A light and colorful tasty twist on chicken salad – grilled chicken, quinoa, green peas, apricots, and raisins tossed with orange juice, rice wine vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. Perfect for summer, this healthy and delicious Weight Watchers Chicken and Quinoa Salad is packed with protein so it will keep you satisfied for hours without weighing you down.
Originally posted 12/12; Updated 8/15
Back in 2012 I was part of a little group of bloggers that cooked and blogged their way through Martha Stewart’s Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients. It was a wonderful exercise for opening my food horizons, getting my to experiment with lots of different foods I might not have otherwise. And as a Weight Watcher, it was perfect too since focusing on eating power foods is one of the keys to lasting weight loss success.
This week our little group of bloggers continues it exploration of grains and legumes with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which technically isn’t a grain at all, but rather the seeds of a plant related to spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Though relatively new on the food scene here, according to researchers, it’s popularity in the Andes regions of South America dates back to approximately 3000 BC.
When I first tried quinoa, I wasn’t a fan. It’s taken my taste buds a while to adjust, but the more I experiment, the better I like it. (An important food rule I learned from the enlightening book, French Kids Eating Everything. It may take several tastes of a food before you learn to like it.)
What Gives Quinoa It’s Power Food Status?
Because quinoa has all nine essential amino acids, it’s considered a complete protein. It’s also rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and magnesium, two nutrients that may help reduce the occurrence of migraines, and a good source of vitamins B6 and E, as well as iron, zinc and fiber. And because it’s not a grain, quinoa has no gluten, making it a great alternative for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.
How Do You Prepare Quinoa?
You basically cook quinoa the same way you do rice, using one part quinoa and two parts liquid and cooking it for about 15 minutes. Definitely quick and easy. But be sure to rinse it well before cooking because all quinoa has a bitter-tasting coating called saponin that protects it from being eaten by birds in the field. Today most commercially available quinoa has already had the saponin removed, but it’s better give it a quick wash to be safe.
The Skinny on Weight Watchers Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Dried Fruit
This chicken and quinoa salad with dried fruit is slightly adapted from the Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook, a fun little paperback book brimming with weight watchers recipes.
Instead of using the grilled chicken called for, I substituted leftover cooked chicken breast. I also skipped the ground fennel and pine nuts because I didn’t have them. Seriously, does anyone have ground fennel in their cupboard? I think any chopped nut could be substituted for the pine nuts, but I just opted to leave them out.
I really liked this salad with it’s pleasing contrast of colors, flavors and textures. The more I experiment with adding fruit to savory dishes, the more I like it. If you don’t like or have golden raisins and/or dried apricots, use what you do have. I think Craisins or dried cherries would be good.
Both Rod and Mom enjoyed it too, which is always a good sign since our tastes and preferences can be quite different. Each generous serving has 342 calories and *9 Weight Watchers Points Plus. Enjoy!
- ½ cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup thawed frozen green peas
- 4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 16 ounces leftover rotisserie chicken instead)
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds (I left them out)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup dired apricots, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts, optional
- Place the quinoa in a fine strainer and give it a rinse under running water. Then place it in a small saucepan along with the water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 12 minutes. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
- Drain the quinoa and peas in a fine mesh strainer, rinse under cold water and then drain it again, before transferring the mixture to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile cook the chicken. First sprinkle the breasts with the ground fennel seeds (if using) and salt. Spray a large nonstick skillet or grill pan with nonstick spray and set it over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes and then cut it into thin slices.
- Add the apricots, raisins, scallions, orange juice, vinegar, and oil to the bowl of quinoa and peas. Add the chicken and toss everything gently to combine.
- Just before serving, sprinkle with the pine nuts if desired.
You can make this chicken and quinoa salad up to 2 days ahead. Just omit the pine nuts (if using), place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Then sprinkle with the pine nuts just before serving.
Source: slightly adapted from the Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook
*PointsPlus® for Weight Watchers Chicken Quinoa Salad calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc.
- Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients
- The World’s Healthiest Foods
- Weight Watchers I LOVE LEFTOVERS Cookbook
More Weight Watchers Recipes Using Quinoa:
- Camilla’s Lemony Lentil & Quinoa Salad
- Southwest Stoplight Quinoa Salad
- Lightened Up Quinoa Corn Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Skinny Pumpkin Spice Quinoa & Cranberry Granola
- Low Fat Pumpkin Quinoa Cookies (using quinoa flour)
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