You’ll discover a myriad of exciting flavors and textures in this quinoa chickpea salad with candied pepitas, blackberries, apricots, and feta cheese.
Why you’ll love it: The salad is a nutritional powerhouse and is so delicious. Perfect for lunches, too!
How long it takes: 40 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large mixing bowl
There’s nothing boring about this quinoa salad! It covers all the bases: lots of protein in the quinoa, chickpeas, and feta; plenty of crunch in the red onions and candied pepitas; juicy purple blackberries and chewy sweet dried apricots; bright flavors of fresh mint and parsley; and a standout homemade vinaigrette. Every bite is so satisfying!
This salad is a feast for the eyes and tummy, and nutritionally, it’s a powerhouse. Every ingredient has attributes that contribute to a healthy diet. You can and will literally feel really good about eating this quinoa chickpea salad. Each one cup serving has only 278 calories. Your body will thank you, and so will your tastebuds!
Whether you serve quinoa salad as a meatless main dish, a hearty side salad, or a fantastic lunch, it’s sure to please. Make a homemade muffin to accompany it. I like Pumpkin Bran Muffins, Cornbread Muffins with Herbs and Cheddar, or Healthy Apple Bran Muffins.
About This Salad
There are few steps involved in making this salad but they’re easy, and you can truly have this salad made in less than a half hour if you hustle. For Make-Ahead Ideas, keep reading.
Make at least a double batch or more of the pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) because they’re so “snackably” tasty! (I know, I just made that word up!) Just saying, otherwise, you may end up with none for your salad. Unless you have more self-control than I do.
You might want to check out roasted pepitas: 8 different flavors for even more snacking. Toast the pepitas until they’re a deep golden brown for ultimate flavor.
I’ll run through the recipe here and give you lots of extra helpful tips. Look for the printable recipe card near the end of the post for complete instructions, measurements, and nutrition information.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Quinoa: You’ll need 3 cups of cooked quinoa or 1 cup uncooked. Make it ahead if you like . Did you know that you can also freeze cooked quinoa?
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): Look for low sodium canned beans. Chickpeas are high in protein and have many nutritional benefits. They hold their shape well and have almost a nutty texture.
- Dried Apricots: Golden bits of dried apricot add visual appeal and bites of chewy sweetness. Golden raisins or dried cherries are good substitutes.
- Fresh Blackberries: Rinse the berries well and dry them on paper towels. Blackberries work well because they don’t fall apart easily and look beautiful.
- Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds): Toast them in a skillet with honey, olive oil, and a dash of cayenne until they are golden brown. They are crunchy and delicious.
- Red Onion: I love red onion but it can be a bit strong in flavor. Soak sliced onions in ice water for 10 minutes or so to take out the sharpness. Drain them really well before adding to the salad. Green onions are a good substitute.
- Feta Cheese: If you prefer low fat or nonfat feta, that’s okay but full-fat feta really has much better flavor and texture. Because it’s so flavorful, you don’t need to add a lot to the salad. Why not go for the good stuff?
- Fresh Mint Leaves and Fresh Parsley: This duo is essential to the salad, especially the mint leaves. Both herbs are usually available at grocery stores and keep well in the fridge. Did you know that both mint and parsley are really easy to grow yourself? Even novice gardeners (like me!) have good luck growing these two herbs.
- Homemade White Wine Vinaigrette: This simple vinaigrette is made with olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. You can use this easy dressing for all sorts of salads.
I won’t speak for all quinoa salads but you can be assured that this quinoa salad recipe is good for you. Quinoa is a seed and it contains all 8 amino acids that your body needs, making it an exceptional source of protein. Most grains can’t make that claim. In addition, chickpeas are high in protein so this salad will stick with you.
While I often freeze plain quinoa (see the Make-Ahead section for more about that), you wouldn’t want to freeze this salad. Most of the components can be made ahead so it’s easy to put this salad together. It will keep for at least 2 days in the fridge.
You should rinse uncooked quinoa but it’s not advisable to soak it. Quinoa has a bitter coating on its outside hull that should be rinsed off before cooking. Refer to the package directions. Some quinoa has been pre-rinsed so there’s no need to rinse it again.
It’s easy to rinse: simply pour it into a fine mesh strainer and run cold water over it for 15 seconds or so. Drain and add to the saucepan.
ways to Customize the Salad
While we think this salad is perfect just the way it is, it has lots of different components so there are endless ways you can make it your own, depending on your preferences, or on what you have in the house. Feel free to experiment and try different combinations. I promise it won’t hurt my feelings! In fact, here are a few suggestions:
- Add greens: Add spinach leaves or finely chopped kale if you’d like to up your greens intake for the day.
- Crunch factor: Add crunch with a different type of nut or seed. Always toast them first for the best flavor. Pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or sliced almonds are good choices. I also love this nut-free savory granola topping.
- Play around with the fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, or cherries are great alternatives. Dried cranberries, cherries, or golden raisins could take the place of dried apricots.
- Different cheese suggestions: Try blue cheese, goat cheese, or gorgonzola instead of feta cheese. Tiny cubes of manchego or asiago are also yummy.
Cook and cool the quinoa a day or two ahead. I cook a big batch of quinoa and freeze it for later use. Toast the pepitas up to a week in advance. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Mix the dressing ahead and store it in the fridge. Shake it well before using. The salad can be made in its entirety at least an hour or two in advance, reserving the pepitas and blackberries to add later. It’s good served chilled or at room temp.
Leftover salad? It will keep in the fridge in a covered container for a couple of days. If you think you won’t be serving all of it, reserve the pepitas in a separate container to retain their crunch. I reserve the blackberries as well so they don’t turn the salad purple.
Tired of sandwiches for lunch? Pack quinoa salad in individual containers to bring to work. You’ll be so glad you did!
Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this quinoa salad recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #22. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
We’ll be adding a new meal plan weekly. If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.
More Recipes With Quinoa
I’m crazy about quinoa so you’ll find lots of quinoa recipes on my site. This versatile seed/grain is healthy, easy to prepare, and is at home in salads, tacos, muffins, soups, and stews. Try:
- Vegan Quinoa Salad with Brussels Sprouts & Pepitas
- Chicken Caprese Quinoa Bake
- Vegetarian Quinoa Chili with Black Beans
- Vegan Tacos with Roasted Carrots, Mushrooms, Quinoa, and Black Beans
- Kale Sweet Potato Salad with quinoa and creamy chili lime dressing
- Southwestern Instant Pot Chicken and Quinoa
- Green Chile Chicken Quinoa Casserole
- Southwestern Quinoa Bowl with Chicken
- Quinoa Pancakes or Apple Quinoa Pancakes
- Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Soup with Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked quinoa)
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1½ cups)
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion, about ½ onion (see note)
- ½ cup thinly sliced dried apricots
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup (2 ½ oz.) crumbled feta cheese
- 6 oz. container blackberries
- In medium saucepan, bring quinoa, water, and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, about 15 to 20 minutes, or until water is nearly absorbed. Cover and let steam for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Spread on rimmed baking sheet to cool. Omit this step if you already have cooked quinoa.
- Meanwhile, toast pepitas. In medium sized skillet, mix pepitas with 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Over medium low heat and stirring frequently, toast pepitas until golden, about 12 minutes. Immediately remove from heat, and spread out on a plate lined with parchment paper to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Whisk until blended.
- Add quinoa, chickpeas, red onions, apricots, parsley, mint, and feta. Mix lightly until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Immediately before serving, add blackberries and pepitas, and toss to combine.
- Makes about 6 cups.
- Soak onions in ice water before adding them to the salad. It’s optional, but it takes the strength of them down a notch and prevents them from being overwhelming.
- Add spinach leaves or finely chopped kale.
- Substitute pistachios or sliced almonds for the pepitas.
- Blueberries, strawberries, or cherries are great alternatives to blackberries. Dried cranberries, cherries, or golden raisins can take the place of dried apricots.
- Try blue cheese, goat cheese, or gorgonzola instead of feta cheese. Tiny cubes of manchego or asiago are yummy.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.