Quinoa Taco Salad

Quinoa taco salad with avocado and lime- perfect for a gluten-free diet.
Quinoa taco salad with avocado and lime- perfect for a gluten-free diet.

Quinoa Taco Salad Days

Looking for a fresh idea for a summer picnic or backyard get-together? This cool and breezy quinoa taco salad might be just what you're craving. Laced with lime juice and sea salt, the combo of fluffy quinoa and ripe avocado, spiked with red onion and sunny sweet pepper, served on a crisp bed of romaine lettuce, is a light and healthy twist on the salsa drenched bean and cheese heavy taco salads so ubiquitous years ago. It's a total win for gluten-free vegans and vegetarians. And let's face it.

QuinoaLime quinoa salad with taco seasonings and corn chips is much more hip than canned re-fried beans.

The inspiration for a quinoa taco salad was sparked over on the Gluten-Free Goddess Facebook page. Reader (and long distance friend) Patsy commented on a thread about Memorial Day picnic salads, mentioning her current fave, quinoa taco salad. We all perked up. 

Quinoa? As a taco salad? Brilliant. 

Patsy generously shared her recipe with me. It called for diced tomatoes, black beans and cheese, so I revamped the flavors to create a lighter, legume-free vegan version. Quinoa is a complete vegetarian protein, so you really don't need the black beans (as a complementary protein), unless, of course, you're fond of those fiber rich little beauties in your quinoa salad.

Quinoa Taco Salad

I kept the seasoning simple, relying on my favorite New Mexican inspired pairing of lime juice and sea salt.

I'm a few weeks away from being able to eat quinoa (I'm on a soft foods diet till the middle of June) so I made this for Steve- who added a crumbled, hard boiled huevo to his plate and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

He deemed it blogworthy.

Quinoa taco salad with avocado and lime
A light and fresh take on taco salad- vegan and gluten-free.

Quinoa Taco Salad Recipe

Recipe posted May 2010.

My vegan quinoa taco salad is sans tomatoes. And bean-free. But if you love black beans with a white hot passion, add 'em in. You can also add crumbled goat cheese on top, if you desire.

You'll need:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed, then cooked in two cups water (I use a rice cooker to do this; here's how.)

Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork. Scoop into a bowl.


Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Juice from 2 medium, juicy limes
Sea salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
1 half small red or purple onion, diced fine
1 small yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced fine
1 cup roasted corn kernels (I used frozen, roasted on a cookie sheet for 6-7 minutes, then cooled)
1 large head of crisp romaine lettuce, washed, dried, sliced crosswise
Gluten-free tortilla chips
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, diced


Drizzle the cooked quinoa with extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat. Squeeze on fresh lime juice and toss again. Season with sea salt, to taste.

Add in the fresh chopped cilantro, diced red onion, diced yellow pepper, and roasted corn kernels. Stir lightly to distribute. Taste test for seasoning adjustments.

Line four salad bowls or plates with the fresh romaine. Spoon the quinoa salad on the center of the lettuce. Add the diced avocado to each plate. Tuck in a few tortilla chips around the edges.

Serve with an extra lime wedge.

Serves 4.

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Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com

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More Options:

Add a cup of chilled, drained black beans, if you like your taco salad super hearty.

Add sliced red or yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, if you desire.

Sprinkle with the cheese of your choice.

Serve with your favorite salsa on the side.

Reader Michelle suggests adding diced mango. Sounds yum.

Gluten free quinoa taco salad
Vegan taco salad freshness.

xox Karina


~M said...

Yummm!! I love vegetarian taco salads and quinoa! If I wasn't using tomatoes, I might add diced mango. Quinoa+avocado+mango --> love. :)

Lindsey Johnson said...

This is what I have several times a week for lunch. It's sooooo yummy.

Kalyn said...

Brilliant idea! I am going to be happy when I hear you can eat this yourself! xoxo

Amy Sherman said...

Isn't it amazing how quinoa and avocado love each other so much? A match made a in heaven!

Mrs. L said...

Even if I'm not gluten free I htink this is a wonderful sounding dish! I think it will be perfect for lunch this summer.

Kate said...

OMG. I am sooooo making this!


~ Angi :) said...

Oh. my. gosh!!! My husband is gonna FLIP!! :D THanks!! :)

Jehan al Noor said...

OMG this salad sounds awesome and thanks for the thought of adding mango-I cannot eat corn so that sounds like an awesome sub! Cook on Karina!

Adrien said...

mmm this looks so good! the avocado looks heavenly!

organicquest said...

Beautiful photos! I love quinoa and have been planning on making a quinoa dish soon. Thanks for the inspiration. I would probably put the black beans in mine! :)

I Am Gluten Free said...

Quinoa - one of the amazing foods that makes being Celiac tolerable!


Brian said...

Looks delicious! Quinoa has always been my favorite grain. So glad to get a new recipe with it. There is a red, or black quinoa too!
Welcome back home Karina, all the warmest wishes for a full recovery.

Tracey Mardon said...

Sounds wonderful, that will be dinner tomorrow. Hope you're feeling better by the day!!!

Eco-Vegan Gal said...

Yum - gotta try this! Going to modify it a little since I'm avoiding oil and I don't like peppers. Will probably cut out the corn too and add some tomatoes. What do you think?

3LittleMonkeys said...

Guess what I am making this weekend? LOL Oh yum. Thank you!

The Gluten-free 'Dish' said...

Lovely, hope you are healing quickly! XoX

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Sounds great! I might need to whip this up to serve along with our not-so-healthy, not-so-vegan-or-vegetarian-friendly crawfish boil this weekend! That way, there is an alternative to those who need/want it!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Great idea from your friend, Patsy! I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy quinoa. I'm sure you're looking forward to the day when you can enjoy this salad yourself.

Healing Frog said...

I've made this same dish,a recipe I got a few yrs. ago from another cook,it's delicious,only difference is you added lime I added lemon. I'll have to try the lime instead especially since my guy is from New Mexico.

Maven Pariah said...

Summer lunch at my house tomorrow and I'll be serving this with grilled tilapia and homemade chili oil - thanks for the great recipe and hope you get to feeling tip top very soon.

Sharon said...

No fair that you can't have it right now but thanks so much for sharing, it looks great. I'm still rather new to quinoa and have to admit that sometimes its flavor seems to overpower the other ingredients. Any suggestions? Also, my store just started carrying red quinoa, is there a difference in its flavor?.

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you for all the quinoa love. I love this versatile grain. xox

As for the strong taste- although it's a unique taste, I don't taste it as strong. It's bolder and nuttier than white rice, yes. But not overpowering. And the flavors of olive oil, sea salt and lime balance it quite well. Try cooking it with your favorite gluten-free broth if you like. Or season it with spices. If you are new to quinoa, I bet in a month you'll no longer think it has a strong taste. You'll love it.

I tried red quinoa once, and to me, it had no flavor- so perhaps you'd like it better?

Cheers- k xox

lisa said...

Yum! Great recipe -- it's just what I'm looking for. I have a bit of leftover red quinoa in the fridge. This would be a great way to use it up!

Paz said...

love you new blog look and the sound of this salad. ;-)


Amanda Stuckey said...

Can't believe I haven't thought of this before...can't wait to try it out!

Morellocherry said...

this looks great...so tasty! im definitely going to try this.
ps. i love your cutlery! where did you get it?
also, ive recently just come to the US and im finding it overwhelming finding wheat free ingredients...where do i go for the best??? any tips would be great...thanks :)

mamaruss said...


So glad to hear you are feeling better. I was worried about you when you didn't post for awhile.
Anyways, I made this recipe today to take to a friend's house for supper. Like always, was not disappointed in the results!! Excellent!! We really enjoyed it. I have not tried any of your recipes that I didn't like.
Thanks for all you do. Healthy vibes headed your way.


Heather said...

This is brilliant. I actually took out the tortillas and added the black beans. Is that cheating? I made a huge batch so that we would have leftovers and it was even better the next day.

Kim said...

This was amazing!! Even my husband loved it and he not GF!! So refreshing!!

Amy said...

Oh, I was out of avocadoes! Sad day. However, I'd been gifted a grilled chicken breast, which made a yummy, albeit non-vegan, substitution.

Brooklyn Blade said...

Yum! We made this last night, and it was delish! I did add the black beans, because I love them. I also added some cumin and some NM red chile powder (mild).

EsquireD said...

This is dinner tonight! Appears similar to the Quinoa Black Bean salad at Whole Foods (which I replicate at home at 1/2 the price). This is such a wonderful grain!

CarolB said...

I am brand spanking new to this site and to wheat allergies. I just bought a bread machine, my first items over the internet that are gluten free (with bad results since the first ingredient in them is garbonzo bean flour-what's with that??! ...hence my finding you here), and I do love to bake myself. I am overwhelmed by all this information and you seem to be a bonifide expert! Thank God. I am looking for a very basic bread mix and a few staple items to start with. Can you suggest some for me please? I am so sick of being sick and puffy and sleepy from this. Help. (GRR!!!!)

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you all for the serious quinoa love. I'm glad you share my enthusiasm for this amazing gluten-free grain. I'll be making more quinoa recipes this summer. xox k

Carol- I have tons of info for you. Start with the navigation bar at the top of the page- check out: How to go g-free, and the FAQ page. Cheers- Karina

April said...

yummmm! i used red quinoa to get it extra color and added a fresh zucchini from the garden ... this is my new summer favorite!

donnaR said...

this looks amazing! i am already craving it and will be dishing it up the day after tomorrow.

Karen said...

When I first started making quinoa salad I followed a recipe from Cynthia Lair, author of Feeding the Whole Athlete and other titles. She suggested a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin to pour over the cooked quinoa. Pour the mixture over the warm (but not hot) cooked quinoa. The quinoa absorbs the dressing best when it is still warm. Thank you for this version always good to have a variety of quinoa salad recipes.

gfreemom said...

This looks perfect. Simple, delicious and perfect. Will need to cut out the onions and avocado when giving it to the kids though. Like the idea of adding some beans instead. Thanks for sharing!

missmarc said...

I am so happy to have found your blog! I don't even remember how I found it but it was fate! I recently discovered that I should probably start being GF/DF after 19 years (i.e. my whole LIFE) of IBS etc. my mom made this recipe for me tonight with black beans and substituted green peppers and had lightly salted advacado and it was delicious! Ive been GF for about a week now.
I wanted to personally thank you, and I will continue you to, for every recipe that I eat and love from you.

I have a question though: do you have a lot of information on meats (filled/not filled) that celiacs/lactoses are sensitive to and should watch out for? Id really appreciate it if you could answer me. thanks again!

Karina Allrich said...

I'm not sure what you're asking, exactly--- but fresh, plain meat is gluten-free (but may be hard for those with IBS).

Watch out for added marinades, gravy, seasonings and broth that may contain gluten. For more on what to look for, see the Gluten-Free Diet ABC's link at the top- it's a quick cheat sheet of where gluten lurks-- to get you started. Cheers! Karina

missmarc said...

Thank you for getting back to me. I think I'm just trying to think of meats that will bother my stomach like salami, capicola, pepperoni etc. thanks for the comment though!

Karina Allrich said...

Cured meats are very aggravating to a sensitive digestive system, and increase inflammation. Why not go veg? ;-)

Houston Ima said...

Made this for Friday night dinner and it was fabulous - extremely refreshing. This one is a keeper!

Leigh said...

I love this salad and your other quinoa recipes. This one is my favorite so far. Your website is one of my favorite food blogs and I'm not even gluten-free! Thank you!

Eforelyse said...

I just made this and devoured it!!! Added ground chicken so my husband would eat it too :) I squeezed some lime over the lettuce before I added the quinoa on top. Thank you this is DELISH!!!

jean.e.lane said...

Regarding strong flavored quinoa - a friend told me that chilled quinoa doesn't have such a strong flavor. I tried her salad and it was delish. So this taco salad, which is also chilled, would be wonderful. I'm going to try!

Tracy said...

I am going to try this with wild rice. I think it would be delicious!

Wendy said...

This looks so amazing! I'm going to make it with mango tomorrow! Quinoa, mango, avocado and chips....yum! Thanks for sharing and I wish you a speedy recovery!

Natalie said...

Great recipe! I will probably add black beans to make it more filling. It might also be fun to experiment seasoning the quinoa with the same flavors you would season taco meat (chili powder, paprika, garlic, oregano, onion powder, etc...)

Lovely pictures too!

Superfood Sisters said...

This would also be delicious with a Cumin, olive oil and lemon juice sauce to add a little more kick!

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