Mega Crunchy Romaine Salad with Quinoa

That salad, huh? For breakfast, I simply consumed leftovers. I have a yearning for items that are crisp, fresh, and bright after my annual family trip to the lake where we eat too many potato chips. And i can’t be the only one, right?

I really want to tell you everything about Oklahoma, including how the dirt turns red and the trees resemble broccoli florets on that well-known journey down I-35. I’d want to tell you about my newest cousin, who I got to meet and hold for more than an hour (maybe I hogged her a bit). After a few days apart, Cookie is even cuter than usual. She is currently curled up under my right elbow.

I just got the cookbook text back, so I have a full week of editing and excessive coffee consumption ahead of me. The finish line is finally in sight. I can’t wait to finish everything up and resume interacting with you guys on Instagram and in the comments. Really, I’ve been missing you.

Anyway, the salad I picked up at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago served as the inspiration for this one. The “Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite” is what they call it. It wasn’t quite as crunchy as it could have been because I got one of the last ones before they closed, but I could see the promise.

Also read: Greek Lentil Salad

Here is my near but not exact recreation of the Trader Joe’s salad. Chopped romaine, radishes, carrots, roasted sunflower seeds, quinoa, and dried cranberries are all included in my salad.

A large, vibrant dish of nutritious, crunchy delight, this salad is. If you merely store the zesty cilantro-lime dressing separately, it travels well for lunch. This time of year, salads are pretty much all I want to eat, so I’ll be back soon with more salad recipes.



  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.