A couple of months ago I asked my email subscribers — are you on the list? It’s free! — what kind of recipes they wanted for summer and a common theme that emerged was salad recipes (no surprise), with berries (here for it), IN THE DRESSING.
Ask and you shall receive!
Whether you’re a salad lover or not, you are going to FLIP for this berry-packed Chicken Quinoa Salad with Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette. This toppings and protein-packed salad is just as much fun to eat as it is to look at, and will keep you full for HOURS. It looks and tastes like it came from a restaurant!
Chicken + Quinoa + Berry Salad
If you’ve tried my Thai Quinoa Salad then you know that adding cooked then chilled quinoa to salads is a very good thing. Quinoa is a seed that cooks like a grain and adds a fluffy texture, nutty flavor, and plant-based protein to any savory dish. I make a batch each week then refrigerate so my husband and I can add scoopfuls to our lunchtime salads.
Grilled chicken provides another satisfying source of protein in this dish. I love how the sizzling chicken pairs with the chilled salad ingredients. That hot and cold contrast is fabulous.
And speaking of summer, both strawberries and blueberries star in this toppings-packed salad. Their refreshing sweetness brightens each bite, plus they’re so dang pretty to look at. Sliced strawberries also naturally sweeten a homemade Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette to drizzle on top of the salad. It’s my favorite homemade vinaigrette to date (#spoondrinkworthy) and is SO worth the 5 minutes it takes to whip up.
Several of the salad components are able to be prepped ahead of time and, aside from the strawberries, the vinaigrette calls for fridge and pantry staples and is make ahead too!
For the Berry Chicken Quinoa Salad:
- Quinoa. Look for “pre rinsed” on the quinoa package at the store. Quinoa is coated in a naturally bitter coating that you can rinse off in a fine mesh sieve prior to cooking, but buying pre-rinsed will save you a step.
- Chicken stock or vegetable stock. I like to cook quinoa in chicken or vegetable stock to give it more flavor. Water works fine though if you don’t have either on hand.
- Chicken. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness before grilling to ensure they cook evenly. Grill in a grill pan indoors or on your outdoor gas or charcoal grill. Sautéing the chicken breasts, or using rotisserie chicken is fine too!
- Seasoned salt and pepper. To simply yet effectively season the chicken breasts.
- Lettuce. I like an arugula-baby spinach lettuce blend because the spicy arugula contrasts so nicely with the sweet berries and dressing. You can use whatever you like or have growing in your garden.
- Strawberries. Sliced strawberries are added to both the salad and vinaigrette.
- Blueberries. If you’ve never had blueberries in your salad, prepare for a new obsession.
- Cucumber. Sliced cucumbers add a refreshing and satisfying crunch.
- Avocado. I love how the avocado mixed with the dressing lends a little creaminess to the salad.
- Red onion. Thinly slice a small red onion to add a spicy crunch that’s not too overwhelming.
- Sliced almonds. Provide a nice crunch and additional protein.
- Goat cheese. I am a HUGE fan of creamy goat cheese (also called chevre) and like to use honey-flavored goat cheese in this salad. You could use plain or even herbed goat cheese.
For the Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- Strawberries. To naturally sweeten the dressing, plus provide a pretty color.
- Balsamic vinegar. Pairs SO well with fruit.
- Honey. To help balance the vinegar.
- Dijon mustard. Helps keep the dressing together and adds flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Hard to have salad dressing without it!
- Salt and pepper. To season the vinaigrette.
Great for Meal Prep + Mason Jar Salads
This quinoa salad is not only a fabulous summer dinner option, but it’s great for meal prep too. The recipe makes 4 monster dinner salads, or you could stretch it to make five or even six decent-sized lunch portions.
Add the ingredients into individual-sized storage containers then top with lettuce, cover, and refrigerate. Pack the vinaigrette separately to dress the salad with just before eating.
If you’d like to layer the salad into 16oz, wide-mouthed mason jars, layer in the following order, ending with lettuce. Pack a separate container of vinaigrette to dress the salad with prior to eating.
- Red Onion
- Sliced almonds
- Goat Cheese
What to Make Ahead
As I said, this salad is packed with toppings and I truly feel each one adds something that I would miss if it were left out. Plus the vinaigrette is a MUST TRY. To save time, here are a few elements you can make / prep ahead of time:
- Quinoa. Cook then chill the quinoa up to 5 days ahead of time.
- Vinaigrette. Prepare the dressing up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Chicken. Grill then slice or chop the chicken up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Veggies. Slice the cucumber and red onion up to 2 days ahead of time.
- Strawberries. Slice the strawberries up to 2 days ahead of time.
Alrighty, ready to dive into this bowl of deliciousness?!
How to Make Berry Chicken Quinoa Salad
Step 1: Make the Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Start by adding sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to a food processor then processing until smooth. Slowly stream in extra virgin olive oil until the vinaigrette comes together then pour into a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.
Again, you can do this up to 3 days ahead of time – it just gets better as it sits!
Step 2: Cook the quinoa.
Add dry quinoa with chicken or vegetable stock to a small saucepan then bring to a boil over high heat. This is what quinoa looks like prior to cooking. Tiny little discs that pop into what looks like springs once cooked.
Turn the heat down to low then cover with a lid and cook until the quinoa is tender, 12-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork then transfer to a bowl or container to cool.
Once cool, cover and chill. You can make and chill the quinoa up to 5 days ahead of time. Unlike gluten free pasta and grains like rice, cooked quinoa doesn’t dry out and harden in the refrigerator, which is amazing!
Step 3: Grill the chicken.
Pound 2 small chicken breasts (about 1lb total) to an even thickness on a cutting board so they cook evenly then brush or mist with vegetable oil and season with homemade seasoned salt and pepper. Cook in a grill pan indoors or on your gas or charcoal grill outdoors. Here’s how:
- Using a grill pan: Heat the grill pan over high heat for 5 minutes. Add chicken breasts then lower the heat slightly to medium-high and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Using a gas or charcoal grill. Heat the grill over high heat until it reaches at least 400 degrees. Add chicken breasts then lower the heat slightly to medium-high and grill for 3-4 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. KEEP THE LID CLOSED between flipping!
No matter the method, remove the chicken to a plate to rest for at least 10 minutes before thinly slicing, or dicing.
Step 4: Assemble.
Divide the chilled quinoa and grilled chicken between four bowls then add the goodies! We’ve got lettuce, avocado, thinly sliced red onion, sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced cucumbers, sliced almonds, and a partridge in a pear tree. Just kidding.
Drizzle with the dressing then DIG IN!
I hope you love this fresh and refreshing summertime salad that’s equal parts filling, gorgeous, and absolutely delicious! Enjoy!
More Fresh and Hearty Salads
- Thai Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing
- Sesame Noodle Salad
- Jennifer Aniston Salad
- Grilled Chicken Salad
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Big Mac Salad
- Chickpea Chicken Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
free email bonus
Dinner Made EASY
5 days of simple yet flavorful recipes that take the stress out of dinnertime!
Berry Chicken Quinoa Salad with Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Berry Chicken Quinoa Salad is packed with protein, vegetables, and berries then drizzled with a luscious, homemade Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1lb), pounded to an even thickness
- homemade seasoned salt and pepper (see notes)
- 4 cups arugula-baby spinach blend
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1lb strawberries, sliced and divided
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 small avocados, sliced or diced
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 4oz goat cheese, crumbled (I like honey goat cheese)
- For the Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1 cup sliced strawberries (from sliced pound above)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- For the Strawberry Vinaigrette: Add the sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor then process until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides. With the food processor running, slowly stream in extra virgin olive until incorporated. Pour vinaigrette into a mason jar or container with a tight fitting lid then refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made 3-4 days ahead of time.
- For the quinoa: Add quinoa and chicken or vegetable stock to a small saucepan over high heat then bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, place a lid on top, then simmer until quinoa is tender and the broth has been absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork then scoop into a storage container to cool. Once cool, cover then refrigerate quinoa until chilled. Can be done 2-3 days ahead of time.
- For the grilled chicken: Brush or mist both sides of the chicken breasts with vegetable oil then season both sides with homemade seasoned salt and pepper.
- Heat a grill pan over high heat, or preheat a gas/charcoal grill over high heat until it reaches at least 400 degrees. Add chicken breasts then turn heat down slightly to medium-high and grill until the chicken no longer sticks to the pan/grill, and there are beautiful char marks on the bottom, 5-6 minutes. Keep the lid down while grilling if using a gas or charcoal grill. Flip chicken breasts then grill until the chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, another 5-6 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate then let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing or chopping.
- Divide chilled quinoa between four bowls then top each with a quarter of the grilled chicken. Divide remaining ingredients — lettuce, almonds, strawberries, blueberries, cucumber, avocado, red onion, and goat cheese — between the bowls then drizzle with Strawberry Vinaigrette and serve.
- Click here for my homemade seasoned salt recipe >
- Be sure to purchase quinoa that’s labeled “pre-rinsed”. I like Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa.
- The quinoa is best cooked a day ahead of time so it’s chilled and ready to be mixed with the rest of the salad ingredients on the day you want to eat.
- This is a wonderful meal prep recipe! Chill the chicken and quinoa before dividing ingredients between 4 storage containers with lids — ensure the arugula is placed on top vs the bottom to keep it crisp. Pack dressing separately to add just before eating.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin