Cold salads are basically a dinnertime lifeline during the warm summer months.
I’m not sure about you, but with everything else that happens during the busy summer season, menu planning & meal prep sorta fall to the wayside at my house. Dinners are a little bit simpler than they are the rest of the year – burgers & brats are always on regular rotation, & we try to keep most of our cooking out on the grill.
But if there’s one thing I always make an effort to prep for the week, it’s a giant cold salad.
Cold salads are kinda a summer workhorse. They’re pretty mindless to prep, flexible enough to cobble together with whatever you’ve got in the fridge, they keep really well in the fridge for a few days, & they’re really multi-duty, dancing the line between “perfect light lunch” & “easy side dish for dinner” beautifully.
Don’t you love that? Me too.
Meet your newest summer obsession: Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad!
This colorful bowl of goodness, which I’m dubbing my Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, is my newest summer obsession & I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love it too.
Why “falafel-ish”? Well, this quinoa salad is loaded with all the ingredients you’d typically find in falafel – chickpeas, onion, lemon, plenty of fresh herbs, & some warm spices. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s “deconstructed falafel” by any means, but the light, herb-forward flavors in this salad are definitely a nod to falafel. So, “falafel-ish” it is. *shrug!*
It’s one of those recipes that doesn’t have much of a meaningful backstory…it kind of just happened one day earlier this summer as I was making lunch for myself. I grabbed some chickpeas & quinoa from the pantry, some fresh herbs, tomatoes & cucumbers from the produce bin in the fridge, & the rest sorta just happened.
But MAN, I am SO glad it did. It’s been on repeat ever since! It is…
- LIGHT + BRIGHT. Quinoa, chickpeas & veggies tossed in a simple lemony dressing with TONS of fresh herbs. It doesn’t get lighter or brighter!
- LOW-MAINTENANCE. You can throw this baby together in less than 30 minutes, it’s super flexible (use whatever you’ve got on hand!), & it stores beautifully. A meal prepper’s dream!
- VERSATILE. Enjoy it as a light lunch, or serve it up as a side dish for all of your grilled goodies at dinner.
- DELICIOUS. I mean, obviously. *wink!*
Fresh. Flavorful. Fast. Summer cooking trifecta. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Ingredients you’ll need for your Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad:
Surprise, surprise, most of the ingredients you’ll need for your Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad are ingredients typically found in falafel!
Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Quinoa – I’ve written about it many times before, but I really love the Simply Nature Organic Quinoa from ALDI. It’s affordable & high-quality (my favorite combination!), & I always keep it stocked in my pantry. Tips for cooking perfectly fluffy quinoa below!
- Chickpeas – Whereas dried chickpeas are best for making actual falafel, canned ‘banzos will work perfectly for your falafel-ish salad.
- Red onion, garlic, & lemon – My favorite aromatics!
- Spices – The simple salad dressing is laced with plenty of warm cumin & citrusy coriander. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper if you like a little heat!
- Fresh herbs – It wouldn’t be falafel without tons of fresh herbs! I love the combination of parsley, cilantro & mint, but you can use pretty much any fresh herbs you love.
- Fresh produce – Round it out with whatever’s in your fridge already & call it good. I like juicy summer tomatoes & cooling crunchy cucumber.
Pretty simple, right?!
How to cook perfectly fluffy quinoa every single time.
When it comes to grains, quinoa can be a leeettle bit temperamental. Undercook it & it’s a crunchy mess. Overcook it & it’s a mushy disaster. But when it’s cooked perfectly, it’s a light + fluffy plant-based protein powerhouse.
Here’s how I always cook quinoa on the stovetop:
- Boil: Place quinoa, water & a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Stir to combine, then bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Simmer: As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, crank the heat down to low, creating a really slow simmer in the pot. Cover with a lid & let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Steam: Once it’s finished simmering, remove the pot from the heat & let it steam for 5-10 minutes more.
- Fluff: Uncover & use a fork to fluff up the quinoa until it’s light & fluffy.
A couple of reminders for cooking with quinoa:
- How much quinoa do you need? Quinoa triples in volume as it cooks – for example, 1 cup dry quinoa will yield 3 cups cooked quinoa.
- 2:1 ratio: Quinoa is best cooked with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio. For every 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water. My stove runs a touch hot, so I always add in the smallest extra splash of water.
- Storage: Cooked quinoa will keep for up to 1 week, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked quinoa or in a freezer container for up to 1 month.
Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad assembly + a couple of other tips…
With your quinoa cooked, your chickpeas drained & rinsed, & your fresh herbs & veggies chopped, all that’s left to do is pile it all into a big bowl & toss it together to make a giant Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad. So easy!
Serving: I looove this salad on its own for a light + fresh vegetarian meal. Cold salads = ideal lunch or dinner on a warm day! It also doubles as a great side dish for any summery dinner. Serve up a generous spoonful with your grilled chicken, burgers, beer brats or grilled sausage for the best summer dinner ever!
Storage: Quinoa salads are super make-ahead friendly. I like whipping this one up on Sunday afternoon to be able to have in on hand during the week for an easy meal or side. It’s best when served within 3 days of assembly, though it’ll keep for up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Meal prep: If you’d like to do just a little prep in advance to help cut down on the active prep time when you make your Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, there are a couple of different routes you could go:
- Cook the quinoa: Cook the quinoa according to Recipe Directions, below. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
- Make the dressing: Prep the lemony dressing according to Recipe Directions, below. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
- Chop the veggies & herbs: Finely dice a cucumber & red onion. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes. Finely chop fresh parsley, cilantro & mint. Store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (10 minutes active prep)
I cannot wait for you to try this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad ASAP. We’re full-on obsessed with here at the PWWB house, & I’m pretty sure that you’re gonna love it too.
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: serves 2-4 1x
- Category: Side Dishes, Entrée Salads & Bowls Recipes
- Method: Stovetop, No-Cook
- Cuisine: Greek & Mediterranean
- Diet: Vegetarian
Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad! A light & healthy quinoa salad packed with all of the fresh flavors of falafel. The perfect light plant-based lunch, & doubles as a great side dish for summery dinners or potlucks. Naturally Vegetarian & Gluten-Free, easily Vegan & Dairy-Free.
- 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 12-ounce can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 small cucumber, finely diced
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- optional: 4 ounces feta, crumbled
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves & tender stems, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves & tender stems, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
for the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 lemons, zested & juiced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flake, as desired
- Cook the quinoa: Add 1/2 cup dry quinoa and 1 cup water or stock to a small saucepan with a lid. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil (uncovered) over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low or medium-low, bringing the quinoa to a slow simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat & let stand (covered) for 5 minutes. Uncover & fluff with a fork. Set aside, or store in an individual airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Chop the veggies: Finely dice the cucumber & red onion. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Set aside, or store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Mix the dressing: Add all listed ingredients to a small bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to combine. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad Assembly & Serving:
- Assembly: Combine the quinoa, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, feta (if using), & chopped herbs in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over top. Toss to combine, ensuring all of the quinoa is well coated in the dressing. Taste, seasoning with additional salt or ground black pepper as desired.
- Serving: Serve it on its own for the perfect light + fresh vegetarian meal, or add a generous spoonful to your summer dinner plate. This salad is an awesome side dish for grilled chicken, burgers, beer brats or grilled sausage. Enjoy!
- Storage: This Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad is best when served within 3 days of assembly, though it’ll keep for up to 5 days. Store the assembled quinoa salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Meal prep: If you’d like to do just a little prep in advance to help cut down on the active prep time when you make your Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, there are a couple of different routes you can go:
- 15-minute meal prep: Chop the fresh herbs & veggies, & make the salad dressing. Prep the lemony dressing according to Recipe Directions, above, & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Finely dice a cucumber & red onion. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes. Finely chop fresh parsley, cilantro & mint. Store the chopped veggies & herbs in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- 20-minute meal prep: Cook the quinoa according to Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
Keywords: falafel-ish quinoa salad, cold salad, side dish recipe, easy, healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian, easily vegan, meal prep, summer, spring
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
Craving cold salads? Here are a few more easy summer salads to try!
- Grated Zucchini Salad – No-cook salad made with grated zucchini, feta, olives, & plenty of lemon. A hands-down summertime favorite!
- Southwest Pasta Salad – Creamy, spicy & loaded with Southwest goodness. Plus, it’s completely vegan & dairy-free! Great for meal prep!
- Mom’s Summer Salad – Fresh & simple couscous salad with tomatoes, mozzarella & plenty of fresh herbs. A PWWB family favorite!
- Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad – The simplest pasta salad, made with just 6 ingredients & filled with Mediterranean flare.
- Grilled Panzanella Salad – Classic bread salad with a char-grilled twist! Super fresh & summery.
- All PWWB Salad Recipes
Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!
I have a question: the recipe says “1 1/2 C quinoa”. Do this mean 1-1/2 Cups of quinoa does it just mean that “1” is the first item and that I should add 1/2 C quinoa? I am assuming it is only 1/2 C quinoa bc the water amount is 1 C of water in the recipe (therefore a 1:2 ratio). Thanks for answering. The salad looks terrific and I’m having a BIG Labor Day party and cannot get the proportions wrong!
Hi Carolyn! Great question – the recipe card ingredients list notes 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa so you’ll only need 1/2 cup dry quinoa & 1 cup water to yield the right amount for the salad. Hope this helps. Let us know if you have any additional questions & hope you have a great Labor Day party!!
This is my all time favorite summer salad recipe. This is my third summer making it on a regular basis and it just never gets old. It is so refreshing and herbaceous. You really cannot go wrong with this salad.
Thank you, Anna! We couldn’t agree more & are SO glad you love it as much as we do!!
This is DELICIOUS!!! I’ve made two weeks in a row for lunches. I subbed quinoa for orzo, personal preference. I also took to a church pot luck and everyone wanted the recipe!! Soooo good thank you!!
Thanks Lori! We agree this salad is such a good meal prep option & easily customizable! Thank you for your review & for sharing with everyone at your church pot luck too!
This really is the best quinoa salad ever. I rarely make recipes more than once, but I have this one memorized because I’ve made it so many times. So healthy and delicious. Thanks for sharing,
Hey Dustin! Thank you for sharing – we love this one too & are so glad you’ve enjoyed it each time you’ve made it!
This is really a party salad! All ingredients are beneficial for health. I especially like cucumber, it’s cool. Chickpea makes our children interesting before they dislike salad but with this recipe, they ask me to make Falafel-ish Quinoa salad every day.
So glad your whole family enjoys this salad, Jason! Thanks for dropping a comment!
So good as a lighter dinner that doesn’t heat up the kitchen! Ate for lunch the days after and held up well even after combining all the ingredients.
Thanks Anna! We love how meal-prep friendly this salad is too – thank you SO much for sharing!!
Incredible! I’ve already made this salad twice in the past week.
I’m so glad you love this one as much as we do, Chelsea! Thank you for the fun comment. =) It’s the perfect summer meal, right??
So fresh and light and perfect for summer! I love simply tossing ingredients together and making it delicious and that’s exactly how this feels. When it’s too hot to turn on the oven or there’s a picnic or lake day, this is THE MEAL. Also, if you haven’t been grocery shopping in a while…pantry staples, simple, and delicious.
We love a good pantry staple recipe too, Jessica! & are so glad to hear that you loved this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad – thank you for sharing! 🙂
This was SOOOO good! And quick! And easy! The flavors were amazing and the falafel seasoning really made it super unique. Perfect for a hot day dinner and definitely going to be on repeat here 🙂
This is my 2020 summer salad! The flavors are incredible and it screams summer. Thanks Jess!
Richelle! I’m so, SO glad to hear that you love this guy as much as we do. ENJOY!!!