Spice up your outdoor gatherings with this mouthwatering southwest quinoa salad, featuring black beans, corn, and a zesty lime juice dressing. This salad is fantastic for meal prep lunches and dinners.
Southwest quinoa salad is a healthy and flavorful meal or side dish that's perfect for any occasion. Packed with protein-rich black beans, sweet corn, and fluffy quinoa, this dish is both satisfying and nutritious.
What's more, this salad is incredibly easy to make and can be prepared in advance for quick and easy meals throughout the week.
Serve it as-is, mix it some spinach to make a heartier salad or serve it alongside your favorite tacos.
And if you're someone who loves to meal prep, this salad is a dream come true. You can easily make a big batch ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner throughout the week.
💙 What's to love about this recipe
▪️ MEAL PREP: Make a batch at the beginning of the week and divide into individual airtight containers. Pack them for lunch or tuck them inside your picnic basket for a weekend outing. If you like to freeze quinoa, simply defrost the quinoa and stir in the remaining ingredients.
▪️ EASY TO CUSTOMIZE: Add more vegetables (avocado is a favorite!), top it with chili lime shrimp or shredded chicken or bulk it up with fresh spinach.
▪️ HEALTHY: This salad is packed with fiber-filled quinoa, black beans and corn. Plant-based and low fat.
Ingredients for this southwestern quinoa salad
- QUINOA: I used white quinoa. Tricolor, red or black quinoa can be substituted.
- WATER: The quinoa is cooked in water. Feel free to substitute half or all of the water with vegetable broth. You may need to adjust the amount of salt used if adding broth.
- BLACK BEANS: Use home-cooked or canned beans. If using canned beans, rinsed and drain the beans before using.
- CORN: Fresh, frozen or roasted corn kernels can be used.
- CILANTRO: Finely mince the cilantro. No need to remove the leaves from the stems first. For more details, see How to Chop Parsley and Cilantro.
- CHIPOTLE PEPPER: Chipotle peppers are sold in cans, which includes adobo sauce. They can be found in the international aisle of most well-stocked grocery stores.
- DRESSING: The rest of the dressing ingredients are fresh lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, agave nectar and salt. Honey can be used in place of the agave nectar. Please note that honey is not vegan.
See recipe card below for full ingredients list & recipe directions.
▪️ QUINOA: If you don’t have quinoa on hand, make this salad with brown rice, farro, couscous or sorghum.
▪️ BEANS: Red kidney beans are a good substitute for black beans in this dish.
▪️ CILANTRO: If cilantro isn’t your thing, swap it out with flat-leaf parsley.
▪️ OTHER VEGETABLES: Add other vegetables, such as chopped red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and avocado.
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How to make southwest quinoa salad
RINSE THE QUINOA: Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can have a bitter taste. Give the quinoa a rinse to get rid of it. Pour the quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve and run it under cold water for a couple of minutes, shaking the quinoa so the water hits all of it.
COOK THE QUINOA: Transfer the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan, along with the water. Bring to a boil. Then cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
COOL THE QUINOA: Fluff the quinoa with a fork, then transfer it to a large baking sheet to cool.
MAKE THE DRESSING: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the lime juice, cumin, minced chipotle pepper and salt. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil.
COMBINE AND SERVE: Put it all together! Transfer the cooled quinoa, black beans, corn, cilantro and dressing to a serving bowl. Give it a good stir to combine the ingredients and disperse the dressing.
Make-ahead and storage
Quinoa salads are fantastic make-ahead dishes for meal prep or for a party. When stored properly in an airtight container, it can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 to 5 days.
There’s no need to store the salad and dressing separately. The salad stays fresh and delicious even when dressed for a few days. The quinoa has a tendency to absorb the dressing. If you’re not going to be eating it for a few days, or you are using it for several lunches during the week, I suggest making extra dressing to drizzle over your portion before eating.
What to serve with it
This zesty salad makes a great standalone meal, but you can also pair it with other dishes for a more filling meal. Here are some ideas:
- Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas
- Grilled Salmon with Spice Rub
- Mexican Slaw with Mango
- Or try it with a dish from 500-Calorie Dinner Recipes
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes! This salad is packed with nutritious high-fiber ingredients like quinoa, black beans, and veggies, making it a healthy and satisfying meal.
This salad already has a slight smoky zip from the chipotle peppers, but I wouldn’t categorize it as spicy. If you prefer more spice, add additional chipotle peppers, as well as some of the adobo sauce from the can, to the dressing. Alternatively, add some diced jalapeños or a pinch of cayenne pepper to give your salad a spicy kick.
Yes! This salad is plant-based and vegan-friendly.
Yes! Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. Check the package to ensure that it’s processed in a gluten free-friendly facility.
Other Quinoa Recipes You'll Love
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and comment underneath the recipe card below. Thank you!
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed well and drained
- 2 cups cold water
- ¾ cup canned black beans rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup corn kernels fresh or frozen (defrosted)
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey (not vegan)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon seeded & minced chipotle pepper (sold in cans, in adobo sauce)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Combine the rinsed quinoa and water in medium saucepan set over high heat. Once the water boils, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until all of the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large baking sheet. Spread the quinoa evenly on the baking sheet and allow it to cool.
- Stir the black beans, corn kernels and cilantro into the quinoa. Add the chipotle dressing to the quinoa and gently toss to combine. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, agave nectar, ground cumin, chipotle pepper and salt. While whisking constantly, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil to the chipotle mixture to form a dressing.
This post was originally published on May 14, 2010 and updated on May 10, 2023.
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Love this recipe! I've made it a few times and each time, I find it tastes even better.
Dara (Cookin' Canuck)
I'm so glad to hear that, Kimberly. It's one of my favorites, too.