Tempeh Quinoa Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
5 from 1 vote

This tempeh quinoa salad is satisfying, nutritious, and colorful! A zesty salad of quinoa, beans, and crispy vegetables is topped with high protein slices of seared tempeh. The salad features a simple cumin vinaigrette.

An overhead image of a rimmed salad plate, which is covered in greens, quinoa, and seared tempeh slices.

Have you ever tried to convince somebody that salad can be a meal?

Not a side dish, not a garnish, not an appetizer. A whole meal, nutritious and varied and satisfying. Dinner, served.

I love salad in all of its forms, from light and appetizer-sized to hearty and meal-sized. I lean more toward the meal-sized salads, which channel the meal planning principle I wrote about in Power Plates: inclusion of a protein, a starch, a healthful fat, and plenty of vegetables.

Summer is an especially wonderful time for big, hearty dinner salads. They’re filling without demanding a lot of cooking. This tempeh quinoa salad is one of my all-time favorites.

My tempeh quinoa salad inspiration

This salad was inspired heavily by a salad at Candle Cafe, a New York City restaurant that is sadly no longer. That salad, which I ordered nearly every time I went to Candle for lunch, was a mix of quinoa, corn, black beans, red onion, cumin dressing, seared tempeh, and greens.

My tempeh quinoa salad is a little less complex, but it channels the primary ingredients and vibe of Candle’s original!

Still enchanted with last week’s quinoa and black bean salad with quick cumin vinaigrette, I decided to make a few modifications, to add some scrumptious (and filling) seared tempeh, and to top it all with a thick heap of fresh avocado. The overall effect was a perfect tribute to the Candle salad I love so much!

How to cook quinoa for salad

I prepare quinoa for grain salads the same way that I prepare it in general.

I begin by rinsing the dry quinoa under cold, running water through a fine sieve. I do this for about a whole minute, or until the water runs clear.

I’m a big believer in a 1 cup dry quinoa to 1 3/4 cups water ratio. 1 cup grain to 2 cups water will work, too, but I think that the quinoa is a little fluffier when the ratio of grain to water is slightly higher.

I place the rinsed quinoa and water in a medium sized saucepot and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, I lower the heat to low. I cover the pot and simmer the quinoa for 13 minutes. Then, I remove the pot from heat, still covered, and let it sit for 5 minutes.

I fluff the quinoa with a fork, then I re-cover the pot. And I allow the quinoa to sit for 5 more minutes.

At that point, the quinoa is ready to eat, store, or use in grain salads like this one.

Seared, square slices of tempeh are arranged with avocado and vegetables on a salad plate.

My favorite powerhouse plant protein

It’s no big secret that I love tempeh. It’s probably my favorite plant protein, ever!

I use tempeh in so many ways. I marinate it and bake it simply. I use it in tacos, meatballs (and meatball subs), stuffed peppers, pasta bowls, easy lunch salads, a higher protein vegan ratatouille, and more.

How to cook tempeh

Tempeh can be grilled, seared, sautéed, baked, or stewed.

Before any of these cooking preparations, it’s a wise idea to steam tempeh. This helps to reduce some of tempeh’s natural bitterness. I think it also helps to make the tempeh absorb flavors and marinades.

Tempeh quinoa salad ingredients

There’s a lot going on in this salad—in a good way! Here are the main ingredients:


Any tempeh you like is fine for the recipe. I tend to go for a simple soy tempeh, but 3-grain tempeh and flax tempeh have a fun texture.


The recipe calls for black beans or kidney beans, but you can use any bean you like! Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and white beans are also great options.


I like to use cucumber, pepper, and cherry tomatoes in the tempeh quinoa salad. However, you can improvise with the vegetables and add some personal touches. Green beans, summer squash, broccoli, and cauliflower will all be good additions.


Quinoa is a starring ingredient of the salad, but you don’t have to use it if you prefer another grain. The salad would be great with cooked brown basmati rice, couscous, barley, or millet.


You’ll see a recipe for a simple, cumin-spiced vinaigrette in the recipe. It calls for apple cider vinegar and lime juice, which is a nice balance of acidity.

If you prefer, you can use one of my oil-free dressings for the tempeh quinoa salad: cashew cilantro, balsamic Dijon tahini, creamy cashew carrot, green tahini, cashew queso, or sweet Dijon.

Is the tempeh quinoa salad gluten free?

Yes! As written, the salad is gluten free. Be sure to purchase tempeh and quinoa that is GF certified if you have celiac disease.

Storage and preparation

The tempeh quinoa salad is a good candidate for meal preparation and make ahead storage.

The quinoa itself can be cooked up to three days before tossing the salad ingredients together. The quinoa salad will keep, minus the avocado (which browns!) up to two days before you add the tempeh.

The cumin vinaigrette can be stored for up to one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

If you prepare the tempeh quinoa salad ahead of time, I recommend allowing the quinoa salad portion to mingle overnight before serving. Add the tempeh and avocado just before you sit down to eat it.

An overhead image of a rimmed salad plate, which is covered in greens, quinoa, and seared tempeh slices.
5 from 1 vote

Tempeh quinoa salad

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Yields: 4 servings


For the tempeh

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 ounces tempeh

Quinoa salad

  • 1 cup dry quinoa (rinsed)
  • 1 cup peeled and diced cucumber
  • 1 cup halved or quartered grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black or kidney beans
  • 10-15 basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped cilantro
  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 Hass avocado, chopped or thinly sliced
  • Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Cumin vinaigrette

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  • Whisk together the tempeh marinade ingredients in a rectangular or square glass-lock container. Cut the block of tempeh in half lengthwise. Then, cut it into 8 rectangular pieces. Submerge them in the marinade. Cover the container and transfer it to your fridge for at least one hour, and up to overnight.
  • Spray a grill pan or frying pan with avocado oil spray and heat up the grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the tempeh pieces from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Add the tempeh pieces to the grill pan. Grill the tempeh on both sides till nice and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Brush the tempeh with marinade as you go along. When the tempeh pieces have been grilled, set them aside.
  • Rinse the quinoa through a fine sieve under cold, running water. Drain. Add the quinoa and 1 3/4 cups water to a medium saucepot. Bring the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer the quinoa for 13 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat. Allow it to steam for 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa, recover the pot, and allow it to steam for another 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the cumin vinaigrette ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.
  • Add the cooked quinoa and all of the remaining salad ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add the vinaigrette. Toss everything together well. Taste; adjust the lime juice, salt, and pepper to your liking.
  • Divide the salad onto serving plates. Top each serving with one quarter of the tempeh. Serve.
An angled photograph of a vibrant whole grain and bean salad on a white, round serving plate.

This tempeh quinoa salad will satisfy all kinds of eaters: vegan, omnivore, gluten-free diners, and more. You can give thanks, along with your loved ones and friends, for the joys of a good dinner salad.


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Categories: Main Dishes, Salads
Ingredients: Quinoa, Tempeh
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Vegan

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Recipe Rating

  1. Hi Gena,
    I was wondering what kind of tempeh I should buy for this dish. Please let me know. Thank you

  2. Delish! I added some mango as well 🙂 You meals always amaze me. I swear you can read my mind about what flavors I want & have a hard time creating myself, and create a beautiful masterpiece without me even asking 🙂 I am very thankful that you share with your blog. Not many of my friends, family, or neighbors completely embrace my plant-based eating habits. It is nice to have some support and find some comfort within your blog and other online communities.

  3. I made this for dinner tonight and it was amazing!! I can’t wait to go to the new UWS Candle Cafe to try the Aztec Salad now that I’ve tried this!

  4. I just made this for dinner tonight and it was wonderful! I am looking forward to making many, many more of your dishes. I just found your website and I wonderfully amazed!

  5. Gena, made your Quinoa and Bean Salad with Tempeh today for lunch! My husband told me to tell you… “it was very satisfying!” I thought that was a great compliment from a former meat-eater! 🙂 Marinade and dressing were good!
    Late this afternoon I started craving your Tofu Tahini Scramble so made it for dinner tonight! That recipe is my all time favorite! I tend to make it whenever I’m extremely hungry because it’s so satisfying and filling!
    Sure do appreciate your posts!

  6. Blimey, that looks fantastic! I’m not a huge quinoa fan (please shoot me) but i see endless whole grains possibilities in there. I really love pesto salads (bed of arugula + purple lettuce or spinach – or both + cherry tomatoes + grilled capsicums + chickpeas + red onions – i know you hate them, haha – wheat berries or brown rice or gluten free pasta + pesto). Its the best.

  7. Hey Gena,
    Loved this. Made my self a huge and filling salad with the recipe. Especially loved the dressing and marinade!! Genius. Using them both again in another recipe tonight. Amaaazing

  8. This looks sooo good. I’m loving tempeh at the mo. My fave salad as a meal isn’t non-specific but I love when it has as many fresh raw veggies as possible, and is accompanied by tempeh/tofu, roasted sweet potato chunks, avo/nuts and a balsalmic viniagrette/hummus. x

  9. I love this post because I eat a ton of salads as meals. I put a big pile of romaine in a bowl and throw in lots of fresh or roasted veggies, hummus, some nuts and call it a meal. Some of my friends think “oh you always eat salads, how boring, you’re so healthy all the time (as if that’s bad)” but people don’t realize you can truly make them into a well balanced, filling and healthy meal. I love them because they take a long time to eat and have a lot of different textures in one bite!

  10. My “jury” is still out on the fermented taste of tempeh so this marinade sounds great.
    For me, for a salad to be a meal it needs grains – whether it be buckwheat or rice or whatever. I like the heartiness and texture that grains add. Smoked tofu is a must too!

  11. Yes and my mom is still not convinced that salad is a meal. 🙂 This salad looks wonderful, especiall the marinated tempeh. I love dumping random leftovers into a basic salad to economize and make it a meal salad, like cheesy hemp sauce, quinoa, roasted veggies, and even baked sweet potato fries.

  12. Totally on board with salad-as-meal concept. I grew up eating salad (if you can call lettuce and tomato and bottled dressing “salad”) every night, albeit as side dish. When I became anorexic, the other parts of the evening meal fell away, until all that was left was the lettuce and tomato – without the nasty dressing. As I got healthier, the salads got bigger, and more nutrient dense, but “salad for dinner” stuck. It is a happy habit I’m unlikely, ever, to get over. To this day, even in the dark of winter, it’s a rare evening meal that’s not salad-based. I eat other things, of course, but always as accompaniments. In fact, if I’m ever not having salad for dinner, it’s probably because I’m skipping dinner altogether in favor of dessert.

  13. This looks amazing! I am especially admiring that perfectly crispy marinated/sauteed tempeh – one of my favorite salad additions for sure. I can’t wait to make this.

    Re. a previous culinary creation, I finally made your sweet potato hummus last night – LOVED it!

    I hope you allow yourself some down-time this weekend, Gena.

  14. You summer eats are looking so good, Gena. How are you finding the time? You inspire me to do better (I’ve been blaming a crazy schedule on not cooking with as much variety — reading your posts reminds me I’m never too busy, really)

  15. I haven’t been to Candle Cafe in awhile… will have to visit soon! And I make this delicious raw taco salad that I learned from a friend. It’s great to bring to parties and so far everyone whose tried it, can’t believe that the walnut pate isn’t ground beef. 🙂

  16. Yum- so making this for my omni family; i’m sure they’d love this veggie- friendly mexican meal 🙂
    I love huge nutrient dense salad piled high with my favorite accruements: avocado, beans, nuts, tempeh, quinoa, oil, seeds, veggies, avocado, etc. I can’t go a day without one!

  17. candle cafe…oh one can only dream of one in every city.

    there is a place in seattle that has a nice filling salad with quinoa and tempeh too. it’s mama africa at plum in case any seattle readers out there. good stuff.

  18. Eee Gena this sounds so dope! I have been wanting to make a quinoa salad so badly, I’m so glad you posted such an inventive recipe. Plus the vinagrette kinda looks like it could be my new obsession for salads. LOVE!

  19. Aw, for some reason I really love this post. It’s so quintessential CR! And maybe it’s because I’ve been eating big monster salad meals literally 5 nights a week for the past month or so. I definitely go through salad phases myself, but I always love them and always have. I never had to “learn to like them” either, I grew up with them and even eating them as an entire meal – Thank You Mom!

    Anywho, this looks divine. I’m a tempeh fiend, a quinoa fiend, a cumin fiend. So yeah. Heaven!

  20. Salads are almost always a meal in book! You’re right, salads are much more than just a few pieces of lettuce and some rogue tomatoes. Just look at the one you created! I love tempeh on salads, though I gotta be honest. I won’t be turning on my stove until DC ascends from hell at some point in oh, I don’t know, October? Then maybe I’ll make tempeh again!

    This looks like another winner. Can’t wait to try!

  21. A salad can totally be a meal! But to be satisfying enough for me, it has to have fresh greens (preferably dark), a great dressing (number one requirement), a nice combination of textures, and somewhat of a macronutrient balance. I love beans and grains in a salad. And tempeh is great, of course. My favorite salad EVER is the caesar salad at my favorite vegan restaurant. With blackened tempeh in it…it’s amazing! They make the best GF blue corn croutons. Anyway, I’m completely on board with the meal-as-salad concept. I’ve heard numerous times from people that they don’t like to “eat leaves” for dinner. Oh, how I hate the “leaves” reference! Your salad looks completely satisfying. I bet it would change a lot of minds!

  22. I try to convince my boyfriend all the time that salads are meals! He doesn’t get why I just love awesome salad bars. I think it’s a lost cause. This looks phenomenal, such a nutrient-dense, easy meal!! Thanks!

  23. Omg Gena this looks phenomenal!

    “Have you ever tried to convince somebody that salad can be a meal? Not a side dish, not a garnish, not a appetizer, but a meal.”-
    Yes. All the time. I used to post all my salads-as-meals and got so sick of “defending” my food choices in my comments section that I stopped posted them. People either get it, or they don’t. I get it. I love salads as meals. Nuff said.

    As for what you made
    The Ginger, lime, tobacco, the marinade AND the vinaigrette..maple, agave, ginger, cumin…omg. These are “my” flavors. PERFECT!!! 🙂

    • You shouldn’t give up Averie! Those of us who appreciate your recipes and huge salads are alway looking for new creative ideas (I know I get stuck in a rut very easily with my meal salads). So here is one reader who would appreciate it if you would post something new and creative now and then. I’ll defend you in teh comments!
      Thanks Gena, for posting a (creative!!!) salad with Tempeh…haven’t used it much (not yet a fan), but this looks so yummy, I’ll have to try it!