A bowl full of quinoa, golden raisins, pecans, coconut, and spices

Healthy Carrot Cake Quinoa Salad

In Desserts & Drinks, Sides by sarawalkenbach2 Comments

What’s not to love about carrot cake? It’s loaded with fruit, nuts, and a vegetable! This Carrot Cake Quinoa Salad has all the delicious components of carrot cake without the guilt. Have it as a side on your Easter or brunch Table, or have it as dessert with a protein punch!

A bowl full of quinoa, golden raisins, pecans, coconut, and spices
This Quinoa side dish is perfectly sweet, with all the flavors of Carrot Cake.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) are the seeds from a flowering plant in the amaranth family. They can be yellow, red, white, black, or purple. It is a gluten free “grain”, packed full of nutrients.

This little grain is a healthy carbohydrate, as well as a protein. In every 1/2 cup of quinoa there is 4 grams of protein.

Quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids. A few other reasons to eat quinoa, according to this Healthline article, 8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Quinoa, written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD and Kris Gunners BSc:

  • anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
  • high in fiber, which helps your gut
  • good source for magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc

Quinoa is a super food! Incorporate it into your meals to reap the benefits of these little gems.

If you like this pineapple recipe, you’ll love Hummingbird Muffins.

Carrot Cake Quinoa Ingredients

All the components to make carrot cake quinoa.
All the healthier ingredients in carrot cake are mixed together for this quinoa salad

Everything you would find in a yummy carrot cake is in this quinoa salad, except the white sugar, flour, and icing.

  • Quinoa
  • Carrots
  • Pineapple & Juice
  • Golden Raisins
  • Pecans
  • Coconut
  • Cinnamon & Ginger
  • Orange Zest & Juice
  • Honey
  • White Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil

Making the Quinoa Salad

This Carrot Cake Quinoa Salad is easy to sling together. First, make the quinoa. Second, whisk the dressing. Third, put it all together.

If you like quinoa, you’ll love this quinoa recipe with Cantaloupe and Goat Cheese.

Tips for Fluffy Tasty Quinoa

I spent years, eating soggy tasteless quinoa. Don’t let this happen to you. Here are a few tips…


Quinoa has a compound called saponin, which has a bitter taste. If you don’t rinse it, the quinoa will taste unpleasantly bitter. And you’ll vow never to eat quinoa again! (How sad.) Rinse the quinoa several times with cool water to get rid of the bitter taste.

Flavor Quinoa with the Cooking Liquid

Quinoa can be bland, if you don’t gussy it up! Swap out some of the water with a flavorful liquid. In this recipe, orange juice, pineapple juice (from the can of pineapples), and water are used.

close up of carrot cake wuinoa salad
Flavor your quinoa while it’s cooking! For Carrot Cake Quinoa, use orange juice and pineapple juice along with water for your cooking liquid.

Ratio of Quinoa vs. Liquid

Quinoa instructions will typically say 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water. It works best to cut the liquid slightly. In this recipe, use 1 cup quinoa, 1-3/4 cup liquid.

Wait to Put a Lid on It

Don’t be tempted to put the lid on right away. Keep the pot uncovered while cooking. This will prevent the quinoa from getting soggy. Quinoa may be done in more or less time depending on the size of pot you are using.

  1. Once liquid is absorbed, put a lid on it.
  2. Take it off the heat.
  3. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Fluff with a fork.
spoonful of carrot cake quinoa
Carrot Cake Quinoa is great as a side or the main dish.

Assembly of Carrot Cake Quinoa

With quinoa cooked and fluffed, it’s time to add the goodies!

Toss in carrots, pecans, pineapple, raisins, and coconut. If you don’t like coconut, omit, or put a side of coconut on the table for sprinkling in. Coconut can be a battle. We are a split household.

Mix in the fruit, nuts, and carrots. The final step is the dressing!


Dressing is what brings any salad to life. This dressing is packed full of flavor and sweetness. It’s as easy as putting all ingredients into a bowl and whisking. Adjust the amount of honey to make more or less sweet.

ingredients for the dressing
All the ingredients for a delicious dressing in Carrot Cake Quinoa.

Salads don’t have to be boring. If you like this salad recipe, you’ll love my post on 5 Healthy Salad Dressings.

  • White Wine Vinegar (or any good quality vinegar)
  • Orange Juice & Zest
  • Olive Oil
  • Honey
  • Ginger (fresh is best)
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt

Homemade dressing is what makes a salad. If you like this dressing, you’ll love this Lemony Mint dressing. Or this Easy Pesto Dressing.

Serve it with…

The possibilities are endless with what this side dish goes well with. Salty and sweet are always a good pair.

  • Ham or Pork Chops
  • For a Breakfast Bowl
  • Anything off the Grill (especially this Salmon recipe)
  • Make it a Dessert
  • Make it a meal by adding in some arugula and chicken or chick peas, for an extra dose of protein.


Store in your fridge for up to 4 days.

thyme branch

Thanks for reading along. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. If you would like more healthy recipes like this one sent right to your inbox, sign up for my Recipe Drops. They’re always FREE.

carrot cake quinoa in a bowl

Healthy Carrot Cake Quinoa Salad

Sara Walkenbach
All the tasty flavors and textures of carrot cake made into a quinoa salad, without the guilt.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 229 kcal


  • 1 cup Quinoa (uncooked) rinse several times in fine sieve
  • 1/2 cup Pineapple Juice from canned pineapple
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice zest orange prior to cutting
  • 1 cup Carrots grated
  • 8 oz Pineapple (in juice) drained – reserve juice for cooking quinoa
  • 1/2 cup Golden Raisins soaked in warm water
  • 1/2 cup Pecans toasted & chopped
  • 1/2 cup Coconut shredded
  • 2 tbs Orange Zest

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tbs Vinegar good quality white wine or white balsamic
  • 1 tbs Orange Juice
  • 1-2 tbs Honey
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil Extra Virgin
  • 1 tbs Orange Zest
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ginger – grated (1/2 tsp ground)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt


  • Soak your raisins in warm water, set aside. Rinse Quinoa in fine mesh sieve. In a medium sauce pan, add quinoa, 1 cup of water, pineapple juice, orange juice, and a few pinches of salt. Put pan (uncovered) over medium/high heat until it is boiling. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer until all liquid is absorbed. Usually 15 minutes or so. Once liquid is pretty much absorbed, put a lid on it, take off heat, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • While quinoa is cooking, make dressing. Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.
  • Once quinoa has rested for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork. Drain and discard the water off the raisins. Add in raisins, carrots, pineapple, coconut, pecans, and zest. Gently stir together.
  • Drizzle dressing over quinoa salad. Gently toss, and enjoy. Or stick it in the fridge for a cold side dish.



Rinse quinoa several times before cooking to remove the bitter tasting saponin.
Soak Raisins in warm water for 15 minutes or longer. This plumps them up so they won’t take the moisture out of your salad. Discard water before adding to quinoa.
Zest Oranges before cutting in half.


Calories: 229kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 5gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 161mgPotassium: 364mgFiber: 4gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 2724IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 2mg
Keyword carrot cake quinoa salad, healthy qunioa salad, qunioa
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