of red wine or balsamic. Olive oil is always great, but you can also use flaxseed, avocado, or walnut oil.
- Fresh herbs – Add a herbaceous flavor with fresh basil, dill, parsley, or oregano.
- Garlic – Love garlic? This salad will definitely benefit from adding one or two cloves.
- Nuts – Toss in a handful of chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.
- Fruit and veggies – Use what’s in season: apple, avocado, blueberries, red onion, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, etc. Roasted root veggies like sweet potato and butternut squash also taste great in this kale quinoa salad.
- Protein – The quinoa in this salad makes it a hearty meal on its own. If you’d like to add more protein, try it with grilled shrimp, salmon, or chicken.
- Cheese – If you don’t mind adding dairy to your meals, try sprinkling some crumbled feta cheese on top of the salad. You can also serve it with creamy goat cheese.
Storing & Meal Prep
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers of this quinoa kale salad, they taste even better the next day once the flavors have had time to mingle.
Storing: Store leftovers in a shallow, airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Meal prep: For meal prep purposes, toss the salad with only half of the dressing, then portion the salad into meal prep containers and serve the rest of the dressing on the side.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good substitute for quinoa in a kale salad?
You can swap the quinoa for cooked and cooled couscous, barley, bulgur, farro, or millet.
Should kale quinoa salad be hot or cold?
I suggest enjoying it at room temperature or chilled. If it’s heated, the kale leaves wilt and quickly cook down.
What is the tastiest quinoa?
Apart from color, the differences between the quinoa varieties are minimal.
White quinoa isn’t as firm and chewy as red and black quinoa, so it’s better with crunchy salad ingredients. I also like “rainbow” quinoa which is a blend of red, black, and white quinoa.
Can you use raw quinoa in a salad?
Please don’t. Raw quinoa is very bitter and harsh, so it’s not exactly an appetizing salad mix-in.
More Healthy Quinoa Recipes You’ll Love
- Quinoa Vegetable Salad
- Quinoa Chili
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta
- Beet Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa Vegetable Soup
- Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
- 5 cups kale (1 small bunch), chopped
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 ½ cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Place the chopped kale in a large salad bowl. Massage the kale with your hands for a couple of minutes. This will break down the fibers and make the kale easier to chew and digest.
- Add the quinoa, sunflower seeds, and cranberries. Mix to combine.
- In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Mix well. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1/6 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 595Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 26gCholesterol 0mgSodium 103mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 7.3gSugar 46.2gProtein 11.9g
Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.