Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs Recipe

Quinoa tossed with grape tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and mint makes for a hearty, bright and refreshing salad.

Bowl of quinoa salad with cucumber, tomato, and herbs.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Quinoa replaces bulgur wheat for a protein-packed spin on classic tabbouleh salad that is hearty enough for a light meal.
  • Thoroughly draining the rinsed, cooked quinoa removes any excess moisture.
  • Pre-salting and draining the tomatoes and cucumbers concentrates the flavor by drawing out the water, ensuring that they won't weep into the salad.

I've been on kind of a make-ahead kick recently, partly because we've been camping a lot and are always looking for easy, ready-to-serve meals, and partly because a good make-ahead meal makes life so much simpler. Rather than scrambling to put lunch or dinner on the table at the last minute, I get to do more important things like taking longer baths or having a slightly larger after-work glass of wine on the deck. Is there anyone in the world who'd prefer fewer baths and wine? Didn't think so.

This particular salad is loosely based on tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad of cooked bulgur wheat and herbs, often with tomatoes, seasoned with onions, lemon juice, and extra-virgin olive oil. In this case, I've used cooked quinoa in place of the wheat, and added some finely diced cucumbers to the mix.

The key to a successful make-ahead chopped salad is to deal with excess moisture before you pack it away. In this case, it means cooking the quinoa, rinsing it under cold water, and letting it drain very thoroughly. I also salt the tomatoes and cucumbers in advance. The salt draws out excess moisture through the process of osmosis. That moisture can then be drained. The resulting vegetables have a more concentrated flavor and texture and won't weep juices even if stored for a few nights.

For flavoring, I stick with the classics: chopped parsley and mint, along with some mild shallots and plenty of really good olive oil and black pepper.

Is it trendy to post a recipe that uses a so-called superfood like quinoa? I guess so. I try to ignore trends and I'm not super keen on bandwagon-jumping, but in this case, it's delicious enough to make an exception.

October 2014

Recipe Facts



Active: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, split into quarters

  • 1 large cucumber, seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 small shallots, minced

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine quinoa and 2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 7 minutes. Shut off heat and let rest until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer quinoa to a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until thoroughly chilled. Let drain for 10 minutes.

  2. While quinoa cooks, combine tomatoes and cucumbers in a colander set in the sink. Season with salt and toss to coat. Let drain in sink until ready to combine with quinoa.

  3. In a large bowl, toss drained quinoa, drained tomatoes and cucumbers, shallots, parsley, mint, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or for best flavor, let rest overnight in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Salad can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

Special Equipment

Fine-mesh strainer, large bowl

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
172 Calories
12g Fat
14g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 172
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 222mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 17mg 83%
Calcium 37mg 3%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 351mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)