Colorful and healthy Southwest Quinoa Salad with black beans, crunchy veggies, fresh cilantro, and tossed in a chili lime dressing! This make ahead cold salad is perfect for meal prep lunches, dinners, or a cookout side dish.
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Everyone will love this Southwest quinoa salad with a cumin lime kick. It is a one of my favorite quinoa recipes packed with Mexican flavor and protein.
Hearty quinoa soaks up the dressing so well, which makes it taste so-so-so good cold straight from the fridge. Cold quinoa salad becomes the ultimate lunch food. Don’t you agree?
When combined with beans, fresh veggies, and sweet corn you have something truly special. I love the addition of both into my salads!
Better yet this salad is suitable for a variety of dietary preferences making it the perfect side dish for a party! It’s both naturally gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and it will be your new summer go-to.
Ingredients to Make Quinoa
Quinoa is the ancient grain of choice for this salad! I prefer tri-colour quinoa. It has softness of white quinoa and hardiness of red quinoa. But big “but” is that you can use any! Be it red quinoa, white quinoa, or tri-color quinoa.
For the best quinoa results follow my method outlined in how to cook quinoa on the stovetop.
- Uncooked quinoa: Any color works. One cup of dry quinoa is equal to 2.5-3 cups cooked quinoa.
- Water: I personally like to cook quinoa with a ratio of 1 cup dry quinoa to 1.5 cups water. Unlike most packages that state 1:2 ratio.
- Salt: Just a pinch helps ‘flavor’ the quinoa. We are adding dressing to this salad, so feel free to omit this if you need lower sodium.
If you own a pressure cooker, I can’t say enough about Instant Pot quinoa perfect results. You will need 1 cup quinoa to 1.25 cups cold water. It’s so easy and hands off with no worries about your pot of quinoa boiling over.
Ingredients For the Salad
To make this quinoa salad I used:
- Cooked quinoa: Any color and more often than not I make quinoa salads with leftover quinoa from fridge or freezer.
- Black beans: I can of low sodium black beans, I love to use Instant Pot black beans.
- Bell pepper: You’ll need two and they can be any color. I love red bell pepper and green for taste and color.
- Corn: During summer fresh sweet corn is best, you can use frozen and thawed though, too!
- Red onion and garlic: Red onion adds a sharp taste to the salad, green onion could be used instead, though.
- Jalapeno: No southwest dish is complete without it.
- Cilantro: Adds fresh flavor, if you are in pinch or cilantro is not your favorite, flat leaf parsley is acceptable.
- Dressing: Olive oil, fresh lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
How to Make Southwest Quinoa Salad
To make this southwestern quinoa salad follow these easy steps:
- Cook quinoa: Use package directions, or follow my tips in the recipe card for perfect stovetop results. Easier yet is to make quinoa in the Instant Pot.
- Prep veggies: While quinoa is cooking, chop vegetables and herbs.
- Assemble ingredients: We will not be making separate dressing (vinaigrette) because I simply do not see the point. I add lime juice, olive oil and spices straight to the bowl with chopped veggies.
- Add quinoa and stir: Add fluffed with a fork and a bit cooled down cooked quinoa. Stir well. Good thing quinoa salad is not a delicate matter so you can stir for a while.
How to Serve
While you can eat it warm, I absolutely recommend to refrigerate this salad (really any quinoa salad) for at least 30 minutes. It tastes best cold and all the flavors have a chance “to marry” each other.
On a hot summer day, eat on its own. Bring to a potluck, pool party or cookout with salsa guacamole.
Serve as a side with Instant Pot frozen chicken, like I did pictured below.
How Long Does It Last in the Fridge?
Quinoa salad is like wine, it gets better with time. I usually cover the bowl of salad with plastic wrap or beeswax wraps and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
For busy weeks, you can portion it out into individual containers or mason jars and it’s ready to go for lunch. So easy!
I would not freeze leftovers because of all the fresh veggies.
FAQs and Tips
Some may find that quinoa can have a bitter flavor. Rinse your quinoa in a colander under cold water before cooking if this is you.
Add all ingredients to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Stir right before serving.
Leave a few jalapeno seeds in the salad for some kick or replace some of the chili powder with smoked paprika for a smoky taste.
Yes, avocado is a great pairing with any southwest dish! Diced or sliced avocado or a drizzle of avocado cilantro dressing really makes this top notch!
More Quinoa Salad Recipes
You might also like this list of over 50 healthy salad recipes!
Southwest Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup dry quinoa or 2.5-3 cups cooked quinoa
- 14 oz can low sodium black beans rinsed & drained
- 2 bell peppers diced
- 1 cup corn cooked or thawed
- 1 bunch cilantro finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno seeded and minced
- 1 garlic clove grated
- 2 large limes juice of
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2-3/4 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa as per package instructions. I like to cook quinoa with a ratio of 1 cup dry quinoa to 1.5 cups water. Unlike most packages that state 1:2 ratio. Bring to a boil, cook on low for 12 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. This way quinoa comes out less mushy. Or make Instant Pot quinoa.
- While quinoa is cooking, chop the veggies.
- In a large salad bowl, add black beans, bell peppers, corn, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.
- Fluff quinoa with a fork and add to the bowl. Stir salad gently to combine and serve cold or warm.
- Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: Add all ingredients to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Stir right before serving.
- Quinoa color: White, red or tri-colour quinoa works. Red quinoa is more hearty and chewy.
- Salt: I cook my own no salt added Instant Pot black beans. So if you use low sodium or regular canned black beans, tate and adjust salt.