This vibrant quinoa, pesto chicken salad with green vegetables makes a tasty light meal. It's also a great way to use up leftover roast chicken as well as leftover pesto!
Usually pesto goes with pasta or you can drizzle it on soup. But, after using it to make this chicken pesto salad with quinoa I definitely believe that it is not used with enough variety. Why save pesto for pasta? The pesto goes brilliantly with the quinoa in this salad. What about using it on other grains to? Or beans? Or lentils?
As far as I'm aware, I don't think enough people have tried the combination of quinoa and pesto. I'm not saying it hasn't been done before, just not by enough people. Wouldn't it be nice to change that?
I promise you that if next time you have a roast chicken, you use the leftovers to make this quinoa, pesto and chicken salad, you will not be disappointed.
Having leftover roast chicken that I needed to use up is how this quinoa and pesto chicken salad came about. The best thing about it is that it is a meal from leftovers which also makes enough for leftovers. I managed to eat this quinoa salad for 2 days in a row and even then I was not tired of it. I would actually cook some chicken just to make this.
So, if you don't have leftover roast chicken but want to have this pesto chicken salad, don't let that stop you.
What ingredients are in this pesto chicken salad?
I use leftover roast chicken but you can even cook a chicken breast just to make it. Here's what you'll need:
- Quinoa - You can use red, black or white quinoa or a mixture. I usually start with dried quinoa and cook it from scratch but you can buy pouches of ready cooked quinoa if you prefer.
- Lemon - The juice is used in the dressing. I like to use fresh lemons but if you have a bottle of squeezed lemon juice you can use that. It just doesn't tend to be as vibrant tasting.
- Seasoning - A little salt and black pepper to taste.
- Oil - I use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. You can experiment with different oils too. Some nut oils would work well in this.
- Vegetabes - I've used a mixture of spring onions, sugar snap peas, cucumber and asparagus. You can switch these up and use different vegetables though. As I make this salad to use up leftover roast chicken and often leftover pesto too, it really depends on what vegetables I have in my fridge.
- Pesto - I have made this salad with homemade pesto and with a jar of bought pesto
- Chicken - I usually make this with leftover roast chicken but it also works with leftover roast turkey. It's a great recipe to make between Christmas and New Year to use up some of the leftover roast dinner.
How to make this pesto quinoa and chicken salad
Do check out the full recipe card further down the post. Basically, this salad is just a matter of cooking the quinoa, chopping up the vegetables, slicing the chicken and mixing them all together with some pesto!
Make sure you taste it and add extra seasoning or dressing if necessary.
How to adapt the recipe
This is a great recipe to play around with. You can definitely change the vegetables. Why not add peas, courgette or green beans? You may need to lightly cook some vegetables first depending on what you use.
The quinoa is the base of the salad and can also be substituted with something else. Rice or pasta both work really well. You can use any grain or even try green lentils.
If you don't have leftover roast chicken but another meat then try it too. You can even make a vegetarian version by using grilled halloumi. Or just diced feta or goats cheese.
What kind of pesto can you use?
I like this particular salad with green pesto. If you have your own way of making it then that's great and go ahead. It's delicious with a traditional basil pesto, either homemade or shop bought. However, if you want to vary the pesto you use why not try one of these pesto recipes:
- Dairy-free coriander pesto with cashew nuts
- Basil and sunflower seed pesto
- Carrot top pesto
- Sundried tomato pesto with almonds
Can you make this in advance?
This is a great salad recipe to prepare in advance. You can make it in the morning if you know you'll be busy later in the day and then dinner is ready whenever you want it. Or lunch.
It's also great to eat the next day and can be put in a lunch box or picnic too.
Just store this salad in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep well for about three days. Of course, if you make it with leftover roast chicken then it will keep for three days from when the chicken was cooked.
I often store the salad separately from the chicken and just put them together when I'm serving them. If I do this I add a little more pesto to the chicken if I still have some left over.
Chicken and Pesto Quinoa Salad
- 200 g dried quinoa
- ½ lemon juiced
- Pinch Black pepper
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Spring onions sliced
- 100 g sugar snap peas sliced into about 3 pieces
- ½ cucumber cut into sticks
- 16 tender spears of asparagus sliced into pieces about 3cm long
- 150 g basil pesto. Use this recipe or shop bought.
- 400 g Cooked chicken
- Cook the quinoa according to the pack instructions. It should take about 10 minutes. Leave to cool.
- Mix the lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper into the quinoa. Then stir in the vegetables.
- Stir in a couple of table spoons of pesto into the salad. Taste and add a bit more if necessary.
- Serve the salad with some chicken on top and drizzled with some more pesto.
More Chicken Salad Recipes
I love making chicken salads and here are some more recipe on Searching for Spice that you might like!
Or why not try my black quinoa and chicken salad?
I love salads and even have a whole recipe collection for main course salad recipes. Do check it out if you're looking for meal planning inspiration.
Keep in touch
Do let me know if you make these leftover roast chicken and pesto salad or any of my other recipes. I love to get feedback from readers.
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