This Mexican quinoa salad recipe is hearty, delicious and is served with a sweet and tangy homemade tomato dressing. Perfect for meal prep lunches or a light dinner!
Meal prep lunches
Kevin and I started making this salad in an attempt to meal plan lunches. We both have a terrible habit of skipping lunch if we’re busy. If he had time he would eat lunch at a restaurant. I would either resort to cheese and crackers or some dessert I recently baked. On occasion I’d have dinner leftovers.
Needless to say, we didn’t have good lunch habits. By dinnertime we would both be hangry and eat way too much dinner. What makes it even worse is we eat dinner late due to Kevin’s long commute. In an attempt to get us on the right track, I created this yummy recipe.
It’s ironic that I’m writing this post now as we are both working from home during a quarantine! But if you can find the ingredients (I’ve found fresh produce to be the one thing not pillaged on store shelves) this is a great meal prep lunch. I’ve also listed substitutions below.
Quinoa salad with chicken
I love quinoa and have used it in feta quinoa salad, Mexican stuffed peppers and stuffed acorn squash. Just like pasta and rice, quinoa makes a great base for a salad or stuffing but it has more protein!
The extra protein makes the salad so filling! But it also makes it easier to meal prep! Make a salad with lettuce in advance, it’s likely to wilt. Not so with quinoa!
We divide the salad into eight wide mouth jars and also divide the dressing into smaller jars. That means that when noon-time hunger strikes, lunch is ready to go!
It’s such a great salad with sweet little pops of corn, crunchy peppers and so many fresh flavors bursting in your mouth. The beans, chicken and quinoa make it filling while the cheese and avocado make it sumptuous. And the tomato dressing adds a tangy zing which I really love!
This is also a great party salad! Now, I know none of us are going to parties anytime soon… but I want you to know that this is a great salad to serve in a large bowl at picnics too. Or maybe you want to serve a lighter dinner come summer. Just toss everything in a bowl together and serve! This recipe is totally flexible!
Whether you’re looking for a nutritious lunch to serve your family now, or dreaming of the potlucks to come, you are going to love this salad recipe!
Ingredients and Substitutions
I realize that ingredients are hard to find right now so I’ve listed possible substitutions below. It’s a salad, so it’s really hard to mess up, so feel free to skip ingredients and swap them as necessary.
Quinoa → cooked rice, bulgur or couscous or serve salad on a bed of lettuce
Chicken broth → water
Corn → Cooked sweet potato
Black Beans → white beans, chickpeas or black lentils
Red bell pepper → You can use red, orange and yellow bell peppers interchangeably. If you can’t find them jicama, poblano peppers, or roasted red peppers are a good substitute.
Jalapenos → serranos or poblanos. If you go hotter, add peppers to taste!
Cooked chicken → Turkey, pork, hard boiled eggs or tofu would be great in this recipe!
Queso fresco → Cotija, queso blanco, Monterrey jack, pepper jack or a mild feta would be nice.
Lime → other citrus juice/zest is the best substitute.
Red onion → sweet onions, chives or omit (see recipe notes)
Cilantro → fresh basil or chives would be tasty
Avocados → top salad with a little sour cream, Greek yogurt or Mexican crema
Tomato Salad Dressing
Extra virgin olive oil → light olive oil, canola or vegetable oil
Shallot → red onion
Cherry tomatoes → seeded fresh tomatoes
Cumin → oregano
Red wine vinegar → white wine vinegar, white vinegar
Sugar → Honey, agave
Mexican Chicken Quinoa Salad Recipe
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 10 ounces frozen corn
- 15 oz black beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper , diced
- 2 large jalapenos , finely diced
- 2 cups cooked chicken , diced
- 1 cup queso fresco , crumbled
- 4 limes , zest in salad, save juice for avocados
- ½ large red onion , diced
- 1 bunch cilantro , chopped
- 4 avocados , diced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 1 shallot , finely diced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes , cut in half
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Place quinoa, stock and salt in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, stir, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let quinoa cool before adding to salad.
- In a large bowl, combine corn, black beans, peppers, chicken, queso fresco, lime zest, red onion and cilantro and toss to combine.
- Add cooled quinoa and season with salt to taste, Divide into eight 16oz wide mouth jars if meal prepping lunches. Refrigerate up to 5 days.
- In a small to medium sized pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add shallot and tomatoes, cooking until the tomatoes start to blister and cook down.
- Carefully, transfer to a blender and puree with remaining oil, hot sauce, cumin, red wine vinegar and sugar. Season with salt to taste.
- Divide into eight 4oz jam jars and refrigerate.
- Dice avocados, place in jars and cover with lime juice.
- I suggest doing this the night before so they don't turn brown. There's one avocado for two salad portions, so if there's only two of you, make just what you need.
- I only like to add red onion to my salad when I’m serving it immediately. Raw onion can take over a salad.
- This makes a whole lot of salad. Feel free to cut the recipe in half.
- We use grilled chicken breasts, but this is a great way to use up leftover roasted chicken too. Cooked ground chicken would be good too.
- Leftover dressing can be frozen.
- Waste not, want not! Save the bean water (aquafaba) to make brownies!
Love this Mexican quinoa salad recipe? Leave a comment below!
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