Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad

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Enjoyed by thousands of PWWB readers over the years, a fresh, fast, & flavorful Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad! Inspired by the light & herbaceous flavors of falafel, this cold salad tosses fluffy quinoa, hearty chickpeas, crunchy veggies, & tons of fresh herbs into the perfect warm weather dish. We love it as a light & healthy meal-prepped lunch, but it also doubles as a fresh side for summery dinners or potlucks. Minimal prep required & ready in 30 minutes or less!

Naturally Vegetarian & Gluten-Free. Easily Vegan & Dairy-Free.

Close up of Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad shown in a large pink ceramic serving bowl. The salad is topped with lots of fresh parsley leaves. Two vintage spoons are nestled in the left side of the bowl. The bowl sits atop a white surface, with a gray & white striped linen nestled next to it.

A Cold Salad Summer Obsession!

I’m not sure about you, but menu planning & meal prep sorta fall by the wayside at our house in the warm summer months. We tend to keep dinners extra simple (burgers & brats are in regular rotation) & we do most of our cooking out on the grill. But if there’s one thing worth making an effort for in the summer, it’s a giant cold salad.

Cold salads are kinda a summer lifesaver. 😅 They’re pretty mindless to prep & flexible enough to make with whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Plus, they keep well for a few days & are perfect as a light lunch or dinner side. Complete with bold flavors & fresh textures, this falafel-ish quinoa salad is all that & more!

Why “falafel-ish”? We’re using many ingredients you’d typically find in falafel – chickpeas, onion, lemon, warm spices, & plenty of fresh herbs – but tossing them in a salad bowl. The light & herbaceous flavors & plant-based protein are a definite nod to crispy falafel balls, but keeping everything cold is well-suited for summer. “Falafel-ish” it is! 💁🏻‍♀️

Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad Recipe Highlights

This recipe is a summer staple here at the PWWB House! It’s been enjoyed by thousands of PWWB readers over the years. If it’s new-to-you, you’re in for a treat! You’ll love it because it’s…

LIGHT & BRIGHT. Toss fluffy quinoa, plant-powered chickpeas, & crunchy veggies in a simple lemony dressing with TONS of fresh herbs. So fresh & satisfying!

LOW-MAINTENANCE. You can throw this salad together in less than 30 minutes with just a few pantry staple ingredients (or whatever you have on hand). We love to meal prep it for the week & dig in at lunch or dinner time – it stores beautifully!

VERSATILE. This salad perfectly dances the line between a “low-effort light lunch” & “easy side dish” for BBQ dinners or summer potlucks. Enjoy it wherever, whenever!

A summer cooking dream! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Key Ingredients

Most of the ingredients you’ll need for this falafel-ish quinoa salad are inspired by the light & bright flavors found in falafel.

Quinoa salad ingredients in individual small bowls, arranged on a white surface - red onion, quinoa, tomatoes, salad dressing, lemon, cucumber, chickpeas & fresh herbs.

Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need…

  • Quinoa – This versatile whole grain is super filling & has the best light & fluffy texture. We love adding it to any meal for some plant-based protein. Unlike other grains, quinoa is considered a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids – meaning every bite will fill you up! We always keep our pantry stocked with the Simply Nature Organic Quinoa from ALDI.
  • Chickpeas – While dried chickpeas are typically best for making homemade falafel, canned chickpeas work perfectly here. Quick & easy!
  • Crunchy veggies – Fresh, crisp veggies make this summer salad extra satisfying. Feel free to grab whatever’s in your fridge already & call it good. I like juicy summer tomatoes & cooling crunchy cucumber.
  • AromaticsRed onion & garlic add the beautiful aromatic flavor reminiscent of fresh falafel, while lemon zest & juice add plenty of zippy brightness signature to Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
  • Spices – Toss the falafel-ish quinoa salad in a simple dressing 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 any fresh herbs you love. If your summer herb garden is bursting with basil, dill, or chives, feel free to chop them up & toss them in!
  • Feta cheese Creamy crumbled feta adds another layer of texture to this light & crunchy salad. It’s totally optional but great if you have some hanging around in your fridge!

How to Cook Perfectly Fluffy Quinoa Every Single Time

Prepping the quinoa is the only bit of cooking required for this falafel-ish quinoa salad! Quinoa can admittedly be a bit of a temperamental grain to cook properly. Undercook it & it’s a crunchy mess. Overcook it & it’s a mushy disaster. But when cooked perfectly, quinoa is a light & fluffy plant-based protein powerhouse. Don’t worry – we’ll show you how!

How to cook quinoa on the stovetop (4 easy steps!):

  1. Boil: Place the quinoa, water, & a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Stir to combine, then bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Simmer: As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, crank the heat down to low, creating a slow simmer in the pot. Cover with a lid & let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Steam: Once it’s finished simmering, remove the pot from the heat & let it steam (lid on!) for 5-10 minutes more.
  4. Fluff: Uncover & use a fork to fluff up the quinoa until it’s light & fluffy.

…that’s the easiest way to get perfectly cooked quinoa!

A few other tips & tricks to keep in mind when cooking quinoa:

  • Quinoa triples in volume as it cooks! ⇢ Keep this in mind when considering how much quinoa you need. For example, 1 cup of dried quinoa yields 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
  • Quinoa requires a 2:1 water-to-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.
  • Cooked quinoa will store in the fridge for up to a week, making it super meal prep friendly! Prep it ahead of time & you won’t have to do any cooking for your falafel-ish quinoa salad.

Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad Assembly

With your quinoa cooked & chickpeas drained & rinsed, all that’s left is to do some chopping & whip up a quick dressing. From there, you can simply pile everything into a big bowl & toss it together – seriously SO easy to make!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Chop the veggies. Whichever veggies you’re using, try to keep them bite-sized! We like to dice the cucumber & red onion but leave the cherry tomatoes halved for a pop of juicy-freshness in ever bite. More veggie ideas! ⇢ Feel free to toss in diced bell peppers, cauliflower florets, shredded carrots, or sliced radishes or snap peas…truly whatever is in your fridge! This recipe is also great with leftover grilled summer veggies

2

Make the dressing. Whisk together EVOO, lemon zest & juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, & salt into a zesty dressing with warm, spiced flavor. You can also add red pepper flakes for a little heat. Pro Tip! ⇢ Shake the ingredients together in a mason jar for easy leftover storage!

3

Toss & serve! Add the cooked quinoa, chickpeas, veggies, finely chopped herbs, & crumbled feta into a bowl, then toss with the falafel-ish dressing. Dig right in or chill it for later!

Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad in a large, pink serving bowl. A woman's hands hold the bowl up off of a white surface. Surrounding the salad are a linen napkin, & some lemon wedges.

Meal Prep Tips

A little bit of prep work helps your falafel-ish quinoa salad come together even faster with zero cooking – such a treat on hot & busy summer evenings! 

3 salad components you can make in advance:

  • Cook the quinoa (15 minutes, inactive cooking). Once your quinoa is light & fluffy, let it cool then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’ll last for up to 1 week! 
  • Prep the dressing (5 minutes). Prep the lemony dressing & store it in a mason jar or other airtight container. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week!
  • Chop the veggies & herbs (10 minutes). Finely dice a cucumber & red onion & halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes. Then finely chop the fresh parsley, cilantro, & mint. Store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Serving & Storage Tips

This falafel-ish quinoa salad is pretty much perfect all on its own, if you ask us. We LOVE eating a big bowl of it as a light & fresh vegetarian meal. A simple cold salad is so satisfying on a hot summer day! 

This falafel-ish quinoa salad also doubles as a great side dish for summery dinners or potlucks. Add a generous spoonful alongside classic grilled chicken, burgers, ribs, or grilled sausage for the best summer dinner ever.

Bonus! ⇢ Quinoa salads are also super make-ahead friendly. We like whipping this one up on Sunday afternoon so we can enjoy it all week as an easy meal or side. It’s best when served within 3 days of assembly, though it’ll keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad shown in a large pink ceramic serving bowl. The salad is topped with lots of fresh parsley leaves. Two vintage spoons are nestled in the left side of the bowl. The bowl sits atop a white surface, with a gray & white striped linen nestled next to it & some lemon wedges off to the side.

I cannot wait for you to try this Falafel-Inspired Quinoa Salad! We’re full-on obsessed with it 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 us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

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Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad shown in a large pink ceramic serving bowl. The salad is topped with lots of fresh parsley leaves. Two vintage spoons are nestled in the left side of the bowl. The bowl sits atop a white surface, with a gray & white striped linen nestled next to it & some lemon wedges off to the side.

Falafel-Inspired Quinoa Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 9 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • 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

Description

A long-standing PWWB reader favorite, this Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad is one of my all-time favorite summer recipes. It’s loaded with all of the flavors & textures you expect in crispy fried falafel balls, but comes together as a light & herbaceous salad that dances the line between “perfect light lunch” & “easy side dish for dinner” absolutely beautifully.

A couple of quick tips to get you started:

  • Grains: For a good kick of plant-based protein, I always opt for quinoa. Check the blog post, above, for my go-to tips & tricks for perfectly light & fluffy quinoa every time. If you don’t like quinoa, feel free to swap in your grain of choice.
  • Veggies: Taking inspiration from a classic falafel salad, this quinoa salad comes together with cooling cucumber, crunchy red onions, & juicy-sweet summer tomatoes, but it’s a truly flexible recipe that you can make with whatever happens to already be in your refrigerator. Feel free to swap in your veggies of choice – just don’t skip the fresh herbs, which give the salad a fresh, herbaceous flavor reminiscent of real-deal falafel.
  • Prep tips: Like most cold salads, this recipe is very meal prep & make ahead-friendly. Be sure to check the blog post, above, for more guidance!

It’s an all-purpose summer salad that I’m confident you’ll come back to time & time again. ♡ Happy cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa (½ cup dry quinoa cooked according to package directions)
  • one 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small cucumber, finely diced
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • optional: 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves & tender stems, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves & tender stems, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

for the lemon-cumin dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, zested & juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flake, as desired

Instructions

  1. Prepare the the lemon-cumin 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.Quinoa salad ingredients in individual small bowls, arranged on a white surface - red onion, quinoa, tomatoes, salad dressing, lemon, cucumber, chickpeas & fresh herbs.
  2. Assemble the falafel-inspired quinoa salad: 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.Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad in a large, pink serving bowl. A woman's hands hold the bowl up off of a white surface. Surrounding the salad are a linen napkin, & some lemon wedges.
  3. Serving: Enjoy 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, turkey burgers, beer brats, or grilled sausage. Enjoy!Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad in a large, pink serving bowl. A woman's hands hold the bowl up off of a white surface. Surrounding the salad are a linen napkin, & some lemon wedges.


Notes

  • Storage: This falafel-inspired 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-inspired 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)

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Close up of Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad shown in a large pink ceramic serving bowl. The salad is topped with lots of fresh parsley leaves. Two vintage spoons are nestled in the left side of the bowl. The bowl sits atop a white surface, with a gray & white striped linen nestled next to it.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 7.10.24
    Erin said:

    Just made this for a last minute dinner when our plans changed. I had to make the quinoa at the same time but threw it in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool down while I assembled the rest and it was so great! I loved the dressing and all the summer produce. Thanks for another awesome back pocket recipe, Jess!






  2. 8.15.22

    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!

    • 8.15.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      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!!

  3. 6.15.22
    Anna B. said:

    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.






    • 6.15.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thank you, Anna! We couldn’t agree more & are SO glad you love it as much as we do!!

  4. 9.14.21
    Lori said:

    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!!

    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      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!

  5. 10.28.20
    Dustin said:

    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,






    • 3.10.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hey Dustin! Thank you for sharing – we love this one too & are so glad you’ve enjoyed it each time you’ve made it!

  6. 10.3.20
    Jason said:

    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.






    • 10.3.20

      So glad your whole family enjoys this salad, Jason! Thanks for dropping a comment!

  7. 8.17.20
    Anna said:

    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.






    • 6.9.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks Anna! We love how meal-prep friendly this salad is too – thank you SO much for sharing!!

  8. 7.29.20
    Chelsea said:

    Incredible! I’ve already made this salad twice in the past week.






    • 7.29.20

      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??

  9. 7.25.20
    Jessica Ranes said:

    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.






    • 6.12.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      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! 🙂

  10. 7.22.20
    Haley Clayton said:

    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 🙂






  11. 7.20.20
    Richelle said:

    This is my 2020 summer salad! The flavors are incredible and it screams summer. Thanks Jess!






    • 7.20.20

      Richelle! I’m so, SO glad to hear that you love this guy as much as we do. ENJOY!!!