Almond Apple Quinoa Salad is a fresh, healthy side dish. It’s fast enough for a weeknight and perfect as a make-ahead dish for a holiday meal. You will love how the sweet and salty flavours combine in this salad!
If you’re looking for more quinoa salad ideas, check out my Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing!
Prepare your tastebuds for some sweet and salty goodness. I love how simple, wholesome ingredients can come together to make a surprisingly flavourful dish. Quinoa salads are great for that; you get so many different textures in each bite.
This recipe was developed to be a clear-out-the-fridge kind of salad, using long-lasting vegetables and fruit like apple, celery and oranges, along with pantry ingredients like almonds, pepitas, and dried cranberries. These flavours lend themselves well to Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I suspect we’ll be enjoying this salad all year long!
You’ll love this salad because it’s
-sweet from the fruit
-salty from the tamari-baked almonds and pepitas
-a make-ahead dish
-easy and quick
Here’s what you’ll need to make this quinoa salad. See the recipe card below for exact quantities and detailed instructions.
For the crispy almonds
- Blanched almond slices – I like this for a light crunch, but you can also use whole almonds and increase the baking time
- Pepitas – unsalted and raw work best, as we’re adding more salt with tamari. These are a good source of plant-based iron!
- Wheat-free tamari – you can also use soy sauce, if you don’t require gluten free
For the salad
- Quinoa – the base of the salad, a complete source of protein and a good source of fibre
- Apple – I like a moderately sweet variety in this salad. See a helpful infographic here for apple varieties ranked from tart to sweet.
- Celery – to increase the crunch factor
- Dried cranberries – adds nice colour, texture and sweetness
- Green onion – for flavour, without being overpowering
- Herbs – like parsley or basil are optional, but add nice colour and a bit of flavour
For the orange vinaigrette
- Olive oil
- Freshly squeezed orange juice – you can also use freshly squeezed lemon juice and increase the amount of honey a bit to make up for the lost sweetness
- Apple cider vinegar – or white wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Honey – sub agave syrup or omit for vegan
- Salt and pepper
How to make it
Step one: Preheat the oven and start the quinoa
Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Then, put 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water (2:1 ratio, use the same measure) in a medium sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes. You’ll get the almonds going while the quinoa is cooking.
After the 15 minutes of simmering, remove the quinoa from the heat and keep it covered to steam for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and keep it uncovered to cool.
Step two: Prepare the crispy almonds
Put the almond slices and pepitas on the prepared baking sheet. Add the tamari, cumin and paprika and toss until everything is evenly coated. Spread the almonds and pepitas in an even layer and bake for 5-7 minutes.
While these are baking and the quinoa is cooking, you’ll prepare the dressing and chop the vegetables and fruit.
Step three: Prepare the dressing
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the olive oil, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Shake or whisk until well combined.
Step four: assemble the salad
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, almonds, pepitas, apple, celery, green onion, dried cranberries and herbs. Drizzle on the dressing and stir until everything is well combined and evenly coated. If you have time, let it sit for 20-30 minutes to let the flavours blend even more.
Tips for success
1. Don’t skip baking the almonds and pepitas. This step brings amazing texture and saltiness to the dish. It’s worth it to clean an extra pan!
2. Rinse the quinoa if it doesn’t come pre-washed. Many varieties come pre-washed, but if yours doesn’t or you’re not sure, just give it a rinse in a fine sieve before cooking. Rinsing will help to remove the coating that can cause an undesirable bitter taste.
3. Coat the diced apples in the dressing if you’re making the salad ahead of time. The citric acid in the orange or lemon juice will prevent the apple from browning. Toss the apples in the dressing first, then add all the remaining ingredients and mix it up as usual.
4. Be efficient with your time! Chop the celery, apple, green onion and herbs while the quinoa and almonds are already cooking.
Make it vegan. Omit the honey or replace it with agave syrup.
Swap out the almond slices. You can also use whole almonds, pecans or walnuts. Increase the baking time to at least 10 minutes for whole almonds, and 7-10 minutes for pecan halves or whole walnuts (be sure to monitor so they don’t get too crispy).
Use lemon juice instead of orange. Increase the amount of honey to keep the sweetness.
Herbs – use your favourite herbs that pair well with orange (I suggest parsley or basil), or leave them out completely. I love using herbs for freshness and colour, but one of my taste testers preferred the salad without them! Follow your heart on this one!
Other side dishes you may enjoy
- Moroccan Couscous with Chickpeas and Sweet Potato
- Southwest Sweet Potato Hash
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Green Beans Almondine
Almond Apple Quinoa Salad
For the crispy almonds
- 1/2 cup blanched almond slices (or sub whole almonds, see note 1)
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1 tablespoon tamari (or sub soy sauce if not gluten free)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
For the salad
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 stalks celery, sliced (about a cup)
- 1 large apple, cored and small dice
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sliced green onion (white and light green parts only)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley or basil) (optional)
For the orange vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey (omit or use agave syrup for vegan)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. In a medium sauce pan, combine 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water (2:1 ratio, use the same measure). Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for 10 minutes with the lid on. After steaming, remove the lid and fluff with a fork, then leave it uncovered to cool.
- While the quinoa is cooking, toss the sliced almonds and pepitas with the tamari, cumin and paprika (do this right on the sheet pan), then spread them in an even layer. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and turning golden brown. Once baked, set them aside to cool and crisp up, while you prepare other parts of the salad.
- In a small bowl or mason jar, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, almonds, pepitas, celery, apple, dried cranberries, green onion and herbs. Drizzle with the orange vinaigrette and mix until well combined and all parts of the salad are evenly coated. Serve immediately, or if you have time, you can let the salad sit for 20-30 minutes to let the flavours blend even more. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.
- If you have whole almonds rather than almond slices, I recommend baking for at least 10 minutes, rather than 5-7 minutes.
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