Enjoy this pantry-friendly Greek/ Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe warm or chilled. It's packed with protein, fiber, and lots of vegetables, including kale, white beans, tomatoes, and olives in a lemon-garlic quinoa dressing! Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan quinoa salad!
Veggie-Packed Mediterranean Quinoa (Salad OR Warm)
Not only is quinoa packed with plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and all nine essential amino acids (!!), but in the last few years, this superfood seed has become far more cost-effective too. Which means we've enthusiastically found tons of ways to enjoy vegan quinoa recipes. Alongside artichoke heart quinoa salad, quinoa chipotle bowls, and a sweet potato quinoa bowl, we're now sharing this recipe for Mediterranean quinoa!
This simple veggie quinoa dish combines garlic and lemon quinoa with Greek/Mediterranean veggies, including kale, white beans, tomatoes, and olives. You can enjoy it either warm, at room temperature, or chilled as a nutritious Mediterranean quinoa salad! Either way, it makes for a tasty and nutritious, simple side dish or main that will help to keep you satisfied until your next meal!
Even better, this vegan quinoa recipe can be prepared in as little as 30 minutes (even less when using pre-cooked quinoa!), and, as usual, there are several ways to adapt this recipe based on what you have in your kitchen. Plus, this dish is easy to make ahead and store for later, perfect for meal prep to enjoy throughout the week or for taking to potlucks, picnics, and other gatherings at summer and year-round!
Quinoa: We designed this vegan quinoa recipe with regular white quinoa in mind. If you want to use tri-color, adjust the cooking time (according to the package instructions). We don't recommend using red quinoa for a chilled Mediterranean quinoa salad, but it will work fine when warm.
Vegetable broth: Use homemade or store-bought. Feel free to use reduced-sodium vegetable stock if preferred. Adjust the amount of added salt to the lemon quinoa based on how salty the broth is.
Vegetables: Kale leaves (or spinach), a can of white beans (or chickpeas. Use canned or even roasted, for extra crunch), Roma tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes. Raw or roasted), and kalamata olives.
The Lemon Vinaigrette:
Olive oil: Use extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Avocado oil may also work, but we haven't tried.
Lemon: Fresh lemon juice is best; adjust the amount to taste. You could also use lime juice or another acid like red or white wine vinegar (make sure it's vegan).
Salt & Pepper: Adjust the amount to taste.
Garlic: Adjust the amount to taste. Roasted garlic would also taste delicious.
Optional add-ins & Recipe Variations
Vegan feta cheese: Crumbled over the prepared Mediterranean quinoa.
Bell peppers: Enjoy sauteed (for hot quinoa) or raw (for Mediterranean quinoa salad). Jarred/canned peppers will also work. We like to use orange, yellow, or red bell peppers.
Marinated Artichoke: Chopped into smaller pieces if needed.
Mixed Mediterranean vegetables: A roasted mixture of zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc., will taste deliciously mixed into this lemon garlic quinoa.
Other quinoa salad vegetables: To serve this veggie quinoa cold, we love adding diced cucumber (use low-seed varieties like Persian/English cucumber), avocado (add just before serving, to avoid browning), and thinly sliced red onion. You can also top it up with leafy greens like arugula (rocket).
Herbs: Fresh herbs like parsley, scallions (green onion), mint, or cilantro work particularly well with Mediterranean/Greek flavors. You could also add extra flavor with dried herbs mixed into the dressing, like oregano or thyme.
Pine nuts: Lightly toasted pine nuts (a few minutes in a dry skillet until fragrant) make for a lovely garnish to this Mediterranean quinoa. Other nuts/seeds may also work well.
Lemon zest: Add some lemon zest to the garlic lemon quinoa to add extra lemony flavor.
Sun-dried tomatoes: Finely chopped, alongside or instead of the fresh tomatoes.
Protein: Add extra protein with your choice of ingredients such as vegan meat alternatives (like a vegan chick'n), tofu, or tempeh.
Mustard: Optionally add just ¼-½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the lemon vinaigrette.
Other dressing: This Mediterranean quinoa salad will also pair well with an Italian or Greek salad dressing.
Spice: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for spice.
How to Make Mediterranean Quinoa?
Hot Mediterranean Quinoa
1) First, prepare the ingredients. Slice the kale, removing the tough stems, mince/grate the garlic, drain and rinse the canned white beans, and pit and slice the olives). You can also squeeze the lemon juice at this point. At the same time, rinse the quinoa.
To rinse the quinoa, either place it in a bowl filled with water, swish well, drain and repeat until the water is almost clear. OR rinse in a sieve under running water, swishing the quinoa with your fingers, until water runs clear. Check out this Guide To Quinoa for more info!
2) In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable broth/stock to a boil over high heat. Then, add the quinoa, cover with a lid, and reduce to a simmer for 14 minutes (or the time written on the package instructions), adding the kale leaves in the last five minutes.
It can also be a good idea to allow the cooked quinoa to sit in the pot for an extra five minutes before removing the lid. This will help evaporate any remaining liquid for fluffier results.
3) Then, drain the quinoa mixture through a fine-mesh sieve before transferring to a large bowl. Fluff gently with a fork.
4) In a separate small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add that over the cooked quinoa.
5) Finally, add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss well to combine. Give the Mediterranean quinoa a quick taste and adjust any seasonings, then serve while warm and enjoy!
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
While this version is fairly similar to the above, the main difference is to cook the quinoa and allow it to cool slightly before mixing in the remaining raw vegetables.
If you don't plan to cook the quinoa in advance, you can cook it, spread it across a parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Then toss with all the remaining ingredients and enjoy your Med/Greek quinoa salad!
How to Store?
If you plan to make a Mediterranean quinoa salad, it's best to cook the quinoa ahead of time to avoid wilting all the fresh elements. You can do this up to two days in advance.
Allow the veggies quinoa to cool and then store in airtight container/s in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Then, you can enjoy the leftovers as a chilled Mediterranean/ Greek quinoa salad or reheat either in the microwave or on the stovetop (optionally with a splash of extra broth to avoid drying out).
Cooked quinoa also freezes very well (in airtight containers/Ziplock/Stasher bags for 3-4 months); however, many fresh vegetables won't fare well after freezing/thawing. If you make enough to freeze, we recommend doing so only with the quinoa/kale, then add the fresh ingredients upon thawing.
How to Serve?
You can enjoy this Mediterranean/ Greek quinoa in several ways, including either warm or chilled and as a side or main. Here are just a few ideas:
Create a Mediterranean quinoa bowl, combining the veggie-packed lemon garlic quinoa with some hummus, toasted pita, and optionally some falafel. A dollop of two of pesto will also taste delicious.
As a side dish (hot or cold) with vegan souvlaki/gyros
Top up the meal with extra vegetables like grilled zucchini, roasted broccoli, and other simple cooked veggies.
Bring to potlucks and picnics
How do you enjoy eating this Mediterranean/ Greek quinoa salad? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you have to soak quinoa? If quinoa isn't rinsed, you may notice it tastes slightly bitter. This is because a soapy/bitter-tasting compound (called saponin) coats quinoa before it's well-rinsed. While many packaged quinoa brands are now pre-soaked, we prefer to give it a quick rinse anyway, just in case.
Can I substitute the quinoa? Yes, you can. Why not try this as a Mediterranean couscous dish, or perhaps farro or cooked barley. Adjust the cooking time and liquid amounts according to their package instructions.
Is quinoa salad healthy? Absolutely! This Mediterranean/Greek quinoa salad is packed full of fiber, plant protein, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids – and that's just from the quinoa! Combine that with several veggies and heart-healthy olive oil, and this meal is incredibly healthy and nourishing!
Do I have to sauté the garlic? You can add the raw minced garlic straight to the dressing if you'd prefer. The lemon juice will help mellow the raw garlic flavor, though it will still be more pungent than the sauteed version.
Top Recipe Tips and Notes
Optionally toast the quinoa: To enhance the nutty flavor of the quinoa, you can lightly toast it in the pan/skillet until fragrant before cooking it.
Using leftover cooked quinoa: You can refer to this post for how to cook quinoa on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. Leftover quinoa will work for the hot version or a chilled Mediterranean quinoa salad. Alternatively, cook the quinoa in advance to give it time to cool when making the Mediterranean quinoa salad!
Adjust the vegetables added: Based on what you have in your kitchen/pantry. This veggie quinoa is highly versatile!
Pour the dressing over warm quinoa: Even if you plan to make this as a chilled Mediterranean quinoa salad, pouring half the lemon vinaigrette over the quinoa while it's warm will help it soak up the flavors better.
Wait for the quinoa to cool before making a salad: Otherwise, when you mix in the fresh ingredients, they may wilt and lose their crisp textures.
Vegan Lemon-Garlic Mediterranean Quinoa (Salad OR Warm)
Enjoy this pantry-friendly Greek/Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe warm or chilled. It's packed with protein, fiber, and lots of vegetables, including kale, white beans, tomatoes, and olives in a lemon-garlic quinoa dressing! Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan quinoa salad!
In a small stockpot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add quinoa and boil for 14 minutes, adding sliced kale during the last 5 minutes. Drain well in a fine-mesh strainer and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Pour this over the warm quinoa and mix well.
Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Serve hot.
Pour the dressing over warm quinoa: Even if you plan to make this as a chilled Mediterranean quinoa salad, pouring half the lemon vinaigrette over the quinoa while it's warm will help it soak up the flavors better.Wait for the quinoa to cool before making a salad: Otherwise, when you mix in the fresh ingredients, they may wilt and lose their crisp textures.
Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.
About Roxane McNulty
Roxane is a culinary school graduate, professional pastry chef and devoted mama of an adorable toddler - She loves cooking and baking tasty, healthy plant-based food that is kind to our bodies, the earth and the animals! She also runs her own website, Roxane's Natural Kitchen