Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Pesto Quinoa Salad

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Grain salads are a great way to include lots of nourishing ingredients in one balanced meal. This grain salad features quinoa, broccoli, beans, and flavorful pesto.
pesto quinoa with white beans, broccoli, and parmesan in a large bowl with a wooden spoon

This is a variation of our grain salad base recipe. Quinoa is a versatile grain; it’s as easy to make as rice, has great texture, and is full of fiber and protein. This pesto quinoa salad is a great plant-forward meal on its own or makes for a flavorful side!

Three Must-Know Cooking Skills

For recipe success, learn how to:

Culinary Tips for the Best Pesto Quinoa Salad

Never cooked quinoa before? There’s a first time for everything! Use our fluffy quinoa base recipe for more guidance.

For extra flavor, toast the quinoa in the pot before adding the water.

To reduce bitter flavor and create a beautiful bright green color, blanch the broccoli.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Quinoa: any whole grain will work, but we don’t recommend using oats. Choose intact whole grains that keep their shape – brown rice, farro, wild rice, bulgur, wheat berries, or barley.
  • White Beans: use any variety of white bean – small navy, cannellini, or white kidney beans. Chickpeas or black eyed peas would also make good substitutions.
  • Broccoli: substitute or add diced cucumber, carrots, red or orange bell pepper, zucchini, or summer squash.
  • Pesto: substitute sun-dried tomato pesto for a different flavor.
  • Parmesan: substitute Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, asiago, or aged cheddar. We think that cheese blocks taste best, but we recognize the convenience of pre-shredded cheese.
  • Lemon Juice: substitute bottled lemon juice or champagne vinegar.

Recipe Variations

Make a pesto chicken quinoa bowl by mixing cooked shredded or diced chicken into the bowl with the other ingredients, or adding on top of individual servings.

Feel free to add chopped fresh herbs as a garnish for an extra pop of flavor. Fresh parsley, chives, or basil would be delicious.

Want a vegan grain salad? Leave out the parmesan cheese and make or buy vegan pesto. Vegan pesto is still loaded with flavor and nutrition even without the parmesan.

Want some grain salad recipe inspiration?

Use our grain salad base recipe as a guide, or check out these tasty variations!

Grain Salad Base Recipe

Warm Farro Salad with Spring Vegetables

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Barley Salad

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

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Is this Pesto Quinoa Bowl Healthy?

Grain salads are a great way to include lots of nourishing ingredients in one balanced meal. This grain salad features quinoa, broccoli, beans, and flavorful pesto – all healthy ingredients!

Quinoa

Quinoa is technically a pseudo cereal grain, but because it is nutritionally comparable to whole grains, we group it alongside brown rice, farro, millet, etc. It is a unique plant food because it is a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids we need to get from food. Further, quinoa has a higher protein-to-carbohydrate ratio compared to other grains. 

Whole grains such as quinoa are good sources of fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well. 

Broccoli

Broccoli contains disease-fighting phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Different colored vegetables provide different benefits; consuming a variety of colors is ideal. 

Beans

Beans are one of our favorite foods because they are packed with high quality nutrients: plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. All of the world’s longest lived populations consume beans daily.

Pesto

Pesto is full of leafy greens, nuts and extra virgin olive oil. Leafy greens are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. They are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health and help fight diseases.

Nuts of all varieties contain plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These nutrients help you feel satisfied until your next meal. 

Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. It contains high amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols which may reduce inflammation. Additionally, certain nutrients require fat for absorption; using extra virgin olive oil in pesto can boost the nutritional quality of a dish.

Learn more about health benefits of different foods and ingredients in our book, To Your Taste!

Basil Pesto Quinoa Serving Suggestions 

Served warm or cold, pesto quinoa with white beans is great as a light, plant-forward meal on its own. It’s also a great a side to another dish, such as roasted fish or simple turkey meatballs to make a beautiful Whole Life Plate.

Storage Recommendations

For best quality, store leftover pesto quinoa salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

Want more light and fresh summer recipes? 

Try out these tasty ideas!

Hummus Veggie Wraps

Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta

Salmon Burgers

Cherry Tomato Pizza Margherita

pesto quinoa with white beans, broccoli, and parmesan in a large bowl with a wooden spoon

Pesto Quinoa Salad

This is a variation of our grain salad base recipe. Quinoa is a versatile grain; it’s as easy to make as rice, has great texture, and is full of fiber and protein. This pesto quinoa salad is a great plant-forward meal on its own or makes for a flavorful side!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Side
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 15-ounce can low-sodium white beans
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
  • cup pesto
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Using a fine-mesh strainer, rinse and drain quinoa. Place in a medium pot with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes). Look for a white ring that pops out when the quinoa is cooked. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, drain and rinse beans. If necessary, trim broccoli florets to make consistently sized pieces.
  • If using fresh broccoli, blanch for best flavor. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add broccoli. Cook for 2 minutes. Immediately drain and submerge in an ice bath. Once cool, drain.
  • Add the beans, broccoli, pesto, and lemon juice to the bowl with the slightly cooled quinoa. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Top with parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Notes

For extra flavor, toast the quinoa in the pot before adding the water.
 
Blanch fresh broccoli for best flavor and color.
Keyword Pesto Quinoa

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