It is hard to stop digging in once you start munching on this quinoa orange salad. The orange flavor brings that zing to make this whole dish so radiant. And packed with good-for-you avocado, arugula, chickpeas and walnuts: it’s the perfect energizing meal.
November has made its big arrival. We are now officially and sadly leaving the abundance of fresh produce behind. BUT, I prefer to see this transition in a more enthusiastic way: myriad options of citrus are starting to fill the grocery aisles!
For most of my life, citrusy fruits were just not something I would go for. Then, I got pregnant and remember regularly sitting down with a few grapefruits to delightfully enjoy every bite.
Just like if I discovered chocolate cake for the first time. Pregnancy does weird things, my friend.
Even though I am out of the pregnancy hormones, I still adore oranges today and use them regularly when cooking.
Just like in this Sweet and Spicy Asian style orange sauce, I love to combine orange flavors with savory ingredients. And that’s how this citrusy quinoa salad idea began: I just could not get the orange + avocado + spicy arugula combo out of my mind!
There are worst things to obsess over, I suppose.
Winter Quinoa orange salad
In the summer, I’ll chomp on this bean salad or this savory watermelon salad like there is no tomorrow. BUT, salads are not only for warm weather! This one is a perfect winter salad with its crisp and bright orange flavors combined with hearty quinoa and chickpeas. It is filling yet feels so refreshing.
Things to love about this Quinoa orange salad
- Healthy: On top of the so good-for-you quinoa, this salad is packed with so much more nutrient dense ingredients: it is a powerhouse in a bowl!
- Tasty and filling: Bursting with juicy and zesty flavors, this yummy salad will also make sure you won’t go starving! Quinoa is filled with protein and fiber and combined to its healthy fat, the avocado helps make you feel satiated.
- Easy to make: Once you have juiced the oranges and cooked the quinoa, then this salad will come together very easily. Simply shake the oil-free dressing ingredients in a jar and pour it over all the goodness in a bowl.
- A salad for everyone: It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, oil-free. You can also easily make it nut-free by omitting the walnuts or swap them for pumpkin seeds.
- Versatile: As a side dish, full meal, packed lunch, on-the-go to potlucks or BBQ (hey, a girl can dream for that post-covid time) or even as a late night snack (yes, it is that good!), this salad will for sure be a favorite!
How to make this Quinoa orange salad
- Start by cooking the quinoa: This will take about 15 minutes, which gives you enough time to prepare the rest of the salad. The quinoa is cooked in orange juice until fluffy and tender. It is best to let the quinoa cool down a bit before adding the other ingredients, so the arugula does not wilt when in contact with the grain.
- Make the dressing: You will have to juice fresh oranges to make the dressing. Unsweetened store bought orange juice – not coming from concentrated – would work too, but taking the time to juice the fresh fruits yourself will make a difference. I love using a very simple glass citrus juicer to do this, but you can juice then just by squeezing the fruit cut in half in your hand if you don’t have a juicer.
Then, just shake vigorously all the dressing ingredients in a jar until combined. The dijon mustard helps create an emulsion when mixing the ingredients together even without any oil.
- Combine quinoa, dressing and other ingredients: Simply combine all the ingredients together and dinner is served!
Transform this dish into a Christmas salad
Anticipating all the heavy large meals during the Holidays? This salad will make for a perfect side dish to lighten up all the indulgent meals.
How to make this meal a perfect Christmas side dish:
- Add pomegranate seeds to the mix to add a extra color and the little pods of tangy juice would work great in this dish.
- When cooking the quinoa, add about a heaping teaspoon of fresh and finely chopped rosemary to the pot.
- Add halved and cooked brussel sprouts to the salad.
- A sprinkle of dried cranberries would add a delicious tartiness to this dish.
Can I prepare this citrusy salad ahead?
Most of the salad can be made ahead. Definitively prepare the dressing and let it sit in the fridge until ready to eat, so the flavors can all fuse together.
You can also combine the quinoa, arugula, walnuts and cubed oranges and store it in the fridge.
Pour and mix the dressing with the salad just before eating.
If preparing the salad ahead, then I recommend you to add the avocado just when serving so it does not brown.
What to do with the leftovers?
This salad is best when eaten fresh, but you can store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days.
If you anticipate having leftovers or want to bring the salad to work for lunch, then simply top it with sliced avocado on the individual portions when ready to eat instead of mixing cubes in the whole salad.
What type of oranges should I use?
When juicing the oranges for cooking the quinoa and making the dressing (you will need a total of 3/4 cup of orange juice), try to use Navel oranges. They are sweet and juicy, perfect for juicing.
You will also have to add about 2 oranges that have been cubed to the salad. In that case, choose the type you want! Good choices are blood orange for a pop in color or cara cara for their sweet and tangy flavor or also clementine for their extra sweet juice. You can also make this salad with cubed grapefruit!
I hope you will love this healthy citrusy salad as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let us know how it was.
Quinoa orange salad with avocado and arugula
- 3/4 cup quinoa
- 1/2 cup orange juice see note
- 2 oranges diced
- 1 large avocado diced
- 15 oz canned chickpea rinsed and drained
- 2 large handfuls fresh arugula
- 2/3 cup walnut
To make the dressing:
- 1/4 cup orange juice see note
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp small shallot finely diced
- 1 large pinch salt or to taste
Start by cooking the quinoa:
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander.
- In a small pot, combine the quinoa, the orange juice (1/2 cup) and 3/4 cup of water.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Keep covered and cook for 15 minutes on a gentle simmer, or until all the liquid is absorbed. The quinoa is cooked when the center of the seeds turned all translucent (no bright white dot anymore). If not done after 15 minutes, then keep the pot covered and set aside away from the heat for 5 more minutes. Then, fluff with a fork, but do not overmix to keep the quinoa from getting mushy. Transfer the quinoa in the fridge until ready to assembly the salad.
Make the dressing:
- In a small bowl, combine the orange juice (1/4 cup), apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, diced shallots and salt. Mix well and set aside.
Make the salad:
- In a large pan, roast the walnut on medium heat until fragrant while shaking the pan regularly. Watch carefully so the nuts don't burn. This should take about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, oranges, avocado, chickpeas, arugula and roasted walnuts. Add the dressing and combine everything together.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!
- Freshly squeezed orange juice is best, but store bought works too (unsweetened and not coming from concentrated). I like using a simple glass citrus juicer to do this, but you can also simply slice the oranges in half and squeeze the juice out with your hands.
- If making the salad ahead, then simply omit the cubed avocado to the mix and serve them on top of the individual portions just when serving (the avocado will brown while sitting in the fridge otherwise).
- Navel oranges are best when juicing (you will need a total of 3/4 cup of orange juice), but you can choose any kind of oranges you like when adding cubes of the fruit to the salad (bloody orange, cara cara, clementine or even grapefruit!).
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.