Taking a page from the flavors of Greece, this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe is packed with crunchy bell peppers, crisp cucumbers, and the briny flavors of feta and kalamata olives.
I’ve been making this quinoa salad recipe since my kids were toddlers and now that they are teens they still enjoy it.
I love it because it's packed with crunchy colorful bell peppers, cool cucumbers, and nutrient-dense quinoa. Olives and feta give it that Mediterranean vibe and some healthy fats along with the lemony olive oil oregano dressing. It lasts for a full week in the fridge, is great in lunches, and is easy to adapt.
When tomatoes are in season, toss in a handful. Don’t like feta? Leave it out. Increase the amount of quinoa to add extra heft or add chickpeas or shredded grilled chicken breasts for a protein boost. If you go to make this salad and realize you are out of quinoa, swap in pearled barley, bulgur, or green lentils.
It doesn't get much easier than this Mediterranean quinoa salad. Serve it when friends come over, take it to a party or office potluck, or pack it in lunches.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for this Quinoa Salad Recipe
- Quinoa: This seed is not only popular for its nutty taste and fluffy texture but also for its high nutritional value. It is rich in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.
- Lemon, zested and juiced: Lemon brings a burst of tangy flavor to this Mediterranean Quinoa salad recipe. The zest, or outer layer of the peel, adds a fragrant aroma while the juice provides acidity and brightness.
- Oregano: Commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine oregano and lemon go together like peas and carrots. I use it dried in this recipe, but if you have fresh you can use that instead. Or use both!
- Kosher salt: Kosher salt, unlike table salt, is coarser and has a milder taste. It is commonly used in cooking and adds depth to flavors without overpowering them.
- Black pepper: Black pepper is another seasoning staple. It provides a spicy and slightly earthy flavor.
- Olive oil: Olive oil adds fruitiness and carries the salt, pepper, lemon, and oregano to all the other ingredients in this quinoa salad recipe. It is high in monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy, as well as antioxidants and vitamin E. We provide many varieties of high-quality olive oil options in our shop.
- READ MORE: Olive Oil 101: Everything You Need to Know
- Scallions, white and green parts: Scallions, also known as green onions, have a mild and slightly onion-like flavor.
- Bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange): I opt for sweet bell peppers in this recipe – red, yellow, or orange. They are high in vitamin C, and add texture to this salad along with a pop of color.
- Kalamata olives, drained: These dark-colored olives are a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and provide a rich, briny flavor to this recipe.
- English cucumber: Cucumbers are refreshing and add a crisp texture. I like English cucumbers, but any cucumber will do. If using American slicing cucumbers, just peel some of the skin away and scoop the seeds out with a spoon.
- Feta cheese: Adds creaminess and a little saltiness to this salad which works well with all the other flavors.
How to Make Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Rinse 1 cup quinoa well under cold running water. Cook according to package instructions.
- While the quinoa cooks, add the juice and zest of 1 lemon to a serving bowl, along with the 1 teaspoon oregano, ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt, and about ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper. Whisk in ¼ cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Once the quinoa is finished cooking and has absorbed all of the liquid add it to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Stir to coat and allow the quinoa to absorb the lemon vinaigrette. Let it cool completely before adding the vegetables.
- While the quinoa cools, chop the vegetables. Slice the scallions, chop the peppers, and run your knife through the Kalamata olives. Add them to the bowl. Slice the cucumber in half then into quarters and roughly chop. Add the bowl and stir. Finish with crumbled feta and serve.
Swaps and Substitutions
This recipe couldn’t be easier to adapt to your personal tastes or to use up what you have on hand. Here are a few ideas to mix it up.
- Add garlic to the vinaigrette
- Swap oregano for basil
- Use chevre instead of feta
- Add a can of drained, rinsed chickpeas for an extra boost of plant-based protein
- Toss in handfuls of fresh, chopped parsley, basil or dill
- Up the vegetables by adding in sliced grape tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts or radishes.
- Skip the cheese to make it vegan
- Swap quinoa for bulgur, barley, or lentils
- Add chicken
Tips for Cooking with Quinoa
The star ingredient in this salad is quinoa, a nutrient-dense seed that is high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. It's also naturally gluten-free, making it a great option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, sometimes quinoa can taste bitter, but there is an easy fix.
Quinoa has a coating that contains saponins, bitter-tasting bioactive compounds. They are naturally occurring and nothing to worry about, but they are why some people pass on this versatile seed. However, removing the saponins (and the bitterness along with it) is easy to do. Here’s how:
- Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve.
- Rinse the quinoa under running water while agitating the seeds.
What to Serve with Quinoa Salad
This, to me, is the quintessential meal prep salad. All the vegetables last for a while in the fridge. It tastes good at room temperature, making it a wonderful option for taking to a party or packing lunches.
This is also my, company-is-coming-over salad recipe. Quinoa cooks quickly and I almost always have these ingredients in my house. When I’m expecting friends and family, I make this Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe along with a fruit salad.
If it’s in the dead of winter I will probably make this Citrus Salad with Honey and Vanilla or when the weather is nice a berry salad like this Summer Fruit Salad recipe. If tomatoes are at peak season, Caprese Salad is always on the table.
When it comes to main meal pairings, I’m a huge fan of Broiled Salmon with Lodolemono Dressing or for something more casual Salmon Burgers. When I’m not in the mood for fish, then Lemon Garlic Chicken is usually on my mind.
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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Peppers, Cucumbers, Olives and Feta
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 scallions (white and green parts)
- 2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained
- 1 English cucumber
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Cook the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa well under cold running water. Cook according to package instructions.
- Make the dressing. While the quinoa cooks, add the juice and zest of the lemon to a serving bowl, along with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Dress the quinoa. Once the quinoa is tender and has finished cooking, add it to the bowl with the dressing. Stir to coat and allow the quinoa to absorb the lemon dressing. Let it cool completely before adding the vegetables.
- While the quinoa cools, chop the vegetables, adding them to the quinoa as you go. Trim and slice the scallions, chop the peppers, and run your knife across the olives to break them into smaller pieces. Slice the cucumber in half, then into quarters, and slice. Add the bowl and stir. Finish with feta and serve. You can dress it up by garnishing it with fresh oregano leaves, but that's entirely optional.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.
- A Quick Note About Olive Oil: Olive oil is more than just a tasty addition to a recipe or a way to saute vegetables. It's loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants, which means in addition to tasting great, it's good for you. We have written a few guides to help you dig deeper into why olive oil is so beloved in Mediterranean cooking.