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Warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower is equal parts savory deliciousness and unimpeachable nutrition. Vegan, gluten-free, and make-ahead friendly.

warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower in a white bowl
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Why we love this recipe

Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to use up leftover quinoa, here’s how to turn a few humble ingredients into a symphony. This dish is:

  • Layered with beautiful savory flavors
  • Packed with protein, fiber, and some healthy fats
  • Naturally vegan and gluten-free

I first published this recipe here in 2015. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe a bit, but in essence it remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance a the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Quinoa acts like a grain in the culinary world, but it’s actually a seed. It’s both gluten-free and packed with protein. I’ve pictured the white variety here, but you can use any color or combination of colors interchangeably. Here’s how to cook it perfectly every time.
  • I like to use vibrant purple cauliflower for this recipe when I can find it. It reacts with the lemon juice to create the most stunning mottled pink and purple color in the finished dish. It tastes the same as white cauliflower, so you can 100% use whichever variety you’ve got.
  • French lentils are also called Puy lentils. They cook up creamy while holding their shape, making them perfect for salads — and have a delicate, complex, earthy flavor.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a beautiful bowl of warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll cook the quinoa, the lentils, and the cauliflower until each is perfectly tender.
  2. Then you’ll sauté the onion, garlic, and capers in the olive oil until tender, lightly browned and absolutely banging with flavor.
  3. Add the quinoa to the pan and stir to warm through (if necessary) and coat with the oil and aromatics.
  4. Combine quinoa mixture, lentils, cauliflower, walnuts, and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and mix gently to combine well. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

Do I have to use purple cauliflower?

Nope. This salad will taste just as good with regular white cauliflower.

But if you can find the purple stuff, go for it. Purple cauliflower turns bright pink in spots when you squeeze lemon juice onto it, and in my opinion, that trick alone is worth the price of admission.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Yes! Truth be told, warm quinoa salad is also great cold or at room temperature. It keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, so it’s great for meal prep and making ahead. You can reheat it in the microwave before serving if you like, or skip that step if you prefer.

More favorite quinoa recipes

warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower in a white bowl

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warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower in a white bowl
4.88 from 8 votes

Warm Quinoa Salad with Lentils and Cauliflower

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Warm quinoa salad with lentils and cauliflower is equal parts savory deliciousness and unimpeachable nutrition. Vegan, gluten-free, and make-ahead friendly.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (70 grams) dry french lentils
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) good vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head cauliflower, about 1 pound/(545 grams) (see note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup 2 ounces/(57 grams) dry weight capers
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, see note 3
  • ½ cup (60 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted (see note 4)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions 

  • In a small pot, stir together the lentils, broth, herbes de Provence, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let steam for 10 minutes more. If any liquid remains, drain it.
  • Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
  • In a medium pot, bring an inch of water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover pot, and steam until tender. Drain.
  • Warm the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned in spots, about five minutes.
  • Add garlic and capers and cook, stirring, one minute more.
  • Stir in cooked quinoa and heat through.
  • Tip quinoa mixture, lentils, and cauliflower into a large mixing bowl.
  • Sprinkle with the walnuts and lemon juice and mix gently to combine.

Notes

  1. French lentils are also called Puy lentils. They cook up creamy while holding their shape, making them perfect for salads — and have a delicate, complex, earthy flavor.
  2. I like to use vibrant purple cauliflower for this recipe when I can find it. It reacts with the lemon juice to create the most stunning mottled pink and purple color in the finished dish. It tastes the same as white cauliflower, so you can 100% use whichever variety you’ve got.
  3. These days my favorite way to cook consistently excellent quinoa is in the Instant Pot. You can find both IP and stovetop instructions for great quinoa in this post.
  4. To toast the walnuts, simply place them in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until fragrant and lightly browned — about five minutes total.
  5. This salad is also great cold or at room temperature. It keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, so it’s great for meal prep and making ahead. You can reheat it in the microwave before serving if you like, or skip that step if you prefer.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 132kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Sodium: 527mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salads + Bowls
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.88 from 8 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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6 Comments

  1. Sweet jesus this is good. All the layers of flavour. Hubby and I are in food heaven, thank you! ! I added some tiny crispy tofu cubes for protein and it worked out great

  2. Girlfriend . . .yum! This is a great weeknight dinner. It came together quickly, and the earthy flavors and differing textures make it more than the sum of its parts. My husband loved it, and I will definitely make it again.