Kale Quinoa Salad

5 from 2 votes

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Fresh with lemon and  full of crunch, this kale quinoa salad has it all. It’s tossed in mix of toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts and is dressed in shallot vinaigrette. The salad is easy to make because you can overlap and multitask each of the components. That’s also why it’s perfect for meal prep for lunch or dinner.

This salad takes inspiration from one of my go-to pasta recipes, lemon kale orzo.

Kale salad with quinoa in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Toasted breadcrumbs are the new croutons. I think homemade croutons are a finishing touch that can take a salad to the next level, but lately I’ve been loving toasted breadcrumbs because they are a finer, more distributed version of croutons. For this kale salad, I combine them with chopped walnuts and lemon zest. This is flavor and texture that you can’t get with the usual croutons.

These quinoa salad ingredients are great for meal prep. You can make the quinoa and vinaigrette, chop the kale and toast the breadcrumbs in advance. Then you can wait to assemble the salad until you are packing it for a work lunch or whenever you’re ready to eat it. All you have to do is store these components in separate containers.

Texture and flavor always make a great salad. This recipe has both. The breadcrumbs and quinoa grains are about the same size, so they end up mixed together when you toss the salad. You get the crunch of kale and breadcrumbs and lovely, zesty lemon flavor from the shallot vinaigrette in each bite. It’s the kind of salad that keeps you going back for more.

The Ingredients

Salad ingredients including quinoa, kale, lemon, breadcrumbs, walnuts, parmesan, garlic, mustard, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper.

This is what you need:

  • Kale: You can use curly kale or lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale or tuscan kale). It’s up to you. For prep, just tear the leaves off the thick stems and finely chop those greens. 
  • Quinoa: White, red, black or a blend of all three will work in this salad. It comes down to looks and what you have in your pantry. The quinoa simmers in water.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: These Japanese-style breadcrumbs are the crunchiest kind you can buy. That’s why they are a pantry-staple for me. They are easy to find at the grocery.
  • Walnuts: I finely chop walnuts and stir them into the breadcrumbs before they bake in the oven. You can substitute with chopped almonds or chopped pecans.
  • Lemon: For the recipe, you will need one lemon. The zest goes in the breadcrumbs and the juice goes in the dressing.
  • Parmesan: As you toss the salad, the grated Parmesan cheese kind of disappears, but it’s distinct flavor is still there. Once I plate the salad, I like to sprinkle it with a little more cheese. If you want something stronger, you can substitute with 1/4-1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese.
  • Parsley: For fresh herbs, I stir in chopped parsley. Minced chives would be a great alternate for something mild and oniony. You can also include a mix of both.
  • Olive oil: For the best flavor, use high quality extra virgin olive oil in the vinaigrette and for the breadcrumb-nut mixture.
  • Salt & pepper seasons both the breadcrumbs and the dressing.
  • Shallot vinaigrette has a combination of minced shallots, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, oil, salt and pepper.

How To Make This Kale Quinoa Recipe

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

1. Stir the breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon zest, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on the prepared pan.

2. Toast the breadcrumbs until they are golden brown and crunchy. This will take about 12 minutes.

Breadcrumb mixture on a sheet pan before and after it is toasted the oven.

3. Simmer the quinoa on the stove. Combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. The water should absorb and the grains should be tender in 12 minutes. Let the quinoa sit covered for 5 minutes. Then fluff it with a fork.

4. Make the vinaigrette. Stir the shallots, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. As the breadcrumbs toast in the oven and the quinoa cooks on the stovetop, you can make the dressing.

Cooked quinoa in a small pot. Vinaigrette in a small bowl.

5. Put the kale in a large bowl and pour in the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. You can also massage the kale.

6. Stir in the quinoa, toasted breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley.

Massaged kale in a bowl. Salad ingredients tossed in a bowl.

Serving

I love this for a fall-winter lunch salad, but you don’t have to limit it to just that. It’s great for dinner too. Also, kale is one of those year-round, hearty produce ingredients, so you can absolutely eat it during the spring and summer too. You can even customize the salad seasonally and add a few feature ingredients. Here are a few ideas for additions:

  • Summer: roasted tomatoes, corn or red bell peppers (raw, roasted or grilled)
  • Fall/Winter: roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes or fingerling potatoes
  • Spring: sautéed or roasted asparagus, sautéed snap peas 

For proteins, you can stir chicken, salmon or shrimp into the salad to create a main dish or make the salad the side dish.

Leftovers & Storage

As mentioned, you can make quinoa, breadcrumbs and vinaigrette up to 3 days in advance. Let the quinoa cool to room temperature before putting it in an airtight container in the fridge. Keep the breadcrumbs in another container at room temperature.

Store the dressing in a jar in the refrigerator. Let it sit out a room temperature for at least 15 minutes because the oil will likely harden in the cold temperature of the fridge. Then stir it.

You can chop the kale up to 2 days in advance. If you do it too early, it will soften and lose some of its bite.

Don’t hesitate to store the assembled and dressed salad if you end up with leftovers. You can keep it up to 2 days. It will still taste good. You will just lose some of the crunch of the breadcrumbs. Kale is one of the few lettuces that won’t completely wilt if you store it when you have already tossed it in vinaigrette. The leaves will soften a bit.

Kale quinoa salad on a plate.

Recipe Tips

Rinse the quinoa before you cook it. This removes the bitterness from its natural coating. Don’t skip this step. You can rinse it with cold water in a fine mesh strainer over the sink.

Don’t overcook the quinoa. Since the recipe calls for just 1/2 cup quinoa, it will cook faster than if you make a cup or more. I like to think of it like al dente pasta. You want to stop the cooking the moment the grains are tender and have absorbed the water. 

The salad is great for meal prep and leftovers, but make sure to store the main components in separate containers. Everything should go in the fridge except the breadcrumbs. This will help maintain freshness.

Recipe FAQs

Can you use another type of lettuce?

I know not everyone is a fan of kale. To get that fresh crunch, I recommend chopped romaine instead. It will also be milder in flavor. Romaine will not be as hearty as kale for leftovers.

Can you use a different grain than quinoa?

What I like about quinoa is how small the grains are and how they are similar in size to the breadcrumbs. Couscous and millet also are small, so they would be good substitutes.

How do you make the salad vegan?

Either leave out the Parmesan cheese or use a plant-based version.

How do you make the salad gluten free?

Quinoa doesn’t have gluten. You just need to make sure to use gluten-free breadcrumbs.

More Salad Recipes

Kale Sweet Potato Salad
Roasted Fingerling Potato Kale Salad
Kale Brussels Sprout Pear Salad
Quinoa Black Bean Salad
Roasted Tomato Quinoa Chickpea Salad
Kale Apple Salad

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Kale Quinoa Salad

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 8 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
With a mix of toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts, this fresh and lemony kale quinoa salad is tossed with grated Parmesan and shallot vinaigrette.

Ingredients 

For breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For quinoa

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water

For vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For salad

  • 5 cups chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine the breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl.
  • Spread the breadcrumb mixture across the prepared sheet pan. Bake in the oven it is golden brown and toasted, about 10-12 minutes.
  • While the breadcrumbs are in the oven, combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, simmering on low for 11-12 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Remove the quinoa from the heat. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Then fluff it with a fork.
  • For the vinaigrette, whisk together the shallots, garlic, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil.
  • In a large bowl, toss the kale in the vinaigrette. You can massage it into the greens, so they are very well coated. Then stir in the quinoa, toasted breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley.
  • Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and top with additional Parmesan as desired.

Notes

You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. The breadcrumbs will lose some of their crunch and the kale leaves will soften.
You can make the quinoa, breadcrumbs and vinaigrette up to 3 days in advance. Let the quinoa cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. The dressing should be put in a separate container. Both the quinoa and the vinaigrette should be kept in the fridge. Once they have cooled, store the breadcrumbs in a another container at room temperature
You can chop the kale up to 2 days in advance. Also store it in its own container in the refrigerator. 
Optional Seasonal Additions:
  • Summer: roasted tomatoes, corn (raw, roasted or grilled), red bell peppers (raw or grilled)
  • Fall/Winter: roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes or fingerling potatoes
  • Spring: sautéed or roasted asparagus, sautéed snap peas 

Nutrition

Calories: 370kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 547mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 8598IU | Vitamin C: 82mg | Calcium: 310mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad
Cuisine: Mediterranean
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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Recipe Rating




1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    So look forward to trying this.
    On first reading I missed “finely chop the kale”. That is a great idea.
    And as my brain does, I’m also thinking of roasting the kale. And other grains that would work well here.
    Plus alternatives for the walnut for nut free options. Sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds come to mind.
    Great recipe! Thank you!