See that salad? I just ate leftovers for breakfast. After my annual too-many potato chips session at the lake with my family, I’m craving fresh, bright, satisfyingly crunchy things. Surely I am not the only one!
I really want to tell you all about Oklahoma, and how the trees shrink into broccoli florets and the dirt turns red on that familiar drive south on I-35. I want to tell you about meeting my newest cousin and how she let me hold her for over an hour (maybe I hogged her a bit). And how extra-cute Cookie is after a few days apart. She’s snuggled up under my right elbow now.
I just got the manuscript back for my cookbook, so I have a busy week of editing and drinking too much coffee ahead of me. I can finally see the finish line. I’m excited to wrap it all up and get back to hanging out with you guys in the comments and on Instagram. I’ve really been missing you.
Anyway, this salad is inspired by one that I reached for at Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago. They call it the “Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite.” I grabbed one of the last ones before they closed, so it wasn’t quite as crunchy as it should have been, but I recognized the potential.
Here is my version of the Trader Joe’s salad, which is not a dead ringer, but close. My salad features chopped romaine, radishes, carrots, toasty sunflower seeds, quinoa and dried cranberries.
This salad is a big, colorful bowl of healthy, crunchy goodness. It packs great for lunch, if you just store the zippy cilantro-lime dressing separately. Salads are pretty much all I want to eat this time of year, so I’ll be back with more salads soon.
Watch How to Make Perfectly Fluffy Quinoa
Mega Crunchy Romaine Salad with Quinoa
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 salads 1x
- Category: Salad
This irresistible salad is modeled after Trader Joe’s “Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite.” It’s light but filling, healthy, and bursting with fresh flavors. This salad packs great for later; just store the dressing separately and toss just before serving. Recipe yields 4 medium-sized salads.
- ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 ⅓ cups water
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small head of romaine (about 11 ounces) or one 5-to-6-ounce bag of romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup shredded carrots (I used 2 large carrots, turned into ribbons with a julienne peeler and roughly chopped)
- 1 cup chopped cabbage (green or purple) or broccoli slaw
- ½ cup chopped radishes
- ½ cup dried cranberries
Zippy cilantro dressing
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
- 2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder or regular chili powder
- To cook the quinoa: Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat a bit to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.
- To toast the sunflower seeds: Combine the sunflower seeds and olive oil in a medium skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently (careful, they’ll burn), until the seeds are fragrant and starting to turn lightly golden on the edges. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the prepared romaine, carrots, cabbage, radishes and cranberries. Once the quinoa and sunflower seeds have cooled, add them to the bowl as well.
- To prepare the dressing: In a blender or small food processor, combine all of the ingredients and blend well, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste, and adjust as necessary—it should be zippy, but if it’s overwhelmingly tart, add a bit more honey. If you’d like a little more kick, add another ¼ teaspoon chili powder.
- If you’ll be serving the salad all at once, drizzle in enough dressing to lightly coat the salad once tossed (you might not use all of it), and toss to combine. If you intend to have leftovers, store the salad separately from the dressing, and toss just before serving.
Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
Change it up: This salad is really flexible. You could use your greens of choice instead of romaine (if using kale, which will hold up better to the dressing, be sure to remove the tough ribs and massage it before adding it to the bowl). You can also change up the chopped veggie components—you need about 2 ½ cups total.
▸ Nutrition Information
This salad sounds great. Lime-cilantro dressing is my favorite. I always order that with my salads at one of my favorite places to eat, but have never made it at home. So I guess I’ll have to try it now. Good luck with your editing project.
Thank you, Susan! I hope you enjoy the salad dressing.
I will definitely make this again! Delicious and so refreshing. We added chopped apple (we just visited a local orchard so we’re adding apples to everything!), and halloumi cheese. I don’t think this salad NEEDS the extras but they definitely were tasty additions!
Yum there’s just something about quinoa in a salad, i’m having a love affair with it at the moment. And now back to that manuscript! ;-) ;-)
I’m on it! :D
This salad sounds great but I don’t like cilantro…could I use parsley or basil instead? Love all of your recipes!! Thanks!
Hey Julie! I think basil or a combo of basil and parsley would be great. You could also just omit the herbs and whisk everything else together. I think it would still be good without them.
I used a little parsley in lieu of cilantro and it was great.
This looks perfect for lunch for the rest of the week. We also just got back from vacation, and I NEED something fresh and healthy.
I hope you love it! There’s nothing better than a big quinoa salad to reset.
I did love it! I made it today and the dressing is divine!! Thank you again for another keeper recipe.
Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
Perfect light crunchy salad for the super hot days ahead! Love the flavors in the dressing.
Sarah | Well and Full
That zippy cilantro dressing sounds AMAZING! I read the ingredients list and kept nodding as I went down the list… so many delicious things in there! :)
Thank you, Sarah! I think it would be good on all sorts of salads.
Salads are pretty much all I want to eat now too- I love Trader Joe’s and this salad looks epic! Loving the cilantro lime dressing, it looks super creamy :)
Thanks, Medha! It’s funny how oil-based dressings turn kind of creamy in the blender.
Love all of your recipes: thank you so much.
Last week, I was at Trader’s Joe’s in Ct. and purchased jimica and mango cold salad, which was incredible. Could you investigate and come up with a recipe? Looking forward to your cookbook!!!!
Thank you, Phyllis! I just added that salad to my list. I will try to hunt it down and figure out how to make it. :)
I can only imagine what an amazing feeling it must be to know that, soon enough, one will be able to see one’s own creation on the shelves and officially be a cookbook author. So happy for the two of you ;)
Alos, salads sure seem to be in full swing! I mean, two beautiful and super fresh posts in one day?! (Yours and Jessie’s) Not bad, not bad at all.
Anyway, try not to let the stress get the better of you, get some proper rest, too (coffee only goes so far) and enjoy the rest of the week :)
Ps: Can you do me a favor and pet Cookie for me?
Eek! It should be exciting, but I’m scared. I’m kind of afraid to let it go. Thank you for your support, Pia. Cookie sends her best. :)
Nothing wrong with salad for breakfast! I’ve been on a breakfast kale kick lately and it’s been great :) This salad looks awesome! Gotta try that cilantro dressing out on, um, everything. Thanks for sharing :)
I could not agree more about needing something healthy this morning. You posted the salad too late, so I had your Green Monster smoothie this morning instead:). It was the first I’d tried it, and it was really good , really refreshing, and just what I needed after a few days of splurging. As I’m typing this I realized that I just finished eating your granola (The Best Granola) tonight. So I started and ended the day with your recipes, so maybe I’ll have to have this salad for lunch tomorrow!
Woohoo! I love that. I could go for one of those smoothies right now, for sure. Hope you love this one!
Hi Kate, looks delicious! Your photos are always so clear and sharp, can’t wait to see your book. We are on your list right?
I did not see where you used the chipotle smoked red jalapenos in the dressing, or did you throw a few in the salad?
Hope you and Cookie have a great day,
Mary Ann and 8 Collies (yep, the count is higher!)
Thank you, Mary Ann! Always so nice to hear from you. I added the powdered chipotle to the dressing. It’s the last ingredient on the list. Adds a subtle kick. I will be sure to make a big announcement when the book is available! :)
Wonderful and refreshing salad. Cilantro dressing is my favorite!!
Thanks, Amy! I love cilantro in my dressing, too. Ok, well, any herbs! So fresh.
This looks incredibly awesome, wholesome and so healthy ! I am loving everything about this salad :-) Making this tonight. Cookie is sooooo cute. Big hugs to Cookie :-)
Thank you, Lynne! Cookie says hello.
Confession: I’ve sadly been eating scotch-a-roos for breakfast each morning this week (I should never make sweets in my house..I just eat them!!) — so this mega crunchy salad sounds mega amazing :) Wrote up my grocery list at work…and I’m already antsy to get to the store! As always, thanks for the great recipe, Kate!
Oh, those scotch-a-roos are tasty, though! Hope you loved the salad, Sarah. :)
I made this with my colleague for lunch today and it was delicious. Definitely super crunchy :) We gave our own spin to it, using whole wheat couscous, bell pepper and added some feta! Perfect recipe!
Hey Nicky! Your version sounds delicious to me, yum!
I started a three-day “clean eating” challenge today. I made this salad tonight and it’s fantastic! I didn’t have rice vinegar so I decided to just omit it and the dressing still turned out very tasty. I also followed your guidelines for cooking quinoa, since I’d never cooked it myself – I’m so lucky to have your foolproof method. Turned out really fluffy! Your blog is going to be my best friend this weekend. You have so many great vegetarian recipes. Thanks Kate!
I can relate to the need for crunch! — I used romaine hearts (with lots of a garlicky dressing) to ween myself off a serious (life long) potato chip addiction. Though, I still have frequent relapses
Ohhh, I like the sound of that. And the sound of potato chips. :)
Jessie @ Chasing Belle
That cilantro dressing in itself looks delicious! Mixed in with all those crunch-ilicious ingredients…yum yum! Cookie looks too cute in that picture
I absolutely cannot wait for your cookbook. You are my fav. I just served a couple of your lovely salads today at a baby shower, and they received rave reviews. Can’t wait to try this one!!
Thank you, Lindsay! :D I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. Thank you for sharing my recipes with your friends!
I’d TOTALLY eat leftovers for brekkie too. Talk about breakfast curries? YES. Anyways, this salad looks perfect for any time of the day!
Congratulations on the cookbook! I am really looking forward to your updates and seeing the cover!
I just tried this recipe :) My husband made the dressing (delicious) and I made the salad. For some reason my quinoa is a light brown and not dark brown like yours so I toasted them after they cooked. Any recommendations to get the quinoa crispy another way?
Hi Chandani! Quinoa comes in a few different colors, and it usually turns out the same regardless of the color. Mine is never crunchy, but nice and fluffy instead.
I just made this for dinner, and it was a huge hit! Thanks for an amazing summer recipe. Your blog never disappoints!
Thank you very much, Arianna! :)
Julia @ Sprinkles & Saturdays
This sounds amazing! I love salads that have that satisfying crunch and this one sounds perfect. Also love the pic of your pup, so cute!
I’m looking forward to trying this! We’re drowning in lettuce from our CSA share and also just committed to not buying any meals out, so this will be great as a jumping off point for lunches that are way better than just leftovers and sandwiches.
Thanks, Kat! I hope you loved it!
LOVE this salad! Light yet surprisingly filling. Thanks for keeping my husband and I eating heathy with delicious, unique, wholesome meals!
Thank you, China! Happy to hear it! :)
Turned out great!! I used tabouleh instead of quinoa, and mixed in a bit of arugula and spinach. I left out the cranberries and radish and added a dash of paprika to the dressing. I love your blog, thank you for keeping it going!
Awesome! Thank you, Andrea!
It’s not often you hear of someone else visiting Oklahoma for fun. I have family out there! This salad looks amazing and I totally plan to make it for lunch next week.
Yep, I go to Oklahoma for fun sometimes. :) Hope you loved the salad!
I love this salad! Made it just like the recipe and it turned out great. I even reserved half of the recipe and dressing(separately) for lunches, and it lasted well in the fridge.
Thanks for another delicious salad recipe! I feel like this is going to be another go-to :)
Thank you, Stacy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Eating this salad right now and I am blown away! So crunchy and the dressing is awesome! Perfect for today’s summer weather.
Thanks for all your awesome recipes!! :)
Yay, thanks Frances!
Winner! Excellent salad, worth the prep. Loved the combination of all the flavors!
Forgot to star it :)
Thank you so much, Melanie!
just made the Mega Crunchy Romaine Quinoa salad. So glad I did! Really good salad and I suspect that the leftovers won’t last long. Really love the dressing too.
Yay! Thanks, Bobbi!
If we are being honest with each other, I was a bit skeptical about this salad. I don’t know why…but I guess I had trouble seeing all the flavors meshing together. But, I decided to try it out and I sure am glad that I did.
This salad is delicious! You should make it! Seriously. Light, filling, crunchy, flavorful!
Thank you Kate!
Hehe, thanks Elena! There are quite a few of my favorite flavors in this salad.
Thank you, Alice! I hope your challenge went well. That quinoa cooking method works great for me every time, yay!
Just made this! Love the mix and match options! Thanks!!
Yay, thanks, Anna!
I love, love, love this salad. I’ve made three times and it’s on my menu again next week. I feel so nourished and full after eating it. Thank you!
Love your blog, but love your dog even more! Cookie is sublime! I love little dogs like that. Compact bundles of happiness and joy. I am just getting back into vegetarian cooking and eating after eating about 3700 head of cattle and nearly killing myself. I was delighted to see your recipes aren’t extreme. Looking forward to reading more and seeing your great pics and Cookie!
Thanks, Janet! Cookie is really a bundle of joy. Sounds like you’re in the right place!
I made this salad last night for dinner and it was fantastic. My husband normally does not like radishes, but he polished this salad off and asked for seconds. We found this salad made a great dinner (ok, with wine, cheese, and crackers) and I will certainly make this again. Thanks Kate!
Thank you, Maggie! I’m glad to hear it! That sounds like a great dinner to me.
I’m a fan of salads and I’m always trying different ones, and this one certainly got my attention. It looks so delicious! I’m saving the recipe so I can try it later. Love it!
Thanks, Carolyn! I hope you love the salad.
I loved it it was so good! I will definitely to this resipe again
Loved the dressing!!
I just made this salad to go with Minimalist Baker’s Eggplant Lasagna. I have romaine salads all too often so I needed something to change it up. The quinoa was such a great addition. The dressing was so delicious! This is literally the best romaine salad ever! I definitely see it working wonderfully with kale, too. Thanks for a great recipe!
This is another great salad, thank you Kate. I’ve already made it this week & have a bit of cabbage left over so plan to make it again tonight. The dressing is delicious & I’m already thinking of other ways I can use it.
I just made the romaine salad with quinoa and we all enjoyed it very much. I actually made double the recipe for 8 adults. There was a bit left over, perhaps another 2 helpings. I “might” switch to almonds next time instead of the sunflower seeds but that is just a personal preference. I had thought about adding a ripe avocado to the dressing for a little more substance but changed my mind at the last minute – maybe next time. Thanks for the recipe – I’ve already passed it on. P.S. The lime addition was great, anything citrus is always good.
So happy this worked for you, Rama! And of course, always adjust as you see fit to your preferences.
I love this salad! I crave it regularly, and it is always so satisfying! The dressing is almost better the second day, once all the flavors meld together. This is a definite favorite in our house.
Yes, I like the dressing more once it marinates for a bit, too. I’m so glad it’s a household favorite!
Loved this recipe! All the flavours blend themselves very well. Absolutely delicious! I am making this again tonight. Can’t wait!
I love this salad! My husband too! It is tasty & healthy- filling too!
The first time I made it, no radishes so I used scallions- second time with the radish- either way, a winner! Thank You Kate!
Awesome! It’s great to hear that, Dana.
This looks so good. Do you think lemon juice would taste OK instead of lime? I’ve got lemon at home and am too lazy to go to the grocery store! Thanks. Always love your recipes.
It’s great with lime, but lemon would work. It will just change the flavor slightly. :)
This salad sounds great. I don’t eat oil though. Do you think the dressing would come out alright if I left the oil out of it?
Unfortunately, oil is a key ingredient.
Kate: The salad and especially the dressing was AMAZING!!! I made it for my wife and daughter last night and both loved it. I doubled the quantity of every ingredient in the dressing (because I wanted to make more) but kept the lime and vinegar to their same amount and the zing was perfect!! I am not sure if the zing would have been overpowering if I kept to the original amount of oil; and we like zing!! Also, I added a lot more cilantro and used the adobo sauce from the canned adobo peppers. Oh my! The smokey hot spice certainly added that extra umph!!
I’m glad you liked it! Thanks so much for the review.
This is yet another great salad recipe! I have your book and use it all the time. I’d really love another one that contains just all your amazing salad recipes.
Thank you, Rachel!
I made this salad over the weekend. It was delicious!!
Great! Thanks, Jannell.
Mmmm. This salad is so amazing. So glad I found your website. You’ve really let me up my salad game.
I’m glad you found it too,Emily! If you would like to leave a star review, I would appreciate it.
Could I use one of your other dressings with this salad? I was never a huge fan of lime and cilantro. Thanks!
Sure! Use your favorite dressing, Jenna.
Loved it ! Nice crunch.Very tasty dressing.
Thank you for sharing, Esther!
How can I make the dressing without oil??
Hi Lisa, I don’t have a non-oil variation. Sorry!
I just loved the flavor and texture of this salad! I’ve tried several cilantro lime dressing recipes in the past and this one turned out the best by far. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful recipe.
You’re welcome, Jenny!
I’m in love with this salad. Could eat it every day. Thanks for sharing, Kate.
The dressing is fab. i only used 1tsp honey and it was perfect. superb!!! so garlicky and zingy.
Thank you, Rebecca!
This salad was wonderful. Added some avocado.
Avocado would be great with this!
This salad is so good! I had to use lemon juice instead of lime but it was delicious!
I love this recipe! It’s perfect for the hot summer days like today here in Germany. I improvised a little bit and added toasted walnuts instead of sunflower seeds, and half a cup of fried chickpeas for some extra crunch and naughtiness.
Can I just say…. you are the queen of salad dressings. This one and the Sunshine Salad Dressing are just absolutely incredible!
This salad was so so good– I added julienned summer squash since I had some leftover from a farmer’s market haul and it was great.
Definitely going to make once a week!
Thank you for this genius recipe. My husband and I are on an intermittent fasting program, so for our dinner tonight I adjusted the quantities of the higher-calorie ingredients to get us down to 320 calories/person, leaving the vegetable amounts the same. It made for an incredibly tasty and satisfying meal. I was out of herbs and added a tablespoon or so of minced red onion for a little bite.
This was truly delicious! Whole family enjoyed(even kiddo who doesn’t like carrots). Dressing was incredible and we will make it again and again! Made exactly as recipe stated. Did make a large portion, kept well with dressing kept separately. Thank you, Kate!
I made this the other day. TOTAL LAZY PERSON here. I made the quinoa in my rice cooker. I used pre-bagged/shredded purple cabbage and carrot and bagged chopped romaine. I only had cashews but they were great. The dressing is amazing. It’s bright and interesting. My friends loved this salad and some of them are big-time foodies. I would make again but you could virtually pick any lettuce/vege combo you like. The dressing is the keeper.
Thank you for your review! I like how you made this a quicker option, Tamara.
Truly one of the Best salads I have tried and the dressing was a level above. Thank You!!!
Hi there – I’m excited to be making this recipe but have a quick question. The ingredient list says “3 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 medium limes)” I get a lot more than 3 tablespoons from 2 limes, so just trying to figure out if I should use just 3 Tbsp or more. Any advice? Thank you!
Hi, if your limes are bigger or have more juice, then go with the 3 tablespoon measurement. I hope you love it!
Tamara from Ontario
Outstanding! The taste of toasted sunflower seeds in every bite. The dressing is my favourite ❤️salad dressing of yours!
Thank you, Tamara!
I loved this salad – it totally satisfies my need for crunch, and I love the sweetness of the cranberries with the tart lime. I cooked chicken on the side for my carnivores to add. This salad is going on repeat this summer!
That’s great to hear, Coby! Thank you for your review.
Ate variations of this salad two nights in a row in an attempt to work through my CSA greens. No cranberries, so I used chopped dates/ trail mix.
I made the dressing with garlic scapes instead of cilantro (and no added garlic) and it was still delish.
That’s great! Thank you for your review.
Oh my gosh, how do I love SALAD this much?!? Another perfect C and K recipe. I had to make substitutions because I’m away from home with my youngest child, so had to rely on a small grocery store delivery service and things that were already stocked in the pantry. I used baby Kale instead of romaine, pistachios instead of sunflower seeds, a chopped up Larabar instead of cranberries, and white wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar. I usually wouldn’t review a recipe if I substituted, but I think I kept to the spirit of the dish and it was TOO GOOD not to share. The play in textures between the crunchy vegetables/nuts and quinoa was great. The contrast of the sweet dried fruit and the tangy dressing was amazing…..the dressing was amazing, period. The whole salad was amazing and just what I needed this week. Thanks Kate!!
Three times in a row my iPad reloaded this page and erased my comment before I could hit “send”. Awesome recipe! Love you! Love your stories! Love Cookie!
Wonderful to hear, Jennifer! Thank you for your review.
I love every recipe you do, this one is a winner as well. I didn’t have cranberries or chili powder, so I did no cranberries and did cayenne instead and turned out great. This is my new favorite salad recipe for weekday lunches.
I love to hear that, Spencer! Thank you for your review.
I’m one of those people that just doesn’t love cilantro. What could us replace the cilantro with for the dressing?
You could omit or try parsley. Let me know what you think!
This dressing is great for taco salad…Another winner!
Great to hear, Jennife!