Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing

$4.92 recipe / $2.46 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.88 from 8 votes
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While I’m really glad that most quick serve restaurants have hopped on the “meal salad” bandwagon (Hi Panera!) they’re still too expensive to eat on a regular basis. Giant salads can be tough to make at home because it always feels like you need a million ingredients, but this Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing is pretty simple and uses ingredients that are fairly shelf stable, so you can make a couple salads here, a couple salads there, and not worry about a bunch of fresh ingredients going limp.

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing

Autumn Quinoa Salad drenched in Lemon Turmeric Dressing ready to eat.

It’s all about that dressing…

This salad is inspired by the Almond Butter Turmeric Salad Dressing I grabbed from Trader Joes last week. After my first taste of the creamy bright yellow dressing I was determined to recreate it at home. While my Lemon Turmeric Dressing is not exactly like the Trader Joe’s version, it’s pretty darn close. I’ve been loving this earthy creamy dressing on tart Granny Smith apples, so I built the salad around that duo, adding some rainbow quinoa for bulk (and autumn-like color) plus a few sliced almonds and cranberries for crunch and sweetness.

About the almond butter…

I’ve found that almond butter varies a lot in flavor and texture from brand to brand. While I would have preferred a natural-style almond butter for this, all I had on hand was a more solid-style butter that contained sugar (Simply Nature brand from Aldi). Just keep in mind that depending on which brand you use, your dressing may need more or less water to achieve the desired consistency, and you may prefer more or less sugar.

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Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing

4.88 from 8 votes
Balance out the heavier cooked down and roasted flavors of fall with this light and tangy Autumn Quinoa Salad with homemade Lemon Turmeric Dressing. 
Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing ready for serving
Servings 2 large salads
Prep 15 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 30 mins

Ingredients

Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa* ($0.85)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)

Lemon Turmeric Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp almond butter ($0.44)
  • 3 Tbsp hot water ($0.00)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.12)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp sugar ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper (about 1/8 tsp) ($0.02)

Salad

  • 4 cups baby greens ($1.66)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple ($1.24)
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries ($0.14)
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds ($0.33)

Instructions 

  • Rinse the quinoa well in a fine wire mesh sieve. Add the quinoa, 1/8 tsp salt, and 3/4 cup water to a small sauce pot. Place a lid on top and bring it up to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes the quinoa should be tender. Spread the quinoa out over a tray or baking dish, then place it in the refrigerator to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the lemon turmeric dressing. In a bowl or jar, combine the almond butter, hot water (start with 2 Tbsp), lemon juice, ground ginger, ground turmeric, sugar, salt, and pepper (about 5 cranks of a pepper mill). Stir very well until the almond butter fully combines with the liquid and the mixture is smooth. Add more water, if needed, to make the dressing smooth and pourable (I used 3 Tbsp total). Place the dressing in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Thinly slice the Granny Smith apple.
  • To build the salads, place 2 cups of baby greens in each large bowl. Add half of the apples slices to each, then spoon about 1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa over top. Sprinkle one tablespoon each of dried cranberries and sliced almonds on each salad. Finally, drizzle the lemon turmeric dressing on top, and serve.

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Notes

*I used rainbow colored quinoa because the colors went with the Autumn theme, but plain white quinoa is probably less expensive. If using pre-cooked quinoa, you'll need about 1 cup total for two salads.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 153.85kcalCarbohydrates: 27.5gProtein: 3.35gFat: 3.9gSodium: 846.7mgFiber: 5.9g
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Lemon Turmeric Dressing being poured onto an Autumn Quinoa Salad

Step by Step Photos

Cook Rainbow Quinoa

Begin cooking the quinoa first, because it also needs to cool before you add it to the salad. Rinse 1/2 cup rainbow quinoa (or plain quinoa, if you prefer) very well in a fine wire mesh sieve. Place the quinoa in a pot and add 1/8 tsp salt and 3/4 cup water. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer over low for 15 minutes.

Cool Rainbow Quinoa

After simmering for 15 minutes, the quinoa should be tender. Spread it out onto a tray or dish so it cools faster. Place the dish in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to cool.

Almond Butter Turmeric Dressing

Next, begin making the lemon turmeric dressing. The photo above is the Almond Butter Turmeric Salad Dressing from Trader Joes that I was trying to recreate. If you want, you can simply just use the store bought version instead of making your own.

Lemon Turmeric Dressing Spoon

To make the homemade version, combine 2 Tbsp almond butter with 2 Tbsp hot water, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 5 cranks of a pepper mill). Stir very well until the almond butter creates a creamy mixture with the liquid (this may take a good deal of stirring). Then, add more hot water to get the dressing to the consistency you prefer. I used 3 Tbsp hot water, total. If your almond butter is more runny, you may need less. Place the dressing in the refrigerator until ready to be used. The vibrancy of the yellow color will increase as the dressing sits.

Slice Apples

Thinly slice one Granny Smith apple. I find that slicing it thinly makes the perfect amount of tartness to contrast the creamy and earthy dressing.

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing ready for serving

Finally, it’s time to build the salads. Place about 2 cups baby greens in a large bowl, then top with 1/2 of the sliced apples, 1/2 cup of the cooked and cooled quinoa, 1 Tbsp each of dried cranberries and sliced almonds, and a healthy drizzle of the Lemon Turmeric Dressing!

Front view of Autumn Quinoa Salad with Lemon Turmeric Dressing

The earthy, crisp flavors of this Autumn Quinoa Salad are perfect for the crisp days of fall when the air smells like wet leaves! #inlove

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  1. This was likely the best salad I’ve ever made! I added grilled chicken. I’ll probably make this on a weekly basis going forward! Many thanks 🙏🏼

  2. This salad was absolutely wonderful! In the spirit of running with whatever happened to be in the pantry, I used tahini instead of almond butter and substituted honey for sugar. Tossed in some pepitas and voila! A delicious autumn meal. Thanks for all of the fabulous recipes, Beth! Your blog is my go-to inspiration for keeping things fresh and creative in the kitchen! 😊

  3. My husband and I loved it! I was able to make it with stuff we already had. Added kale! He starts his PhD this Wednesday and we’re both in grad school, so the budget-friendliness certainly help. He’s a great cook and cooks most of our meals but I’m picking up more of the week’s meals to give him some breathing room during this tough first year of grad school. Thanks, Budget Bytes! <3

  4. Great meal salad! I made it without the quinoa, and it was still delicious and filling. We loved the dressing, too.

  5. Oh my god, this is SO good! Made it exactly as written. The only change I’d make is to cut the apples into smaller chunks next time — the slices are a little awkward. My GF and devoured the whole batch though. :) All of the flavors are incredible together.

  6. I’ve never left a recipe review before but this salad is SO GOOD. I’m nowhere near a Trader Joe’s, so thanks for recreating this amazing dressing that I never knew I was missing!

    Would love to see more “meal salads” in the future. I love Panera’s “Modern Greek” salad… 

  7. Can I use peanut butter instead of almond butter? I’ve got nearly a whole jar left from another recipe.

    1. Technically you can, but it will completely change the flavor. I think almond butter is much better suited for this recipe because it is mild and slightly sweet.

  8. Question about the dressing: If I mix enough to take it to work for our Thanksgiving potluck this weekend, will it be good to use Thurs. Nov. 15?

  9. Beth– this is so good! I love that all I needed to run out and buy for this were some fresh salad greens. If you can concoct some more delicious pantry-staple salad recipes my body would thank you for it! I’ve been slacking with the salads lately, ha!

  10. If anyone is allergic to peanuts but not other nuts we have found most Almond Butter is processed with peanuts. You can look into Barney Butter. It’s a little expensive I bought it at Walmart then found that you can by right from the company. They do however process coconut. I hope this helps and you can get it without sugar. It is made in California using California Almonds

  11. Any suggestions on what a good substitute for the apple would be? I’m allergic but I like the look of this otherwise.

  12. Yes! That salad dressing is seriously sooo good…and expensive. Can’t wait to try this version.

  13. I just bought and downloaded the BudgetBytes app, but can’t seem to find this recipe on there. Why is that?

    1. It can take a few days for new recipes to get uploaded into the app. All new recipes are uploaded into the marketplace (click on the little shopping bag icon on the bottom center of the home screen) where you can pick and choose which recipes to download using credits. You start with a large bank of credits and earn more as you use the app, or you can choose to purchase bulk credits.

  14. How many does this feed? Need quantity on the recipe, please.  How many as a side salad? How many for a main dish salad?k

    1. While Beth already answered, I wanted to say that the “servings” for a side dish or salad are always kind of arbitrary. In the case of this salad, you end up with 7+ cups of finished product–so how large are side and entree salads at your house? For us, about 1.5 c is a decent serving for a side salad made with greens and grains, so this recipe makes 4 generous servings, 5 acceptable ones and could stretch to serve 6 at a pinch. At our house, 3 lunch entrees at about 2.5 c. each. Servings too small? Add more greens. Want some added protein, throw in some chick peas. I personally thought this recipe was perfect as written and we had it for lunch

      With the closest Trader Joe’s about 85 miles away, I’ve never tried the original dressing–this one was absolutely delicious