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!

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. We love quinoa because it is impressively versatile. Use it in these quinoa patties, berry quinoa salad, and quinoa crunch bars.

A lot of this salad’s flavor comes from the chicken. Cook the chicken with roasted garlic and a little smoked paprika in some olive oil. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can use regular or even a pinch of chili powder instead.

chicken in a skillet

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a red mixing bowl

Toss the chicken in with the cooked quinoa, 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!

If you make this salad 1 day ahead, the flavors become more pronounced because the quinoa has a chance to really soak everything up. And the more you stir it, the creamier the avocado becomes. 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 a lunch or a light dinner. Feel free to add a little more quinoa or even try serving this healthy salad over greens.

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

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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

Description

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!


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut 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, sliced or cubed

Dressing

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

Instructions

  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 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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of time because the flavors taste even better by day 2. Simply prepare through step 3, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Cilantro: If you don’t care for cilantro, leave it out or replace with chopped fresh basil or parsley.

Keywords: citrus chicken quinoa salad, chicken quinoa salad

24 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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. 

  5. Nela Holmes says:

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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. !!!

  8. Jenny from jennyisbaking.com 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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. 🙂

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. Annette VanDorland says:

    This was incredibly delicious. I was skeptical at first with the oranges in the salad, however -WOW- the flavors, textures and taste were fantastic. I had it for my dinner tonight and it is filling, I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow to have it again (leftovers).

  15. I discovered this recipe last summer and have been anxiously awaiting warmer weather so I could add it back to our dinner rotation! So delicious. Tastes even better cold the next day. Can easily sub grapefruit or clementines for the oranges/juice.

  16. Yum! I was a little apprehensive about trying this one, since I’m not in the habit of eating quinoa, but I love it! I am eating it still slightly warm right now. I will put the leftovers in the fridge and eat them cold tomorrow! I’m sure this recipe will be a repeat one for me!

  17. This is an absolutely delightful recipe for summer! I didn’t have any cilantro and I subbed plain paprika for smoked paprika. Still turned out delightful. I went for seconds!! Thank you for releasing this recipe.

  18. John Danforth says:

    Love this recipe. My wife and I have made it several times and served it to company. Always a hit. We are having a vegan couple for lunch tomorrow and are planning to substitute cubed, extra firm tofu for the chicken and I thought I might add some black beans. Any reactions?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi John, we haven’t tried this recipe with tofu, but let us know if you do!

      1. John P Danforth says:

        Doubled the recipe and made one half with chicken breast and one half with extra firm tofu. Since we love the recipe as originally published, I was a bit leery about making the tofu substitution. Surprisingly, the tofu version was even more to our liking than the chicken version. After letting the tofu sit in paper towels to absorb water for a while, I cubed it and cooked it just as directed for the chicken. Cooked it until the tofu was just getting a bit browned. The flavors from the garlic and smoked paprika were nicely absorbed by the tofu and the texture was excellent. Our guests and I preferred the tofu version to the chicken version.

        By the way, I cooked some black beans and added a cup to the doubled recipe (1/2 cup of cooked beans for a single recipe) and that was a good addition/modification as well. Could have added more.

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