This easy Thai quinoa salad combines protein-rich grains with healthy nutrients from fresh veggies, for a lime-infused flavor bomb with crunch in each bite.
This easy Thai quinoa salad combines protein-rich grains with healthy nutrients from fresh veggies, for a lime-infused flavor bomb with crunch in each bite. It’s great as a side for potlucks and as a main when you add chopped chicken. It’s also an easy and complete weekday lunch too.
I remember being at a Weight Watchers meeting where a woman emphatically stated that she did. NOT. like. quinoa. There was no changing her mind. But in my head I couldn’t figure out why she was putting up the quinoa roadblock.
Quinoa is one of my favorite protein sources, probably because it’s so unassuming. Like a seventh grade girl, it takes on the flavors it’s paired with.
For this quinoa salad, that means the salty flavors of a limey Thai dressing with plenty of veggie crunch. It’s the perfect side dish or main meal if you’re feeling the hug of your waistline just a little too much.
Quinoa is a bona fide super food. It’s gluten-free, packed with protein, fiber and flavonoids with studies showing it as an anti-inflammatory. It’s also loaded with antioxidants to keep those free radicals at bay.
What’s in This Thai Quinoa Salad?
At the heart of this power salad are the grains of quinoa that cling to a bevy of fresh veggies and are the start of this healthy bowl. Edamame is included along with peanuts for added protein. Red bell peppers add even more antioxidants and vitamin C with cucumbers and shredded purple cabbage coming in with the crunch.
- red bell pepper
- green onion
- red cabbage
What’s In This Quinoa Salad Dressing
The dressing is simple, tart and sweet and very similar to the one I serve with spring rolls. It’s made with a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Add more red chili flakes to boost your metabolism, or less if you’re feeding the kids.
- fish sauce
- soy sauce
- vegetable oil
- sesame oil
- red pepper flakes
If you can find Thai basil, it makes a great addition. If not, regular basil will do.
How to Make Thai Quinoa Salad
To make this easy Thai salad, first prep the quinoa according to package instructions. While that cooks, prep the veggies and add them to a large bowl. Once cooked, add the quinoa to the bowl as well.
Whisk together the tangy vinaigrette and toss with the veggies and quinoa to combine. Garnish with fresh basil, cilantro, and peanuts and dive in.
Chopping and shredding the veggies will be the only thing that takes any time in putting this salad together. To get extra thin shreds of carrot, I use the shredder in this set of three peelers.
You can enjoy this Thai quinoa salad right away, or refrigerate it for up to a day before serving it.
Is There a Fish Sauce Substitute I Can Use?
If possible, get your hands on a high quality fish sauce like this one for a more authentic flavor. But if you’re really against using it or don’t have any on hand, you can likely get away with using Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce in a pinch. (Note that I’ve only ever made this recipe using fish sauce, so this is just my best guess).
Can I Prep This Salad in Advance?
If you’d like to prep this Thai salad for your lunches this week, I recommend storing the dressing separately and tossing it with your salad just before you’re ready to eat it. Once the dressing gets tossed with the veggies, the salad will stay good for only a day or two. However, because the ingredients are all sturdy, I’ve meal prepped it, refrigerated it, and eaten it throughout the whole week.
Tips for Making Thai Quinoa Salad
Make sure to rinse your quinoa before cooking it. Quinoa is coated in a substance called saponin, and if you don’t rinse it off your salad will wind up tasting quite bitter.
Feel free to add extra veggies to this salad or omit any you don’t have on hand. This is a flexible recipe, so tweak it as needed.
Also, I used a peeler to make pretty strands of the carrot. If you don’t have one, a regular box grater will do.
More Healthy Salad Recipes With Tons of Flavor
- Ahi Tuna Poke and Mango Salad
- Strawberry Arugula Salad with Watermelon and Feta
- Mediterranean Tomato Salad
- The Best Fattoush Salad
- Greek Salad with Chicken
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Thai Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1 carrot , peeled and shredded
- 1 cucumber , chopped
- 1 cup frozen edamame , thawed
- 6 green onions , chopped
- 1-2 cups shredded red cabbage
- ½ cup chopped peanuts
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- 4 teaspoons fish sauce
- 3 limes , juiced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- Rinse the quinoa under cold water and cook in a medium saucepan according to package directions. Remove from pan and let cool.
- Add the quinoa and vegetables to a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, limes, sugar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes until the sugar has dissolved. Taste for sweetness and for heat, and add more seasoning to taste. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetables and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle the cilantro, basil and peanuts over the salad and stir lightly. Serve or refrigerate for up to one day.
- I used a vegetable peeler/shredder like these to make pretty strands of the carrot. If you don't have one, a regular box grater will do.
More Easy Thai Recipes You’ll Love
- Thai Coconut Chicken and Rice
- Shrimp in Thai Coconut Sauce
- Thai Zucchini Noodle and Quinoa Salad
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
- Thai Curried Salmon
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This quinoa salad looking so yummm, and so fresh and healthy. thanks for sharing such nice recipes with us.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Its just yummy & fabulous . I tried this recipe. Thank you.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
I made this last night and got an 8 out of 10 from my family. Today’s leftovers for lunch get a solid 10!! The quinoa soaked up more of the dressing flavor overnight and was delicious!! Thank you Heidi
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
I LOVE the leftovers from this one!! THanks for sharing your experience!
Made a double batch, didn’t change a thing, served Thai marinated chicken on the side, big hit, big. Fresh and delicious, the dressing was spot on. Oh, I did add extra brown sugar to the dressing, but other than that, the recipe is perfection.
Complete recipe with full of protein and simple dressing. I am completely fed up with those unhealthy food like pizzas and burger etc.
Thank you for this recipe…. Thank you very much
Oh I also didn’t add any nuts because I didn’t have any. I’m sure it’d be even yummier with the nuts added!
Mmmm Just made this dish tonight, with a few modifications. I’m not into hot food, so I only used a teaspoon of ginger, and I used crushed chilli pepper instead of pepper flakes. It turned out the perfect combination of sweet and spice (for my taste buds, anyway). I can see this one becoming a regular for lunch :)
My kids and I had fun shelling the edamame beans together (I bought a huge bag at Costco for about $13.00). And it turns out my 3-year-old is a huge fan; she ate a bunch of them before they made it into the salad :)
Val from PA
Just made this yesterday and it is amazing! I was mistaken and didn’t have any quinoa on hand like I thought, so I used rice instead and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!
I was looking for something to make after the gym with what I had on hand. I had toasted almond slivers not peanuts. Fresh green beans (slightly steamed) not edamame. No basil. Used chicken stock instead of water. Oh my! What a phenomenal dish! Will make again and again. Oh and I omitted cuc because I have had A LOT of cucumber lately.
This is amazing stuff! I made a few substitutions. Soy sauce instead of fish sauce, garbanzos instead of edamame, and maple syrup instead of sugar. Also added some fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces. I can’t wait until lunch time tomorrow to eat leftovers! I will definitely make this for family and friends in the future.
Thanks, I was looking for a substitution for the fish sauce. We tried it before but everyone thought it was too strong of a flavor.
I love this salad and have just made it for about the 6th time. I have a Thai basil plant that is still going strong, and I don’t know what else to do with it. The rest of the ingredients (except for the cabbage) I usually have on hand. I saw that several people have asked about the fish sauce. Honestly, I have never used it and I think the dressing tastes great. I have an open jar of red chili paste from another recipe, so I added some of that tonight. I can’t wait until lunch tomorrow!!
What an amazing recipe! Thank you so much for posting this. I love the freshness of this salad and all of the health benefits! I did swap the basil for fresh mint leaves- that was my only change from the original recipe! I paired it with a salmon filet for a great light summer dinner. Husband loved it as much as me!
I’m so glad you both enjoyed Hannah. Thanks coming back to leave a comment saying so!
I “meal preped” a variation of this salad for my lunch for the week. I the quinoa, veggies and a lime wedge in a to go bowl. Instead of the dressing I went the lazy girl route and use Harris Teeter Peanut sauce. Just tossed my first bowl with the peanut sauce and lime juice. It was amazing. I would have mad the sauce but realized I needed fish sauce when I got home from the store. I def will make the dressing the next time. This salad is yummy goodness and I have already shares with my sister and my friends.
So delicious! I’ve made Thai dishes in the past, so it used a lot of things I had lingering in my cupboards. Full of fresh deliciousness! I gave a serving to a friend for lunch, as she’s toying with veganism (she forgave me for the fish sauce).
I made this tonight and it was fantastic. So fresh and healthy. I needed this so badly.
Wonderful salad! I dropped back on the sugar a tad and added some grated lemongrass, ground coriander, and homemade Thai red pepper paste to the dressing. Lovely recipe, thank you!
Sue @ Frugal Gifts 2 Give
I love quinoa and I love this salad! As a matter of fact, I’ve made it for family functions and everybody just raves about it! Thank you!! Also, I love your photo’s! You’ll have to give me a few tips. . .I need them desperately!
Today, I’m making this for the third time to take to a potluck.
I’ve even printed out the recipe, because I know everyone will want a copy!
my husband who swears he HATES quinoa thinks this is delicious.
as for me…I eat it for breakfast it’s so good!
thanks for a fantastic recipe.
We are trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our weekly routine so this fit the bill. Overall it was good, but the dressing was very strong. I used toasted sesame oil rather than plain sesame oil, so maybe that was the problem? Will try to tweak the dressing based on some of the comments here because my family loved all the veggies.
I agree Elizabeth, sesame oil can take over. Are you refrigerating your sesame oil? It tends to get stronger the longer it’s open and if it’s in the pantry or cupboard, it can go bad quicker than most oils and give off a stronger taste.
I made this tonight for dinner; really loved it! My only hesitation was the dressing; it tasted a little bitter (or sour?) to me. About how much lime juice should there be? Any other ideas why it might have tasted this way?
Really delicious and fresh. Added mango for a little sweetness. Lots of chopping but worth it.
I also would like to know if it’s ok to omit the fish sauce. Hope it won’t change the outcome drastically.
Same question as above. My partner is allergic to fish. What sauce can I substitute for the fish sauce?
Can I omit the fish sauce? Any ideas on something else I can use?
Hi there, you can try Worcestershire or more soy sauce.
I just made this tonight for my family and it was a huge hit. I used 2 Tbs of fish sauce and 2 Tbs of low sodium soy sauce.
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger is listed in the Ingredients, but not mentioned in the Directions. I assume it is to be added to the sauce. Someone might want to correct the error.
My Quinoa and vegetables are all mix and I’m starting to mix the dressing now. Can hardly wait for dinner.
All hail the Queen of Beautiful Salads!!! This looks breathtaking regardless i’m kicking the bucket over that browned goat cheddar plate of mixed greens from a week ago. Such a large number of to make!!
Karen A Cayce
Made this tonight- it is a wonderful blend of texture and flavors! I doubled it and will take half to a potluck tomorrow. I agree- quinoa just is the base for whatever flavors you favor it with!
Although my daughter is a quinoa lover but this is the first time that I want to have seconds because I loved it…..omitted cabbage and endame since did not have it in hand. The salad was perfect in the exact proportions you suggested.
Thanks! Will definitely try your other recipes too.
Thank you so much for this recipe- much needed after stuffing ourselves over Thanksgiving.
It was so colorful and the dressing with everything in the salad was absolutely fantastic- so delicious. We’re full and have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night. Thank you!!
Hi! I too am on WW and this looks delicious. Do you know how many points it is?
I built the recipe on the WW site and it came in at 6 SP for an eighth of the salad.
I recently used this recipe to meal prep lunches for the week, and I have to say it turned out awesome!!! I left the peanuts and the dressing on the side to use as I eat it through out the week to prevent it from becoming soggy. I also added some grilled shrimp on top on days when I was extra hungry. Great recipe, will be making this again for sure!
I was hoping to pre make this dish to take to work this week for my lunch each day. Usually when I make dishes like this, they last just fine for the 5 days. You say to only refrigerate this for a day though. Can I not eat it through out the week?
Hi Katie, you can definitely eat it through the week. I simply meant to refrigerate until ready to eat.
Karen A Cayce
Thank goodness! I like to make a week’s worth of food!
Hi Katie, it will last longer than 2 days but tastes best before the cilantro wilts. But I’ve eaten it through the week before :)
Your salad made it all the way to the North of Germany. Thank you so much for the recipe! It’s so delicious! Also perfect to take to the office! Yummy!!!
I was late to the quinoa party, but now love it and always looking for new recipes. This salad looks great, but what about swapping out the sugar with honey?
Just made this for myself and my 13 yo kiddo… he loved it… It’s going into the lunch rotation this year. Thanks!
Over the past 6 months I have been trying out differnt grains to add to our regular meals, bulgur was a big hit with me, my hubby and even my kids. Farro was next and it too went over well. Quinoa, I was just not a fan of until I made this salad. Wow all the flavors and textures and it is super healthy too. I have made this salad twice in 5 days. My husband loves it too. So very happy that I came across this recipe. Thank you.
Ah Anna! That’s fabulous to hear! I’m so glad you too got on the quinoa train. Thanks for circling back and letting me know.
Absolutely love this salad – so delicious and so colorful! Everyone at work thought I was a master chef because the salad is so gorgeous!
Another seasonal salad recipe :) I’ll definitely try this crunchy Thai salad. How long will this salad stay fresh without adding dressing to it?
With no dressing I bet it would be good to go for at least a day or two.
people who don’t like quinoa = weird! :)
great recipe – so many good flavors, and it’s so colorful!!
Julia | Orchard Street Kitchen
This looks absolutely delicious, Heidi! I love all the crunchy veggies paired with the tart dressing. I always find it so funny when people passionately hate quinoa – for being such a simple and unassuming food, it seems to be so contentious! I’m definitely in the pro-quinoa camp and view it as the perfect blank slate.
I agree Julia. I just don’t get it!
Laura (Tutti Dolci)
I love these Thai flavors! I’m big on color and texture when it comes to salad, so this is perfection!
Dang, you are tough! This salad is just brilliant. I went to a couple of potlucks over the weekend and now I’m craving all potluck foods, all the time. Pass the chips and salad, please.
I think this is perfectly seasonal Heidi ;) And I’m so glad you’re not allergic to wasp or bee stings!! Now, I’m so afraid of things like that! Be safe!!
Thanks for bringing us all around the seasonal table Becky.
Natalie | Paper & Birch
Gorgeous salad – love all the colors and how simple the dressing is :)
Melissa @ Bless this Mess
All hail the Queen of Beautiful Salads!!! This looks fabulous and I’m still dying over that fried goat cheese salad from last week. So many to make!!
:) It’s salad season and I love salads so there will be no shortage of them appearing on the blog! Love your rice too BTW!
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
Mmm mmm love all the flavours in here! So delicious!
Nicole - Coking for Keeps
So many beautiful colors happening here! I don’t know how anyone could still say they don’t like quinoa after trying this…
Tracy | PeanutButter and Onion
I would eat this salad just for the color. I love you comparison to a 7th grader “so unassuming. Like a seventh grade girl,” awesome!
I’m sorry you got stung…never a fun part of spring and summer! I find that when people tell me that they don’t like quinoa, they typically have only eaten it on its own – no dressing, no mix-ins. I don’t think anyone could resist quinoa if this gorgeous salad was set in front of them!
Liz @ Floating Kitchen
Gorgeous salad! Love the colors. And that lady who doesn’t like quinoa – well, I’ll just take her shares. Okay?
Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life
I was late in discovering quinoa but now I use it all the time. I make it in my rice cooker because then I can put it in and forget about it and it comes out perfect every time. I make a kale salad with it that is so good and my daughter asks for every week, so I make a big batch and she takes it for lunch every day. This salad looks fantastic and I’m definitely trying it! A change of pace might be nice! Pinning!
A rice cooker! Michelle, that takes all of the work right out of having it on hand. What a great idea. Thanks for the tip.
Laura ~ RYG
You’re making me feel like I should give a weight watchers meeting a whirl. And a women actually said she didn’t like quinoa? I think it’s one of the most non-offensive foods out there. This salad looks great and your photo’s are fabulous! Feel your pain on the wasp sting. On my 9th anniversary, we went for a hike and I was stung 9 times. Way to celebrate self!!
Hey Laura, I agree, quinoa is just a neutral in a world of flavors! You should try WW, I like it because nothing is off limits, you just eat less of it. Ouch on the sting. I hope 10 years didn’t bring up anything worse!
I Made this today. It was so good! Great to make at the beginning of the week to take for lunches for a couple days as well I think. I also added some siracha in the dressing:)