Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad

A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch!

Ladies and gents (do any guys read my blog?), I bring you my new favorite meal. It’s protein packed, bursting with flavor, bright citrus, fresh cilantro, a little spice, a lot of avocado, and some serious staying power.

I made this colorful salad as a light dinner on Monday night and enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day; it kept me full for hours as I worked in the kitchen. I made two pies, one of these and a special one for Father’s Day. Stay tuned for that sweet summer recipe.

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

This satisfying bowl of healthy goodness has so much going on. So many flavors and textures; each bite you get a little something different! It’s the perfect recipe for those of us who like the “stuff” in salads, rather than the lettuce. Are you like that too? There’s no lettuce in this salad at all, by the way.

Hearty, super-healthy quinoa is the base for todays salad recipe. I love quinoa because it is impressively versatile. When I’m not adding it to salads, I love making crispy quinoa patties. Just had those for dinner last week – they’re so simple and make a ton of leftovers.

You’ll need about 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa. Quinoa is so simple to prepare. And if you’ve never cooked it before, don’t get nervous. I have a step-by-step post on how to cook quinoa for you. There’s hardly any work involved.

2 images of ingredients for citrus chicken quinoa salad including quinoa in a saucepan and roasted garlic on a white cutting board

A lot of this salad’s flavor comes from the chicken. You’ll cook the chicken with roasted garlic and a little smoked paprika in some olive oil. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you may use regular or even a pinch of chile powder instead. I highly recommend the smoked paprika for optimum flavor, though.

Don’t know who to roast garlic? Again, don’t get nervous! I have an easy step-by-step post on how to roast garlic. Helpful tip: steer clear from using canned minced garlic here, you want the robust flavor from roasting it fresh.

Cook the cut up chicken breasts until the outsides are toasty and crisp and the centers are moist and tender. Here is what the chicken will look like:

chicken in a skillet

Toss the chicken in with the cooked quinoa, 1 sliced avocado, and 2 sliced oranges. For a little dressing, simply whisk together fresh lime juice, honey, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and a touch of juice from the sliced oranges. That’s it!

So many bright, fresh flavors with none of the artificial stuff.

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a red mixing bowl

This recipe made enough for Kevin and I to enjoy for dinner with a side of roasted veggies. Plus, there was enough leftover to enjoy for lunch the next day. I personally loved it cold! By the next day, the flavors were more pronounced as well – the quinoa had the chance to really soak everything up. And the more I stirred it, the creamier the avocado became. (YES.) Since it tastes so wonderful on day 2, it’s a great make-ahead meal option.

This citrus chicken quinoa salad is a wonderful, gluten free choice for your healthy eating this summer… or whenever you’re looking to lighten-up lunch or dinner. Feel free to add a little more quinoa or even try serving this healthy salad over greens.

And if you have extra veggies laying around in your crisper drawer, throw them in!

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

Now how about some pie for dessert? Balance. 😉

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citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 3
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American


A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch!


  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic or roasted garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed


  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (packed)*
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice*
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions or use my directions – my recipe will make 2-3 cups, more than what you will use. But leftovers are great! Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and roasted garlic, stirring it all around to coat with oil. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt. Stir and cook until chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, oranges, and avocado to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing: Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Pour over salad and toss to coat everything evenly. Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of time because the flavors taste amazing by day 2. Simply prepare through step 3, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Cilantro: If you love cilantro as much as I do feel free to increase to 1/2 cup.
  3. Orange Juice: I simply squeezed the juice out of a couple pieces of the oranges I threw into the salad for the 1 Tablespoon needed in the dressing.

Keywords: citrus chicken quinoa salad, chicken quinoa salad


  1. Amy @ Amy's Healthy Baking says:

    I love all of the flavors and textures going on in your salad Sally! My dad is a huge fan of quinoa, so I’m trying to eat a little bit more of it… Slowly but surely. 😉 Do you have any suggestions for replacing/skipping the avocado? I’m allergic, which is such a bummer — there as SO many fun recipes with it!

    1. You can simply leave it out – you won’t miss it! Maybe add some tomato or chopped bell peppers instead.

  2. Yum! I made this last night and it was delicious!! I had it for lunch today and it was just as good. The only sub I made was using a few tablespoons of Trader Joe’s reduced guilt guac instead of fresh avo, since none of them were ripe 🙂 Great recipe!

  3. Meggan | Culinary Hill says:

    What a great lunch or light dinner option! I definitely have smoked paprika and don’t always know what to do with it, so thanks for the idea. I love all the colors and flavors here, and it’s so easy to make, too! Great recipe!

    1. Thanks Meggan! Let me know if you try it.

  4. Made it, LOVED it, thought it was really photogenic so I took a picture of it, and linked to your blog in my post about it. Thanks for this great recipe!!

    1. Thanks Sara! It’s a very pretty salad – love your photo.

  5. I do read your blog! I think it’s awesome! I love your recipes because of their simplicity! I’m a big fan of all of your muffins!
    Some times, it’s a bit difficult to find the same ingredients here in Argentina but I do my best and the result is always great!
    Thank you for love you convey with your recipes!

  6. Look lovely! Doing it right now!

  7. How lovely! I just pinned this recipe and come to find out, it was posted on my birthday 🙂

    1. Sounds like this recipe was meant to be made in your kitchen 😉 Enjoy!

  8. I`ve never tried quinoa 🙂 But this salad looks so good, I`ll have to make it. Can`t resist avocados!!!

  9. I don’t normally comment on blogs but I have to say that this recipe is delicious. I just made it for my husband and me for dinner and we were blown away by how good it is – amazing balance of sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. Will definitely be apart of my normal recipe rotation!

    1. Thanks for reporting back Jessica! Happy you both enjoyed this salad.

  10. another guy reader – this looks delish, and thanks for the embedded helps/links for those of us on a learning curve. Your attitude is as bright and cheery as the pics and ideas – thanks!!

  11. Made this for a patient of mine (I’m a dietitian) for a quick and easy quinoa recipe and it was DELICIOUS! Don’t worry, I always print your recipes out as is and direct them toward your blog :). We used some rotisserie chicken breast to make it even easier. She was SO excited that she found something to pack for lunch that was full of flavor and tasted fresh. I often come to your blog for recipes and you never let me down Sally! It is so nice to find easy, delicious, and healthy recipes like this- you may not directly see the impact it makes, but trust me it does! Thanks Sally!

    1. Thanks so much Missy, I’m glad you (and others!) love my healthier recipes so much. I really appreciate your sweet comment.

  12. This looks yummy. I have been trying to make lunches to take to work with me. It is a lot healthier and cheaper then buying in the cafeteria. Will try this, I might leave out the garlic because of eating it at work.

  13. Any suggestions for the dressing if I LOATHE cilantro? ?? Thanks!!!!

    1. You may leave it out

  14. This was my lunch yesterday and today. And it was fabulous! The roasted garlic is really a great addition. LOVED it!

  15. This was delicious! I subbed the chicken for chicken sausage to save time. The dressing was so good, and I’m not usually a fan of cilantro. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll be making this again. 

  16. Nela Holmes says:

    This is an excellent dish!! My family and friend loved it, and they thoroughly enjoyed the nutritious and boosting flavors.

  17. Yes, Men read you blog… and we love every post !

  18. Citrus quinoa chicken salad looks delicious! How long does it keep for? Would it last a few days in the fridge?

    1. Hope you love it! See step 3.

  19. I just found your blog, Sally, and love the recipes.  I have the Orange Poppy Seed Bars cooling on the counter as I type!  

    I’m having ribeye steak tonight and know there will be plenty of leftovers.  I’m wondering if I could substitute the chicken in this salad with sliced steak?  I’m thinking so… what do you think?

    1. I can’t see why not! If you love it, add it! That’s what I always say 🙂

  20. Sally, I am new looking for healthy meal into your webpage, I just did the Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad for my wife and daughter (12 and 15) and we all four were very amazed for this recipe. I wanted to thank you so so much and I will be staying tune with your recommendations. !!!

  21. This recipe looks amazing (as do all your recipes)! I can’t wait to try it – the orange and chicken sounds delicious!

    I have a simple chicken and quinoa salad with vegetables that is great in the summer:

    Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  22. Jenny from says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! My husband loves cilantro and avocado as he is Colombian and these two ingredients are a staple in Colombia. After a very long winter, this summer salad was perfect for one of the first sunny days of March, we just had it for Sunday lunch. Really yummy and very easy to follow!

  23. Mary Emma McConaughey says:

    How many cups does l lb of boneless chicken make?

  24. Melissa Novotny says:

    I love simple and healthy dinners like this! Looks delicious!

  25. Have loved this recipe for years! Tomorrow I’m going to serve it as a side with roast chicken — so if I’m not adding chicken to the salad itself, do you think I should be adding in the salt, garlic and paprika to the salad mixture or dressing? Thanks!

    1. Yes! I’d add each, to taste.

  26. This is great! Made it tonight and it was excellent. Too many heavy meals lately with the holidays, so happy to have this refreshing dinner. 🙂

  27. Looks like a great recipe – thank you! But how does the avocado fare for leftovers?

  28. This looks and sounds delicious! I have two questions though…

    1. Does the avocado turn brown by the next day or is the citrus juice enough to keep things ok as a left over lunch?

    2. If the oranges arent looking great in the store would canned mandarin oranges (in water) be an ok substitute?

    1. Hi Jenn, If there are large chunks of avocado sitting on top they might brown a bit, but give everything a good stir and they will be just fine the next day! Yes, you can use canned mandarin oranges if needed. Enjoy!

  29. What a great, light dinner! I can definitely see making this for lunches this summer too. We grilled our chicken and used boneless, skinless thighs. I also tossed some black beans in mine and thought it complemented the flavors nicely and added a little more protein. My husband added some red pepper flakes to give a little bite to his as well. The smoked paprika made it and shouldn’t be skipped if you can help it. I’ll be keeping this one in my rotation! Thanks Sally!

  30. Made this before for dinner once and loved it that night and the next day as leftovers. 3 years later, I just made it again for meal prep for a couple lunches. I don’t know if you have the answer to this but can this salad be frozen as is (maybe dressing separate). I’d leave out the avocado. I know I can freeze cooked quinoa and assemble the salad once defrosted but I was really looking to freeze as is. Any idea?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erin! We would keep the dressing, avocado and oranges separate (and add them fresh). You could prepare the chicken and quinoa ahead of time to freeze for later use. Let us know what you try!

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