This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is a healthy, easy, and tasty side dish for summer parties. It is popping with flavor and loaded with cucumbers, feta and olives with the addition of parsley and mint.

the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad in a white bowl with cherry tomatoes and fresh mint sprigs

Why We Love This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

After you loved my Southwest Quinoa Salad with Mango and Black Beans I set out to come up with more quinoa salads. Just in time for summer picnic, barbecue and potluck season I am back with this healthy quinoa salad with Mediterranean-inspired flavors. It has elements of tabbouleh and a Greek Cucumber Salad all loaded into one big bowl of quinoa salad!

Serve it at a picnic, for lunch or even as a main dish. Or serve it as a side dish with Grilled Greek Chicken Thighs, Lamb Kofta Kebabs or Crispy Pan Seared Salmon for a flavor-forward and healthy meal.

Ingredients For This Quinoa Salad Recipe

  • Quinoa: You’ll need dry uncooked quinoa. I like to buy pre-rinsed quinoa so I can skip the step of rinsing it.
  • For The Garlic Lemon Dressing: Freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, coarse kosher salt (to make a paste with the garlic) and a high quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Parsley and Mint: I was inspired by Lebanese tabbouleh and included plenty of fresh chopped parsley and mint.
  • Cucumber: Chopped cucumbers adds low cal bulk and fresh juicy crunch. Use European cucumbers and then remove the seeds with a spoon before cutting it into dice. This helps keep the leftover salad from becoming too wet. 
  • Cherry Tomatoes: The cherry tomatoes are nice here in this salad because they add lots of sweet flavor, without adding too much moisture. Diced garden fresh Roma tomato is a good alternative.
  • Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives: Deliciously briney and salty components
  • Pine Nuts: An optional stir-in to add crunch and nutty flavor

Don’t Forget To Rinse Quinoa Before Cooking It

  1. Set the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and run under cold running water for a few moments.
  2. You’ll notice that the water foams up a bit, and then gradually diminishes.
  3. Once it no longer is foamy, you’re good to move forward with cooking the quinoa. 

How To Make This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

the quinoa cooking in a small saucepan on a stove
Step 1: Rinse and cook the quinoa

Step 1: Rinse and Cook The Quinoa

  1. To cook the quinoa, add it to simmering water (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.)
  2. Then cover it, and turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer.
  3. Cook the quinoa until the water is absorbed and the germs of the quinoa just burst open. 
the dressing in a bowl
Step 3: Combine the ingredients for the dressing in the bowl

Step 2: Make the Lemon Dressing

The key is making a paste with the garlic and salt. This gives each bite of the salad an overall garlic flavor without big chunks of raw garlic. Then you’ll need to juice of a juicy lemon (1/4 cup) plus 3/4 cup of olive oil. Whisk everything together in a large bowl.

the quinoa while cooling in the dressing
Step 3: Add the hot cooked quinoa to the lemon dressing and let it cool

Step 3: Add the hot quinoa to dressing for the best flavor

This step is the KEY to making the best Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and what sets it apart from all other quinoa salads. Add the quinoa to the dressing while it is still hot it will absorb all that garlicky lemony goodness and will be imbued through and through with all that flavor! The salad won’t be greasy at all! 

Note: this will seem like a ton of dressing at first, but as it sits, toss it a couple times and you’ll see it seep into the quinoa. Magic! 

the remaining ingredients stirred into the quinoa (after it cools)
Step 4: Once the quinoa is cool, stir in the parsley, mint, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta and pine nuts

Step 4: Add the Stir Ins

Next add in the cucumber, chopped parsley, chopped mint, halved cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, Kalamata olives and toasted pine nuts. Give everything a good stir. Serve immediately or chill to serve later.

the quinoa salad before it is all stirred together

FAQs and Chef Katie’s Expert Tips

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is the seed of a plant native to the Andes mountains in South America where it has been grown for thousands of years. The plant is botanically related to amaranth.
Quinoa is healthy because it is naturally higher in protein than most whole grains (7 grams per 1/4 cup of dry quinoa versus 3 grams for brown rice.) It is also a source of iron, folate and magnesium and also a source of Zinc.

Is Quinoa Salad Healthy?

Yes! This recipe is bursting with healthy ingredients. Parsley is high in Vitamin C and  tomatoes are high in lycopene. 
Thanks to the pine nuts and olive oil this salad is a good source of healthy unsaturated fats. Saturated fat should only take up 10% of your total calories.
This recipe follows the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet, which is widely considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. 
For those of you who follow a gluten-free diet, you’ll be happy to know that quinoa is naturally gluten-free!

Can Quinoa Salad Be Made Ahead?

Yes. Keep it in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Stir well before serving. If you are making it for a special occasion, I would recommend making it only 6 hours ahead, so that the vegetables don’t weep and the olive oil doesn’t start to harden up the texture of the salad. 

Meal Prep Tips

If you are hoping to prep it ahead, and don’t want to worry about wilting. Follow through step two (let the quinoa cool in the dressing.) And then keep the cut vegetables, feta, pinenuts and herbs separate. Stir it together just before serving. 

Is Quinoa a Whole Grain?

No quinoa is not a whole grain if you look at the botanical definition of what a grain is. Whole grains are seeds of grasses. Quinoa is also a seed but comes from another type of plant in the Amaranth family, not from a grass at all. 
To make matters confusing, quinoa is often referred to as an Ancient Grain. Which means it has not been genetically modified over the years. 
For practical purposes, when a health expert says to eat mostly whole grains, know that quinoa can be lumped in with actual whole grains because it serves a similar purpose of “starch” or “cereal grain” in our diet.

Why Does Quinoa Have To Be Rinsed?

Quinoa has to be rinsed because the plant it comes from produces a naturally occurring substance called saponin that helps to protect it from birds and pests. It is bitter to the taste and has a soap-like flavor. It can easily be rinsed off. 
As I explained when I shared my Quinoa Stuffing, quinoa is sold pre-rinsed or not. You will have to look at the packaging to see if yours is pre-rinsed or not. If you bought it in the bulk department, err on the safe side and give it a rinse! 

three bowls of the quinoa salad

Menu Ideas For This Recipe

If you’re wondering what to serve this salad with, here are some ideas:

For more quinoa ideas make sure to check out my post of more than 30 quinoa recipes.

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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a white bowl with mixed together quinoa salad in it with mint garnish

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 14 reviews

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 45 mins
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is a healthy and tasty side dish for summer parties. It is popping with flavor and loaded with cucumbers, feta and olives with the addition of parsley and mint. 


Units Scale
  • 1 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 European cucumber, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts


  1. Combine 2 ½ cups water and quinoa and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer and cook until the quinoa is tender and absorbs all of the liquid, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Mash garlic with 1 teaspoon of the salt on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife. Scrape into a large bowl. Whisk in oil, lemon juice and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
  3. Add hot quinoa to the dressing and let cool, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in cucumber, parsley, tomatoes, mint, feta, olives and pine nuts. Chill or serve immediately.


To Make this salad ahead of time, and don’t want to worry about wilting. Follow through step two (let the quinoa cool in the dressing.) And then keep the mix ins cut but separate. Stir it together just before serving.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 385 cal
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 206 mg
  • Fat: 28 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 25 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 6 g