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 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
For extra flavor, toast the quinoa in the pot before adding the water.
To reduce bitter flavor and create a beautiful bright green color, try blanching the broccoli.
- 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, 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 acceptable 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.
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.
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.
Need some grain salad recipe inspiration?
Use our grain salad base recipe as a guide, or check out our other grain salad variations!
Use these kitchen tools for recipe success!
- Cutting Board
- Chef’s Knife
- Dry Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Mixing Bowl
- Storage Container
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- 2.5-quart Saucepan
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!
While we consider quinoa a whole grain due to its nutrient profile and cooking method, it’s technically a pseudo cereal grain! Quinoa is in the same family as Swiss chard and spinach. (1) That said, quinoa still contains lots of fiber, phytochemicals, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for healthy digestion, satiety, blood sugar, cholesterol, and gut bacteria. Phytochemicals help fight off diseases and keep us well. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup and is popular for being a complete plant protein. (2, 3)
Broccoli contains disease-fighting phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Different colored vegetables provide different benefits; consuming a variety of colors is ideal.
Beans are one of our favorite foods to recommend 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.
Check out our Food as Medicine article to learn more about these health benefits.
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 phytochemicals that promote health and help fight diseases. Blending leafy greens into a healthy pesto recipe is an easy way to incorporate them in your diet!
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. (4, 5)
Basil Pesto Quinoa Serving Suggestions
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!
Pesto Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 ½ cups water
- 15-ounce can low-sodium white beans
- 1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
- ⅓ cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 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.
- 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. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!