What do you get when you add a variety of proteins, a whole grain, and lots of colorful veggies to a bowl and then drizzle it with a simple vinaigrette? A satisfying, all-in-one meal that you’ll want to make again and again!
May I tell you how many times I’ve chopped up some leftover chicken, added a few fresh vegetables, grabbed a dry good or two from the pantry and called it dinner?
Sounds rather uninspired, right? I should add that this sort of make-the-most-of-what-you-have type meal often garners more praise then it seemingly deserves.
The key? A flavorful vinaigrette.
In this case, just the right amount of honey balances a blend of lime juice and vinegar for a flavorful dressing with a lovely balance of sweet and tangy.
A little trick I often employ when making a vinaigrette is to use vinegar and citrus, even in something like honey “lime” vinaigrette. In this case, I use apple cider vinegar with the lime juice. The combination creates a more nuanced flavor that isn’t too harsh or too limey.
A spoonful of Dijon further enhances the flavor, and when mixed with the honey, create a mixture that emulsifies nicely and adheres well to the salad ingredients. A subtle hint of heat supplies the finishing touch without tasting spicy.
If you aren’t someone who regularly makes a homemade dressing, know that this will take just a few minutes to whip up and can be prepared in advance. It will keep for a week or more in the fridge for quick salads any time of day.
Keep in mind that the various components of this recipe stand well on their own, too. Feel free, for example, to use the dressing for tossed salads with similar ingredients, varying based on what you have on hand or may sound good to you.
Or try couscous in place of quinoa, chickpeas instead of black beans, or swap the red pepper with tomatoes. I’ve included a few more ways to mix, match, and customize below.
While I pair this hearty salad with Honey Lime Chicken ⇧⇧ it’s not a necessity.
Chicken steeped in the 3-ingredient marinade, pictured below, is incredibly easy, flavorful, and provides a worthy alternative for the quinoa bowls. With either recipe, I always grill more than needed the first night.
The grilled chicken breasts are delightful with a side of corn and sliced tomatoes. Or you can use additional marinade for vegetables like sliced zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, onions, and portobello mushrooms－marinate for an hour or two and grill them alongside the chicken for an effortlessly delicious summer meal. And then use the leftover chicken for the quinoa bowls another evening.
Of course, if you enjoy the convenience of a rotisserie chicken, you may absolutely use one for these bowls. If you are a shrimp fan, that will provide an equally complementary protein alternative, and you could even use the honey lime marinade (or the linked recipe above) with shrimp.
Prefer a vegetarian option? You may serve the chicken and salad separately, as mentioned above. Optionally, you could use tofu or your favorite plant-based meat alternative. Or add some frozen and thawed shelled edamame. Or simply let the protein-rich black beans take center stage!
And did you know? Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that our body can’t produce on its own. One cup of the cooked grain, which is naturally gluten-free, provides about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Another fun fact and a quinoa tip: The tiny grains have a natural protective coating called saponin, which tastes bitter. This was an evolutionary defense against being eaten by birds. For this reason, it’s best to rinse quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer or sieve and then drain it well. I rinse quinoa even when the package says that it has been pre-rinsed, as I’ve found the pre-rinsing methods of some brands are more effective than others. The bitter taste is not good, but a thorough rinse will eliminate it.
New to quinoa? I include my favorite technique and a few other details in this post for Perfectly Cooked Quinoa.
- ½ cup (160g) honey
- ⅓ cup (80ml) low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 (30ml) tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (marinade will accommodate up to 2 – 2½ pounds of chicken if you’d like to make extra)
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (70 ml) olive or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons (40g) honey
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Frank’s Original cayenne pepper sauce; could use Sriracha or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (180g) uncooked quinoa
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup corn, fresh cooked or thawed frozen*
- 1 red pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 avocado, chopped*
- ¼ cup minced or slivered red onion (or 2-3 sliced scallions)
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro (more to taste; may substitute fresh parsley or chives if preferred)
- Optional for serving: lime wedges; a sprinkle of roasted pepitas (pumpkin seed); crumbled feta or cotija cheese; extra hot sauce, and/or cilantro
- For the quinoa: In a fine mesh colander or sieve, rinse the quinoa well and then drain. Cook according to the package directions (or see these instructions for Perfectly Cooked Quinoa). Allow the cooked quinoa to rest, covered and off the heat, for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Helpful hints: quinoa may be used warm or cold, as preferred. It may also be made in advance and refrigerated. Leftover cooked quinoa is fair game, too.
For the chicken: Mix the honey, soy sauce, lime juice, olive oil, and optional cayenne pepper in a large zipper-top bag. Add the chicken and marinate for a few hours or overnight, if possible.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade, and grill over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes per side or until golden brown and just cooked through. (Cooking time will vary based on size of chicken breasts; internal temperature should read 165℉.)
Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before chopping into bite-size pieces. (Alternatively, you may thinly slice and serve the chicken breasts over the quinoa salad.)
For the vinaigrette: Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or in a small bowl. Shake or whisk to combine. May be prepared in advance and refrigerated for at least a week.
For the salad: Add the chicken, black beans, corn, red pepper, avocado, onion, and cilantro to the quinoa. Drizzle with ⅓ to ½ cup of the vinaigrette. Toss to combine, and then taste and add more vinaigrette and/or an extra pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. The salad may be served warm, cold, or room temperature with optional toppings, as desired.
•The quinoa may be cooked in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated until ready to use.
•If using frozen corn and you haven’t thought to thaw it, simply toss into the hot cooked quinoa as is. It will thaw in no time. Alternatively, if you’re using leftover quinoa, you can run cool water over the corn and then drain well.
•If preparing this meal in advance, simply add the avocado just before serving so that it remains bright green.
•On occasion, I’ve used a dollop of guacamole in place of the avocado.