Chicken Quinoa Salad with a vibrant sesame lime dressing is a perfect make-ahead summer meal. Packed with grilled veggies, chicken, quinoa and greens. All you need is some crusty bread and you’re good to go.
This grilled chicken salad is a full meal-in-one. It’s loaded with vegetables of your choice and bulked up with healthy quinoa and flavorful marinated grilled chicken.
The marinade doubles as a dressing. It’s made with sesame oil, lime juice, soy, garlic and maple syrup, creating a nice combination of earthy, sweet and tart. I got the idea for the dressing from an Epicurious recipe for chicken wings and tweaked it a bit.
Once the chicken is marinated, the whole thing takes little time to pull together. You can even shorten the marinating time to 20-30 minutes on the counter if you’re in a rush.
I’m a fan of this salad because it can be made ahead and assembled just before serving. And, it’s super flexible. More of this, less of that. It doesn’t matter.
- Buy pre-grilled boneless chicken pieces or shred a store-bought rotisserie chicken and toss with some of the dressing.
- Marinate for less time (20-30 minutes) at room temperature.
- Skip the grilled veggies and replace with fresh ones like cucumber, radish, peppers, snap peas.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Grill whatever you like or have available. Good options are peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus.
- For a vegetarian version, skip the chicken and add grilled tofu or more veggies.
- Add cut up ripe peaches or mangoes.
- Add some nuts or toasted sesame seeds for crunch.
- Use rice noodles instead of quinoa.
- Switch up the marinade/dressing with one you love best.
- Make all the components ahead (quinoa, grilled veggies, grilled chicken, dressing) and assemble with the greens just before serving.
- You can also make and assemble the chicken quinoa salad, adding the dressing before serving so the greens don’t wilt.
Sesame Lime Chicken Quinoa Salad
- 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken Note 1 (thighs or breasts)
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 large red pepper (or 2 smaller), Note 2 seeded and cut in 4-5 large pieces
- 3 large green onions (or more)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cups lettuce greens or fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 6 cocktail tomatoes, cut in quarters (or 12 cherry tomatoes cut in half)
- Garnish: chopped parsley or cilantro
Lime Sesame Marinade/Dressing
- 1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 large limes)
- 1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp minced garlic 1 clove
- 1 tsp sriracha hot sauce and/or Dijon (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- MARINATE CHICKEN: Whisk all marinade ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup. Pour HALF of the marinade into a sealed plastic bag (reserve the rest for the dressing). Add chicken to bag, seal and ensure it is coated with marinade. Marinate in fridge for 1-2 hours. If time is short, marinate on counter for 20-30 minutes
- HEAT GRILL to medium high. Spray grill with oil or brush with paper towel dipped in oil
- MAKE QUINOA: Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Add to a small pot with 3/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, fluff with fork and set aside.
- GRILL CHICKEN, PEPPERS, ONIONS: Remove chicken from marinade and pat with a paper towel. Lay chicken and vegetables on a pan lined with foil. Spray everything with oil to avoid sticking and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through (160F). Remove and let chicken rest for 5 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Cut chicken and vegetables into bite size pieces.
- ASSEMBLE SALAD: Mix chopped greens/spinach, quinoa and vegetables together in a mixing bowl. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl. Add chicken and tomatoes on top. Taste remaining dressing and adjust as needed (more sweet, lime, hot sauce, salt, etc.) Just before ready to serve, drizzle evenly over salad. Sprinkle on parsley or cilantro for garnish (and toasted sesame seeds if you like) and serve.
- Chicken prep: I prefer thighs (juicier, more flavorful, more forgiving) but breasts are fine too. I pound the chicken with the heal of my [washed] hand to flatten it a bit for more even grilling. Alternatively, pound between two pieces of parchment with the bottom of a pot or mallet. No need to get it too thin. Just even.
- Grilling the Veggies: Use any veggies you like (peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, etc). About 3-4 cups. Grill in larger pieces then chop up. Or cut into smaller pieces first and grill in a grill basket.
- Make Ahead: Make all the components ahead (quinoa, grilled veggies, grilled chicken, dressing) and assemble with the greens just before serving. You can also make and assemble the chicken quinoa salad, adding the dressing before serving so the greens don't wilt.
Here’s a similar salad and one of our most popular (vegetarian, different flavors):
And a few other vegetarian salads you might like (add chicken if you like)