Easy Thanksgiving Meals: Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad

A fresh twist on a classic combination. This Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad is an easy Thanksgiving side for your holiday turkey or weeknight chicken! Sponsored by Whole Foods.

Easy Thanksgiving Meals: Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad by FamilySpice.com

One of my favorite meals of all time is the classic American Thanksgiving menu. Every year I look forward to it. I think I’m more excited about the leftovers, as I get to savor the meal days later. The flavor combinations, the colors and just having everyone together (if only for one meal) makes this holiday more treasured to me than Christmas.

No gifts are exchanged on Thanksgiving. It is not about presents, toys or the other materialistic things that bombard our holidays. It is about family, love and being thankful for what we have.

I do not always host the Thanksgiving feast, but I welcome the job when I do. I love cooking everything from scratch, and everyone notices the difference a fresh meal tastes. Thanksgiving does not have to be stressful. Here are my tips to an easy Thanksgiving meal:

Keep it fresh.

Always choose fresh ingredients. Everything you need to serve for the meal is in season, so there is no good excuse to NOT use fresh ingredients. Not only are they more nutritious, but they bring much more flavor to any dish.

Keep it simple.

Streamline your menu. Do not overload the table with so many starchy or sugary side dishes. Focus on a well-balanced meal that is naturally colorful. I always like to eat the rainbow to make sure that the meal is both appetizing and healthy. Most importantly, keep the meal savory and save the sugar for dessert.

Keep it real.

Leave out the processed stuff from your Thanksgiving meal. You don’t need it and your food really will taste even better without it. If you can’t omit it completely, use it minimally perhaps for more labor-intensive foods like bread and dessert. Even then, you can buy these items unprocessed.

Be creative.

If you are new to cooking, why not pick one dish to experiment with and try something new? Fuse together two different cultures and see what you get. Don’t be intimidated – it’s only food!

My mother is Persian, and my dad is an American. One non-traditional staple on our Thanksgiving table was basmati rice. Why not?

Easy Thanksgiving Meals: Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad by FamilySpice.com

Whole Foods Market wants to make your Thanksgiving meal fresh and worry-free, too. They not only provide top-quality fresh ingredients, but they also have an amazing catering service. They helped me create this not-so-traditional Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad. Click here for the full recipe.

Have you ever tried a raw cranberry salad? As cranberries are naturally tart, this salad has a terrific sweet and sour flavor that I adore. It’s lightly sweetened with honey and it is full of real ingredients: quinoa, kale, cranberries, oranges, nuts, olive oil, mint and honey.

It is a simple dish to put together that uses both fresh and real ingredients, plus it is a twist on the traditional cranberry relish.

Easy Thanksgiving Meals: Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad by FamilySpice.com

Need more inspiration for your Thanksgiving meal? Join the conversation during the Kitchen PLAY Twitter Party with Whole Foods Market on November 12th at 7:00 PM EST. Let’s talk turkey, cranberries and all things Thanksgiving! Register for the Twitter Party and get ready to win some terrific prizes during the party.

What do you serve on your Thanksgiving table? Are you all traditional or do you like to mix things up?

Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad

A fresh twist on a classic combination of cranberry and orange. Perfect with your Thanksgiving turkey or weeknight roast chicken! Recipe by Laura Bashar of Family Spice


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 large leaves of kale
  • 2 cup cranberries, fresh
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 TBS orange zest, grated
  • 6 small oranges
  • 1/4 cup mixed nuts
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup mint, fresh, chopped


  1. Rinse with water:
    • 1 cup quinoa
  2. Bring to boil:
    • 2 cup water
  3. When water is boiling, transfer rinsed quinoa and return to boil.
  4. Cover, reduce heat to low and continue to cook until the water is gone and quinoa is cooked, about 12-15 minutes.
  5. Wash, remove from stems and finely chop:
    • 2 large leaves of kale
  6. Pulse in a food processor to coarsely chop:
    • 2 cup cranberries, fresh
    • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tsp honey
  7. When quinoa is done, transfer to a mixing bowl and mix with chopped kale. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  8. Stir in with the quinoa:
    • 2 TBS orange zest , grated
  9. Peel and coarsely chop:
    • 6 small oranges
  10. When quinoa is cooled completely, gently stir in the oranges and cranberry mixture.
  11. Stir in:
    • 1/4 cup mixed nuts
    • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
    • 1/4 cup mint, fresh , chopped
  12. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Prep Time:

Yield: Serves 8

Cook Time:

Total Time:

Disclosure: As part of the Kitchen PLAY Community, I was paid a stipend to develop a Thanksgiving recipe for Whole Foods Market. All of the opinions I expressed here are my own. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t blog about it!

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57 Responses to Easy Thanksgiving Meals: Cranberry Orange Quinoa Salad

  1. That’s better than a bowlful of precious stones and even prettier. Wow. I love it.

  2. I love the way that salad looks! Must try!

  3. Nice use of kale here, and we like how you put the hot quinoa with the kale shreds to soften it up a bit.

    We’re going to feature this on our Facebook page and link here so people can see how you made it, and your lovely photography. Please come LIKE us on Facebook for more recipes and tips on super healthy greens like kale, chard, beet, mustard, turnip, collard and other green leafies. https://www.facebook.com/Cut.n.Clean.Greens

    Happy delicious Thanksgiving!

    –Your friendly Southern California farmers at Cut ‘N Clean Greens

    • I figured that trick out awhile back, as it’s the best for me to eat (and digest) kale without cooking it down. Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Agree that so many TG menus lack fresh-tasting sides. Love this one!

    • The cranberries reminded me of pomegranate so I had to add them! Of course, everything reminds me of pomegranate!

  5. Laura, I LOVE THIS! Definitely one I want to make, simply glorious, thanks.

  6. Laura at #

    Such a great dish for Thanksgiving and it looks gorgeous!

  7. Gorgeous fall salad!

  8. What a stunning salad! I always try to make healthy sides happen at our family Thanksgivings (to mixed success, I have to admit!) I love the sound of this one and the addition of raw cranberries is pure genius! Such a pleasure to cook along side you for Whole Foods!

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. I know what you mean about hit or miss with the healthy eating at the dinner table! It’s been great cooking with you, too!

  9. That is the most beautiful fall salad I’ve seen! YUM!

  10. I love the flavors you have in this dish and it’s gorgeous to boot!

  11. Absolutely agree on all accounts! I love everything about this salad – the colors, textures, fresh ingredients and sweet/tart flavor profiled. Great recipe, Laura 🙂

  12. Amanda at #

    That is positively gorgeous!

  13. Did we have quinoa in the 1980s? My mom used to make a grain salad for Thanksgiving very similar to this. I wonder if it was quinoa. I wouldn’t know because I wouldn’t touch that particular side dish in those days. I wonder what else I missed out on. GREG

    • I didn’t care for lima beans when I was kid. I still don’t now. But, I’m happy that I have outgrown my other childhood food aversions. So I suppose there is hope for my kids, too! Maybe your mom used faro or another grain? I’m guessing quinoa was extremely hard to find in 80’s.

  14. Joanne at #

    These tips for keeping Thanksgiving real and doable are awesome. And I love that you put fresh cranberries in your quinoa salad! It’s rare to see them used like this without a ton of sugar!

    • I hate when I set goals during the holidays that are unrealistic and to difficult to achieve. I’ve learned over the years that streamlining keeps me sane during these chaotic times of the year!

  15. That is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds – just gorgeous.

  16. Look at all those vibrant colors! Beauteous! We’re much more traditional around here–there would be a huge fuss without the old family favorites–but you’re inspiring me to try something different.

    • I know what you mean. Too much experimenting and my family revolts! But I like to sneak in one or two new things, especially when I have a crowd and such eager taste-testers!

  17. Liz at #

    I haven’t made a quinoa salad since this summer…so I’m WAY overdue. This autumn version looks perfect!

  18. Christen at #

    Just made this salad, it’s yummy! It’s so light yet very filling. Loved being able to use all fresh ingredients. Ended up with way more oranges than it looks like in your photo though so I might reduce it to 4 oranges next time. Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

    • So glad you liked it! The oranges I used were medium-small, so that might make a difference. Thanks for trying it out and have a great holiday!

  19. Chele at #

    Fresh is not always best. In fact, frozen is often times the better option because it is flash frozen in it’s prime and thus nutrient rich. “Fresh” food in stores is waxed, packaged, shipped, and driven for hundreds of miles and picked prematurely and covered in chemicals to keep it looking fresh. The ONLY time fresh is better is when it’s local. One sentence in, and you’re already discredited. 🙁

    • Cindy at #

      Why was it necessary for you to weigh in with such negativity? Fresh is always best. If you buy organic veggies, in season, as all of these are, even if they are a couple of days old, they’re still better. Have you ever tried to cook something delicious with frozen green beans. They turn to mush in a heartbeat.

  20. Jo at #

    Found some fresh cranberries and can’t wait to try this! Did you leave the skins on the oranges or just use the pulp of the oranges? Thanks

  21. Farah at #

    I have made this recipe several times since I found it last fall. We love it!!! I have to make a double batch each time because it goes so fast!

    • Thank you so much for letting me know. I am thrilled to hear that everyone loves this! It’s one of my personal favorites, too. : )

      • Tamy Willard at #

        Do you have calorie per serving information?

  22. Jenny Rehan at #

    will this still be good if I make ahead? It looks delicious!

    • You can make the quinoa ahead of time and mix it the next day. The longer the entire dish sites, the soggier the fruit and quinoa will get. I suggest mixing it the day you serve it, up to 8 hours?

  23. Valerie at #

    I love this quinoa salad recipe!! The combination of cranberries and oranges is perfect – a great salad. I modified the recipe a bit and added 3 cups of fresh spinach and some dried cranberries, and I left out the pomegranate.
    A delicious salad even in the summer. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

    I have a quinoa feta salad that I love to make in the summer. http://doubletherecipe.com/2016/05/16/quinoa-feta-cheese-salad/

    • Hi Valerie! Glad you like it and I like your variations! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Dev at #

    Such a gorgeous salad for this season, with the pretty hues of fall. I love cranberries and orange together. Quinoa sounds like a perfect grain for balancing the textures and flavors.


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