This kale quinoa salad recipe is an excellent make-ahead salad you can enjoy for a healthy lunch or the perfect side salad for a quick dinner.

It’s easy to make in less than 20 minutes, easy to customize with extra ingredients or swaps and it’s a great salad for meal prep due to the hearty kale.

Bowl of kale quinoa salad with a wedge of lemon beside it.

Why Make this Recipe

If you’re trying to add more nutritious ingredients to your diet while remaining full and satisfied, this quinoa kale salad recipe makes a great choice.

You’ll love the tangy lemon dressing paired with sweet cranberries, crunchy pumpkin seeds and fresh carrots throughout.

Trying to eat more leafy greens? This Quinoa Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Mediterranean Kale Salad and Lentil Kale Salad are excellent as well.

Ingredient Notes

  • Quinoa: Use any quinoa variety such as white quinoa or tricolor quinoa.
  • Kale: I like dinosaur kale (Tuscan kale) but you can use any variety of kale. Be sure to remove the tough stems and finely chop to make it easy to eat.
  • Red Onion: You can substitute shallot.
  • Cranberries: Substitute raisins, pomegranate arils or finely chopped dates.
  • Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas): Use any nuts or seeds such as pistachios, walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds.
  • Parsley: If you have some fresh parsley on hand, you can add 2-3 tbsp finely chopped. This recipe has similar ingredients to this French Lentil Salad with Fresh Herbs if you want to make both around the same time!

This list is not complete. Please see the recipe card at the end of the post for the complete ingredient list with measurements and detailed instructions.

Variations and Additions

  • Omit the quinoa and carrot for a simple lemon kale salad.
  • Add extra veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red cabbage, red bell pepper or zucchini.
  • Swap the quinoa for other whole grains like brown rice or farro.
  • Add roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
  • Add up to 1 cup mixed fresh herbs like parsley, mint, basil or chives.
  • Serve with crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese.
  • Add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes to the dressing for a bit of heat.
  • You can add up to 1 tbsp maple syrup to the dressing if you prefer a slightly sweeter dressing.
  • Add 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas or blacks beans for extra protein and fiber.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Cooked quinoa in a pot.

Step 1: Rinse the quinoa and add to a medium pot with 1.75 cup water (option to cook in vegetable broth for extra flavor).

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and lightly simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Remove the lid use a fork to fluff.

Chopped kale in a large bowl with a set of wooden salad spoons.

Step 2: Remove the kale leaves from the stems and finely chop. Place the chopped kale a large mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp olive, salt and pepper.

Massage well with hands for 2-3 minutes then let sit for 10-15 minutes while you continue preparing the rest of the recipe.

Lemon dressing in a small dish with a spoon.

Step 3: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl or container and whisk together until smooth.

Kale and quinoa salad with carrot, red onion and cranberries in a large bowl.

Step 4: Finely chop the carrot and onion and add to the bowl with the kale along with the cooked quinoa, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and dressing. Toss to combine.

Serve right away with another squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy. Other toppings that work well are fresh herbs like parsley, black pepper, hummus or green onions.

Hands using a fork in a bowl of kale quinoa salad with some wedges of lemon in the background.

Recipe FAQs

How long does kale quinoa salad keep?

Store the salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Enjoy cold or warm lightly in the microwave for a warm kale salad.

Expert Tips

  • It’s important to massage the kale well with the oil and salt so don’t skip this step. Kale can be tough and bitter and this will soften the kale and make it much more palatable for eating.
  • Serve the kale quinoa salad at a slightly chilled or room temperature. Cold salads can sometimes mask the flavors, so letting it at room temperature a bit before serving can improve the taste.

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Bowl of kale salad with red onion, carrot and cranberries.

Vegan Kale Quinoa Salad with Lemon Dressing

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  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Enjoy this quinoa kale salad with homemade lemon vinaigrette for the perfect healthy lunch or quick side dish for dinner.


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 45 cups finely chopped kale (about one bunch kale), stems removed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 a red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or walnuts
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 23 tbsp finely chopped parsley, optional

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
  • 2 tbsp minced shallot, optional
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper


  1. Cook the Quinoa: Rinse the quinoa then add to a medium pot with 1 3/4 cup water and a generous amount of salt (option to cook it in vegetable broth for more flavor). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. remove the lid and fluffy with a fork.
  2. Massage the Kale: Remove the kale leaves from them stems and finely chop. Add the chopped kale to a large mixing bowl or serving bowl with the olive oil, 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Massage well with your hands for 2-3 minutes then let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Prepare the Dressing: In a small bowl or other container, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  4. Mix Salad: Add the salad ingredients, cooked quinoa and dressing to the bowl with kale. Toss to combine.
  5. Serve: Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, black pepper and crumbled feta cheese, if desired.


Additions & Variations: 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 red bell pepper, diced avocado. Add up to 1 cup mixed fresh herbs like dill, cilantro, basil, chives, mint and parsley.

It’s important to massage the kale well with the oil and salt so don’t skip this step. Kale can be tough and bitter and this will soften the kale and make it much more palatable for eating.

Makes 4 large servings or 6-8 side salads.


  • Serving Size: 1/6
  • Calories: 281
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Sodium: 534 mg
  • Fat: 16 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 7 g