Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts

We’re in love with this healthy gluten-free Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts!

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts :: hands-down one of my favorite healthy salad recipes!

While I love a good bowl full of Summer, festive Fall salads have a special place in my heart and, quite frankly, my stomach! I’m thinking it’s the change of pace that gets me all riled up. By the end of summer I’m so positively over salads that I eye-roll at the thought of having one for anything other than a side dish to a more exciting main course. Of course those last few weeks of Winter leave me craving a fresh cucumber salad so badly I might die.

If you’ve been reading long enough you’re probably used to my end-of-season whine fest and how quickly I throw myself into the next season out of sheer exasperation over the last. I’m a sucker for tradition.

(and dramatics apparently)

Now that it’s fall all I want are my favorite comfort foods! Of course I still want salads too… There’s also the fact that I need to get creative if I want to partake in the holiday cookie chomping spree that happens ever year, and that means throwing some lightened up fare into the mix.

Now I know you kids are still cuckoo for pumpkin puffs, but I’m all about that bass those cranberries.

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts :: hands-down one of my favorite healthy salad recipes!

and I’m allllllll about those candied walnuts!

I’ll never shell out (hah!) for pricey candied nuts again. It’s far to easy to make them fresh AND I get to crack (ha ha!) cheesy nut jokes while I make them. It’s a win-win situation of nutty proportions.

Now I’m going to go hide under the bed until I learn how to behave myself.

That… may take a while.

You should make this salad to help pass the time.

This Healthy Cranberry Quinoa Salad is gluten-free and totally tasty! #healthy #glutenfree #quinoa #salad

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts

We’re head over heels for this tasty cranberry quinoa salad!

This Healthy Cranberry Quinoa Salad is gluten-free and totally tasty! #healthy #glutenfree #quinoa #salad

8 votes


Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts




Yield 6 servings

This tasty cranberry quinoa salad is packed with juicy cranberries, vibrant veggies, and homemade candied walnuts!


  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 + 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries or 1 cup dried
  • 1/2-1 cup fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 TBSP chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP honey or sugar, if vegan
  • the teeniest pinch of salt


  • 2 TBSP light olive oil or grape seed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced [1/4 tsp]
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1 TBSP orange juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • a dash of black pepper


  1. First rinse + drain your quinoa using a mesh strainer/sieve
  2. Bring a medium saucepan to medium heat and lightly toast the quinoa to remove any excess water. Stir as it toasts for just a few minutes. This step is optional but really adds to the fluff factor of the quinoa!
  3. Next add your broth and bring pot to a boil.
  4. Once it's boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 12-13 minutes.
  5. If you're using frozen cranberries, add them to the pot after 6-8 minutes; if you're using dried or fresh cranberries add them in around the 9-10 minute mark and recover.
  6. Test the cranberries before pulling from heat to make sure they've had enough time to cook, then remove from heat.
  7. Once your quinoa and cranberries are done, season with a teeny bit of salt and pepper, fluff gently with a fork, and set aside.
  8. While your quinoa cools, add a little water to that same pot and bring to a boil. Gently blanch your broccoli florets until bright green and al-dente (you want it to still be a bit firm yet tender, not mushy) which should only take a few minutes.
  9. Drain, chop into bite-sized bits, and add to the quinoa along with chopped green onion.
  10. Place quinoa in the fridge while you prep your dressing and walnuts.
  11. DRESSING: Smash and mince garlic into a paste and combine with all remaining dressing ingredients. Whisk well and set aside.
  12. CANDIED WALNUTS: Heat a skillet or saucepan to medium heat and butter to melt. Next add in your chopped walnuts, honey, salt, and sugar. Saute for 5-6 minutes and pour over parchment paper, using a spatula to separate the nuts. Otherwise you'll have yummy walnut brittle that you'll want to break apart over your salad, which is no big deal either! Yum! Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and your walnuts have officially been candied! Woot! Try not to eat them all before they hit the salad.
  13. Grab your bowl-o-quinoa and top with the walnuts. Drizzle with dressing just before digging in! Serve this up as a salad for lunch [I ate the entire thing myself, ha! It can easily serve 2 if needed] or serve it up as a colorful side dish to stretch it to 4 servings. Serve it chilled or at room temperature, it's great both ways! Enjoy!


Recipe yields 6 side dish sized servings or 2-3 large portions.

If you're using fresh berries, the dish will have an extra burst of tartness that those juicy little buggers are infamous for! For those of you who find cranberries to be super tart when served straight up, grab a bag of dried cranberries. They're sweeter and still deliver amazing flavor to this dish! Both will result in some serious deliciousness!

Vegan? Skip the honey and substitute with extra brown sugar.

candied walnuts adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen and salad inspired by Juan-Carlos Cruz 

special diets and swaps

vegansaurus chefs:

To whip up a vegan-friendly version of this salad, simply skip the honey in the candied walnuts and use a little extra sugar or maple syrup instead! For the butter you can use your choice of earth balance or coconut oil, whatever your favorite sub is.

t-rex chefs:

Feel free to add some chopped or shredded chicken to this salad. It also makes a great use for thanksgiving leftovers, so save a little turkey and use it to make this! Whatever you do, make this salad!

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Candied Walnuts :: hands-down one of my favorite healthy salad recipes!

In other news, I wanted to DRINK this dressing! I stole a spoonful while I was taste testing and might have dove back in for seconds or thirds. The combination of juicy lime and orange juice with the subtly fruity undertones of the olive oil and the punch of raw garlic? I just love it. You should probably go ahead and double the recipe so you can pour it on your veggies all week long. Assuming you don’t indeed drink it.

I won’t tell if you do, pinky promise.

Actually, while you’re at it, you may want to double the recipe for the walnuts too.

If you’re anything like me you’ll start shoving them in your face the second they’re cool enough to handle. Or while they’re still molten… We live life dangerously around here.

crazy for cranberries?

If you get a chance to try this Cranberry Quinoa Salad, let me know!

You can leave me a comment here (LOVE checking those daily!) or tag @PEASandCRAYONS on Instagram so I can happy dance over your creations! I can’t wait to see what you whip up!

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  • Kim

    I brought this as a hearty side dish for vegetarians at Thanksgiving and it was so perfect! Delicious.

    I’m making it again and I have some extra celery hanging out in the refrigerator. Have you ever added celery, or do you think it would mess with the flavors too much?

    • Celery sounds like a yummy addition to me! I’d say as long as you enjoy the veggie itself you’re good to go in adding it! I add celery to my tuna salad and have had this salad with a tuna sandwich on the side and loved it. So glad you’re enjoying the recipe Kim – thank you! 🙂

  • Gabriel Hassan

    I didn’t have any broccoli so I added green apples and red bell pepper. It was really tasty! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Talitha

    Was pretty good. Really liked all the ingredients. Wish it was tad sweeter, maybe in the dressing. Tasted a little plain, maybe after it cools it will have a chance to marinade. My boyfriend liked it and he’s not into healthy foods.

    • Thanks Talitha! The flavors mingle the more it sits for sure! You can amp up the sweetness of the dressing if you’d like with a little honey, maple syrup, or sweetener of choice if preferred. Adding a little extra salt and pepper to taste can also enhance things too – sometimes I’ll add more based on how I’m feeling that day! 🙂 xo

  • Kim Colbo

    Tried the Quinoa Cranberry Salad – made it for a charity committee luncheon. It was a big hit. Thanks.

    • So stoked it was a hit, thanks Kim! 🙂

  • Joy

    This was a delicious recipe. It’s unfortunate that it was taken down on Pinterest. That’s such an easy way to save recipes for later!

    • Thank you Joy! Something weird seemed to happen on Pinterest and I’m trying to get ahold of them right now to get everything fixed. Eek what a mess! Thank you for your kind comment and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! xoxo

      • Joy

        ah, I thought it seemed strange that any blogger would want to minimize traffic to their blog. good to know it wasn’t you. I originally found the post on pinterest and repinned it so I pinned again directly from your site. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

        • Thank you Joy! Your support means the world to me! 🙂 Totally keep me posted on what you try next!

  • This looks really good. Do you have any info to help with serving size and calories per serving?

    • Absolutely Debbie! This recipe yields 6 side-dish sized servings of quinoa salad.

      Since everyone makes their own personal tweaks to recipes I don’t have them calculated out (just to avoid confusion and any inaccuracies mostly) For instance, someone watching calories and sugar would typically skip the candied walnuts in favor of fresh nuts or even try the dish with less nuts than written above. Plugging in the recipe with any swaps and changes to will get you a pretty good read of nutrients and calories for the dish 🙂 Hope this helps! xoxo

  • debbie

    Question re the ratio of liquid to quinoa…most other directions for cooking quinoa use more liquid (broth)?

    • They do and it drives me crazy that they insist on the rice ratio of liquid to grain. While the higher liquid ratio will cook your quinoa, I don’t like how soggy it seems. For really fluffy, perfectly cooked quinoa I find that this lower liquid ratio is perfect. Sometimes I do 1 cup to 1 + 1/4 cups water and other times I’ll do 1 cup to 1.5 cups water — hope that helps Debbie! 🙂

  • Dawn

    Any idea how many calories? I made mine with just plain walnuts. Also as side note, once quino was done, I dumped all into pot and mixed. Turned out great!!

    • Hey Dawn! I’m so glad you loved it! I know it’s for sure a healthy choice but I’m not sure on the exact nutrition mark-up. My friends use for their calorie calculations and say it’s pretty accurate 🙂

  • Lind

    This recipe sounds amazing but a couple of my guests have nut allergies. Would there be a substitute for walnuts. Maybe pinenuts. Apples and pears? I can’t think of anything that can be candied.

    • So sorry for the late reply, Lind! I didn’t bring my computer to my family’s house for the holidays and have been unplugged a bit. Skipping the nuts still leaves you with a tasty salad! You can add any extras you’d enjoy or just whip it up without a swap 🙂 Hope you are having a wonderful holiday! xoxo

  • I am always looking for new ways to cook quinoa as it is so packed with nutrients. This looks amazing AND gluten free! Thanks for adding the vegan substitutes as well. This dish works for just about anyone!

    • Thanks John! Hope you get a chance to try it! 🙂

  • Rosie

    Just a note for this to be vegan there would need to be a substitute for the butter in the candied walnuts

    • You’re 100% right Rosie! Both the honey and butter can be easily swapped. Coconut oil or earth balance work great in place of the butter, thanks for pointing that out! ❤️

  • Martha

    Love it! Made it tonight and paired with sweet potatoes for my 4-year-old and I, and a regular baked potato for my husband. Thanks, this is going on my keep it board!

    • I’m so thrilled y’all loved it Martha, and I’m honored to make it onto the keep board! 🙂

  • Beautiful red and green combination! And I’m always up for candied walnuts. I stock up on cranberries in the fall and freeze them for uses like this.

    • Thanks Mary! <3 I stocked my freezer this year as well and I'm so glad I did! 🙂

  • Leora

    Whats a good replacement (if any) for broccoli – I only have frozen

    • Jenn

      Hey Leora! Shredded raw brussel sprouts (I like to grate them on the coarse side of a cheese grater or chop them up so they resemble shredded lettuce) will work great if you have any handy. If you’re low on veggies you can make it without and it’ll still taste great! I’d honestly try it with the frozen broccoli – just steam/cook it so it’s your perfect degree of tenderness and serve it on the side… this way you can mix as much as you want into the salad 🙂 Hello longest ramble ever! Hope that helps!

  • Paola

    Hi! Where I live I cannot find cranberries. Can you recommend another berry?

    • Jenn

      Hi Paola! Do they sell dried cranberries or “craisins” near you? Those are great in this salad! Golden or regular raisins would actually work too if you’re a fan of them. Chopped apple would probably be fabulous too!

  • Rachael

    Made this tonight over a bed of chopped Romaine lettuce and added a grilled tuna steak. INSANE. ?

  • Lindsey

    this salad was delicious! Night and refreshing with the perfect sweet crunch! My family loved it! Even the 2 year old!!

  • Debbie Irvine

    Just prepping it now for our Christmas dinner. Will keep cooked quinoa, veggies, nuts and dressing separate until shortly before serving. Thanks for the recipe! Looks awesome!!!

  • This looks amazing! Just pinned 🙂

  • Made this as a side for Thanksgiving yesterday. A hit with everyone!

  • Laura

    Does anyone know how many servings I get out of this recipe?

    • Jenn

      Hey Laura! It should serve 2 as a main course [like for lunch] or 4 as a side dish. If you’re serving up thanksgiving-sized portions and everyone is apt to take a little less it may serve about 6 or so, it always varies a bit person to person. Hope that helps! <3

      • natalie

        Do you cook the broccoli in the same poor at the Quinoa? Or use another put and add it? Sorry I’m confused and really want to make this for thanksgiving

        • Jenn

          The same pot, after you take the quinoa out [otherwise the broccoli tints the quinoa green and soaks up some of its liquid] and you’re good to go. I just add a little water to the pot after removing the quinoa and then bring it to a boil, letting the broccoli blanch til it’s tender yet still firm [I can’t handle mushy broccoli lol!] — hope that helps and that you loooooooooove the recipe! Thanks Natalie! <3

  • Jamie

    Making this for Thanksgiving! Can I make this the night before and just add the walnuts before serving? Thanks! 🙂

    • Jenn

      Absolutely! Hope you love it!!!! I would save the dressing and walnuts for just before serving and you’re good to go! =) Happy Thanksgiving Jamie!

  • Denise

    This salad sounds amazing. I’m wondering how many people this recipe would feed, as I would love to try this for Thanksgiving.

    • Jenn

      The recipe serves two but would also yield 4 smaller, Thanksgiving-sized portions since we generally take a little bit of everything on our plates for the big feast! It is easily doubled or tripled as needed. I hope that helps! Happy early-Thanksgiving, Denise! xo

  • Denise

    This salad sounds amazing. I’m wondering how many people this recipe would feed, as I would love to try this for Thanksgiving.

  • Tera

    You have read my mind!!! I had all of these ingredients and have even thought to my pregnant self “what kind of salad am I wanting!?!” And you answered my question. It’s SO GOOD!!! Husband and I fought over the leftovers!!! Making it again ASAP!!! You’re amazing Jenn. <3

    • Jenn

      Thanks Tera!!!! I’m so stoked that you both loved it! <3

  • Confession: I’ve never made anything with cranberries! Not a single thing!! I may have to now though…

    Also you crack. me. up!

    • Jenn

      SERIOUSLY!!?!??!? Fix that

  • Your salad looks fantastic! Pinning for sure! 🙂

  • I’m sorry but I’m totally making the candied walnuts by the tonne. The salad looks good but tHE CANDIED WALNUTS.

    • Jenn

      You should make them to go with those baller brekkie cookies of yours

  • oh my girl! This is a must make for Thanksgiving!

  • pinned for later! this looks like the perfect side dish for the fall!

  • This looks like an awesome dish to make for Thanksgiving 🙂

    • Jenn

      It would be one baller side for all that yummy food!

  • Wow! I need to make this! I always am making a greek style quinoa..this would change things up!! 🙂

    • Jenn

      mmmm I love greek quinoa too! Hope you add this one to the rotation as well!

  • I made roasted candied almonds last night because candied nuts, duh. Amazing. This salad is beautiful and perhaps the perfect Thanksgiving side dish to shake things up. Thanks. You’re the bomb.

  • I LOVE candied walnuts!!! candied pecans are a runner up too 🙂

  • This says protein packed-crunchiness all around!

  • Ok seriously. I love candied nuts. But I NEVER buy them because I stuff my face until they’re gone. But they look pretty easy to make!!

    • Jenn

      They’re SO easy! This way you can make a small batch and save money!

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