Do you meal prep?
I’m all about doing one big cooking session on Sundays.
I can see my TV perfectly from the kitchen, so I just put a movie on and get to work chopping vegetables, cooking grains, baking proteins, and mixing sauces.
After a long day at work followed by a seemingly even longer commute home, the last thing I want to do is cook dinner. And while I fully admit to still having nights where ordering sushi or pizza sounds better than whatever I had prepped for dinner, meal prep has not only saved me stress, but also time and money.
The only thing better than having dinner prepared in advance? Having pre-portioned lunches, ready to just grab and go in the morning.
Unlike dinner where you can save some steps for the night when you plan to eat it, lunches have to be fully prepped, portioned out, and portable. Plus, depending on your work situation, they can’t always require reheating in a microwave.
That’s where this recipe comes in! This berry quinoa salad is ideal for meal prep, as it:
Is quick to cook and assemble
- Can easily be portioned out into four resealable containers
- Keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days
- Requires no reheating
- Doesn’t have a strong smell, so no weird looks from coworkers (trust me, this is an important one)
Oh, and did I mention it’s also healthy?
While quinoa has gotten quite popular, not everyone has jumped on the ancient grains bandwagon yet. And if you’re one of those who is still holding off, let me try to convince you of why it’s worth picking up a bag during your next grocery store run.
Quinoa, technically a pseudocereal, is the seed of a plant that’s naturally gluten free. It’s also rich in B vitamins, fiber (key for keeping you nice and full), magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and disease-fighting antioxidants.
It’s also one of the few plant-based complete proteins, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. This makes it an excellent protein source for vegans and vegetarians.
Flavor-wise, quinoa has a very mild taste, with a slight nuttiness. However, be sure to rinse it under running water before using. Otherwise, it can have some bitterness.
In terms of cooking, quinoa couldn’t be simpler. Simply place in a pot of water or broth, boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. While you can use it as soon as it’s done cooking, for the fluffiest texture, I recommend letting it rest away from the heat for 5 minutes, the same as you would do with rice.
By using pre-cooked shrimp, cooking the quinoa is the biggest time commitment required for making this recipe. As once it’s cooked, all you have to do is throw everything together, and wait for it too cool before storing.
If you plan to enjoy this salad for lunch, you can pre-portion it before chilling in the fridge. That way, you won’t have to worry about this step in the morning when you’re rushing to get out the door.
While delicious all year round, to me this salad tastes like spring and summer. With the juicy berries, light shrimp, and brightness from a little lemon juice, it feels like the kind of salad you’d bring to a picnic or backyard potluck.
So break the mold of traditional green salads and cook up this whole grain option instead! You’ll be the envy of your lunchroom.Print
Looking for a healthy lunch option to make during your weekend meal prep? Whip up a batch of make-ahead berry quinoa salad with shrimp.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 pound cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 cup fresh sliced strawberries
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish (optional)
- Place rinsed quinoa in a medium-sized saucepan with water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep covered, remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.
- While quinoa cooks, place cooked shrimp in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, paprika, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine, then set aside.
- Pour cooked quinoa into a large mixing bowl. Add honey, berries, and seasoned shrimp. Toss well to combine.
- Allow to cool, then place in refrigerator to chill for 3 hours, or overnight. Serve cold, sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves if desired.
- Category: Grain Salads
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Lunch
Keywords: quinoa, quinoa salad, grain salad, berries, summer, meal prep
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep, Slice, and Measure Ingredients
Remove the tails from the cooked shrimp (use them for a homemade seafood stock!). Wash the berries well under cool water in a colander, and slice the strawberries. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Juice the lemon.
Measure all of the remaining ingredients.
Step 2 – Cook and Season
Place the quinoa and the water in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil.
Once it’s boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.
Keep covered, remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
While the quinoa is cooking, combine the shrimp, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Get out your pepper mill for this one, since freshly ground peppercorns provide the best flavor.
Step 3 – Mix Everything Together
Spoon the cooked quinoa into a large mixing bowl.
Add the honey, and stir it in.
Add the berries, and the seasoned shrimp.
Fold them in gently.
Allow to cool to room temperature on the counter.
Step 4 – Chill and Serve
Cover or portion into individual containers, and place in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
Serve chilled, sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves if desired.
Getting Fancy with Add-Ins
While this salad is satisfying as is, you can take it over the top with different mix-ins.
Love cool and creamy recipes? Add some diced avocado and crumbled goat cheese.
Want a little crunch? Sprinkle in Marcona almonds.
Want a little more zing? Trade out the lemon juice with fresh lime juice.
Here are some other grain salads for you to add to the mix, perfect for easy lunches:
- Chickpea, Spinach, and Vegan Sausage Farro Grain Bowls
- Wild Rice with Thai-Style Dressing
- Brown Rice with Apples, Dried Cranberries, and Peas
- Summer Corn Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar
- Tropical Black Bean Mango Quinoa
The best part about grain salads is how versatile they can be!
What will you add to this lunch recipe to make it your own? Share your ideas in the comments below, and be sure to give this recipe a rating to let us know how much you enjoyed it.
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 22, 2013. Last updated: November 6, 2019 at 15:33 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.