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This colorful kale quinoa salad is full of healthy ingredients and tastes incredible! Meal prep this easy plant-based lunch idea for meals all week.

Kale quinoa salad
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Looking for healthy lunch ideas? Here’s a salad that’s beautifully fresh and saves well for meals throughout the week: kale quinoa salad! Alex and I typically eat pretty boring for lunch, but we’ve been trying to up our game. And we’re thrilled to add this one to our repertoire. It’s full of healthy ingredients: quinoa, kale, peppers, carrots: and then covered in a delicious, ultra tangy dressing! It’s so flavorful and keeps that flavor 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Our lunches just got way more exciting! It also works as a side salad for healthy dinners.

What’s in this kale quinoa salad?

This kale quinoa salad has limited ingredients. Because our philosophy around here is pretty simple cooking (we even wrote a book about it). Yes, in every recipe we try to use as little ingredients as possible to get the biggest flavor. It’s a plant based salad, and makes a fantastic tasty vegan lunch. Here’s what’s in this kale quinoa salad:

  • Quinoa: Use our stovetop quinoa or Instant Pot quinoa methods to make up a big pot.
  • Chickpeas: Using chickpeas adds plant-based protein. Substitute white beans if you’re not a chickpea fan!
  • Tuscan kale: Kale holds up well in the fridge and is a healthy leafy green! (More below.)
  • Bell pepper: Bell pepper is crunchy and full of Vitamin C.
  • Carrots: Carrot adds another healthy crunch and lovely color.
  • Dressing: The dressing is seriously simple: lots of apple cider vinegar to keep that tangy flavor for days, olive oil, and Dijon mustard.

And there’s one more secret ingredient…

Kale quinoa salad

And, the secret spice!

The last ingredient in this salad is optional, but we recommend it for big flavor. It’s this: 1 pinch of curry powder! We wanted to point this out because it’s not intended to make the salad taste like curry. Instead, it adds a unique complexity that’s almost imperceptible. That’s the key to making this healthy salad taste intriguingly delicious! If you don’t have it on hand, you can skip this part.

It’s easy to meal prep!

This kale quinoa salad is easy to meal prep for healthy lunches throughout the week: or an easy dinner! Here are a few notes on meal prep:

  • The salad stays fresh for 3 days (4 as a stretch). Many salads don’t work in the fridge. But this one is designed for it! Store it in the fridge and it tastes just as good for 3 days (the 4 day it starts to get a little tired, but we still ate what was left!).
  • Easiest way: use leftover quinoa. This salad is easiest to make if you make a big batch of quinoa and then use leftovers to make the salad. This way the quinoa is already cool! But you can also make it the day of.
  • If cooking quinoa day of, use our quick tip for cooling! You’ll need to cool down the quinoa quickly if you make it the day of. Our trick is to spread it on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes. It cools right down to be able to assemble into the salad.
Healthy lunch idea kale quinoa salad

Variations on kale quinoa salad: mix ins!

There are lots of different additions you could add to this kale quinoa salad to spice it up a bit! Here are some of our favorite ideas:

  • Shredded Parmesan cheese: We tried this and the extra savory it added was delicious!
  • Chopped almonds or other nuts: Nuts add a nice hit of protein. Add these right before serving to keep them crunchy!
  • Dried cherries, cranberries or raisins: Add a sweet and savory element with dried fruit (yum!).
  • Chopped apples: Apples add a crunch and another savory sweet element.
  • Chopped cucumber, celery, or other crunchy veggie: Add a handful of any other chopped veggie for even more crunch.
Tuscan kale

Use Tuscan kale if you can find it

One note on kale varieties! Our favorite variety to use is Tuscan kale. Tuscan kale is an Italian variety with dark green, ruffled leaves. It has a mild and sweet flavor, making it easier to palate than the spicy and more bitter curly kale. It can be labeled as many different things in the grocery. Look for Tuscan, Lacinato, dinosaur kale, or cavolo nero: they’re all the same thing!

How to serve kale quinoa salad for lunch

To make this kale quinoa salad a filling and satisfying lunch, here are a few things we’ve served with it:

Kale quinoa salad

Serve it as a side dish or dinner salad!

Of course, you can serve kale quinoa salad for dinner too! It would be perfect as a recipe for a potluck or pitch-in in the summer. Or it’s an easy side dish for any season. You could also make this vegan quinoa recipe into a main dish salad! Here’s what we’d recommend:

Healthy quinoa salad

This kale quinoa salad recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Kale quinoa salad

Kale Quinoa Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
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This colorful kale quinoa salad is full of healthy ingredients and tastes incredible! Meal prep this easy plant-based lunch idea for meals all week.


  • 1 cup dry quinoa (3 cups cooked)
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also labeled as Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, or cavolo nero)
  • 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot (or red onion or green onion)
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small pinch curry powder*
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and grated
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus fresh ground black pepper to taste**


  1. Make the quinoa: Go to Stovetop Quinoa or Instant Pot Quinoa. Make it in advance OR if serving immediately, bring the quinoa to room temperature: spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze it for 2 to 3 minutes until it cools.
  2. Prep the kale: Chop the kale. Sprinkle the kale with 1 pinch kosher salt. Coat your hands with a few drops of olive oil and massage the kale leaves for 2 to 3 minutes until all pieces are tender.
  3. Prep the other veggies: Finely chop the onion or shallot. Dice the pepper. Peel and dice the carrots.
  4. Mix the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, curry powder, and grated garlic.
  5. Mix the salad: Mix the quinoa, chickpeas, and vegetables together with the dressing and the ½ teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Add more kosher salt to taste. Stores up to 3 days refrigerated (you may need to add a pinch of salt before serving since it looses saltiness over time).


*A small pinch adds complexity without the flavor of curry in the salad.

**Optional add-ins: Parmesan cheese, chopped almonds or other nuts, dried cherries, cranberries or raisins, chopped apples, chopped cucumber, etc.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Lunch
  • Diet: Vegan

More easy lunch ideas

There’s always room for more inspiration for lunches, right? Here are some of our favorites:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Renee West says:

    I made this for a group tomorrow night and added in baby Bella mushrooms.
    It is delicious!!

  2. Valerie says:

    I was in the mood for something warm so I sauteed the carrot, pepper, onion and garlic (left the kale raw) then added the quinoa and chickpeas still warm. SO GOOD!

  3. Mary Joy says:

    It looks delicious and healthy. It looks so colorful and appetizing. I especially like that the kale is massaged with some olive oil and lime juice to give it an extra kick of flavor. I’m sure it would be the perfect addition to any meal or even as a light lunch. I do have a question, Are there any substitutes for quinoa? Can I use rice instead?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Rice or farro would work!

  4. Dolores says:

    Super easy and incredibly tasty. Added dried cherries and cranberries for lovely touch of sweetness. Amazing!

  5. cari says:

    Overall, good, a bit bland, will be great in the summer. I added a hard boiled egg to up the protein.
    However, 10 minute prep time doesn’t seem right to me. I can even dice a green pepper in 10 minutes, much less shallot, carrot, and kale prep!

  6. Stacey says:

    Love this recipe! Delicious summer salad. Although every time I make it I forget to put the chickpeas in because it’s listed in the ingredients but not in the directions! Hopefully today I remember the chickpeas so it’s more filling :)

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Our apologies — the recipe is now updated!

  7. Sabrina says:

    Perfect for summer! Simple but fresh and delicious. I also like the addition of curry in the dressing, adds a nice touch.

  8. JF says:

    Made this tonight, it’s truly delicious! The dressing is deceptively simple but gives such a bright kick to everything, and I’d never heard to do that before but massaging the kale with a bit of kosher salt and olive oil made all the difference, flavor and texture wise – don’t skip this step, it’s essential! I’ll definitely be keeping this in my summer meal rotation, it’s so refreshing and tasty.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  9. carla says:

    Amazing! Didn’t have quinua, did it with farro. BF Love it. Taste healthy and refreshing. Will try other recipes as well.

    1. AJBL says:

      I’m working toward expanding the foods I eat and was hesitant with this recipe. I should have listened to my first instincts. Nothing this bland should be this high in calories.