I went to Whole Foods the other day to pick up a few ingredients, but I made the one mistake of going to the grocery store hungry. If you have ever done this, you know what I mean.
While I was there, I had to make a pit-stop at the salad bar to prevent myself from buying the whole grocery store or making a few unhealthy decisions. There was a southwestern black bean quinoa salad on the menu that looked so fresh and colorful, I knew I had to try. One bite and I was in heaven.
Crunchy, colorful and packed with flavor, much like my Quinoa Tabbouleh, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Lentil and Quinoa Salad, and Mexican Quinoa, I ended up buying the ingredients for this salad so that I could recreate a version at home. With tons of goodness coming from protein-packed quinoa and speckled with colorful vegetables like black beans, peppers, scallions, red onions, and cilantro, I felt like I was in the Southwest.
Similar to my Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad, it’s a wonderful, fresh quinoa salad recipe that easily feeds a crowd. Served warm or cold, this salad is naturally Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and with one small adjustment, Vegan, too!
Ingredients to Make The Quinoa
Quinoa starts off this eye-catching colorful salad. The Whole Foods version used red quinoa, but you can make it with any color quinoa you have in the pantry.
- Uncooked white, red or tri-color (rainbow) quinoa – One cup of uncooked quinoa makes 3 cups cooked and the tiny seeds make a hearty base to soak up the dressing. Use any variety you have on hand. Note the flavor in white quinoa is milder whereas red quinoa is a little bit stronger and chewier in texture.
- Water – Although the package tells you to cook the quinoa in a ratio of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, I find a ratio of 1:1 ¾ produces a fluffier grain. Though you can’t go wrong either way.
- Salt – A small pinch of kosher salt enhances the earthy quinoa flavor.
Ingredients For The Southwest Quinoa Salad
Colorful, crunchy and delicious, a mix of both canned and fresh vegetables makes this salad convenient and easy.
- Black Beans – Two 15oz cans of black beans that have been drained and rinsed provide a protein-boost and starchy goodness to this salad.
- Canned Corn – I purchased one small 10 oz can of whole kernel corn I found right next to the beans, but you can also use frozen corn, as it has already been blanched and shocked. Simply drain and rinse the canned corn or thaw the frozen corn to room temperature.
- Bell Peppers – The recipe specifies red and yellow bell peppers, but I actually found the mini bell peppers that day in the produce aisle and ended up using quite a bit of them since I like the color and crunch the peppers provide. That’s what I love most about this quinoa salad. It’s based on your preference, so feel free to use as much or as little peppers as you’d like.
- Jalapeno – I feel like this salad wouldn’t be southwestern without jalapeno. Use the entire pepper, including the seeds and ribs, if you’d like a spicy kick in your salad.
- Cherry Tomatoes – Bright red and somehow always in season, tomatoes add a nice acidity. Quarter or chop to your desired size.
- Scallions + Red Onion – Scallions are a nice, mild onion flavor that pair well with sweet red onion. I even made a version without the red onion and just used scallions – yum!
- Avocado – The soft and creamy texture of avocado adds richness. Cut it into small cubes to ensure there is avocado in every bite.
- Cilantro – It is optional, but the fresh cilantro makes all the difference. If you don’t like cilantro, an equal amount of flat-leaf parsley will do.
For the dressing, I used my Chili Lime Vinaigrette. With its tangy and spicy flavors, it helped me enhance the Southwestern flavors and took this salad recipe to a whole other level.
How To Make This Southwest Quinoa Salad Recipe
To make this southwest inspired quinoa salad, simply:
- Cook the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a small saucepan and cover with water. Set it on the stovetop over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, season with salt, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12-14 minutes, or until little tails emerge from the seeds. Turn off the heat, allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes and fluff with a fork.
- Make the chili-lime dressing. In a small jar, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and honey. Give it a good shake.
- Make the salad. In a large salad bowl, combine the black beans, corn, peppers, jalapeno, cherry tomatoes, scallions and red onion. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa, avocado and cilantro. Drizzle with ¾ of the dressing and give it a gentle toss. If the salad looks a bit dry, add the remaining dressing. If not, serve the remaining dressing on the side.
How To Serve
This recipe for quinoa salad easily serves 6 people. It makes a healthy make-ahead side dish to bring to your next get-together as it can be served warm, room temperature or cold.
I actually like to make this southwest quinoa lime salad bowl one day in advance, cover it and store it in the fridge overnight. The quinoa soaks up more of that delicious dressing while all the other ingredients have a better chance to blend together with an overnight rest in the fridge.
How Long Does It Last In the Fridge
As long as it is stored in an airtight container, this Southwestern quinoa salad will last for up to 5 days in the fridge.
If I know I have a busy week ahead of me, I make it on Sunday, portion it into 5-6 individual meal prep containers (affiliate link) and store them separately in the fridge. That way, I have a healthy, colorful and protein-packed lunch ready and waiting for me!
Southwest Quinoa Salad Recipe
For The Quinoa:
- 1 cup uncooked white red, or tri-color quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
- 1 ¾ cups water
- Pinch of salt
- For The Chili Lime Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 4 tablespoons lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon honey or maple syrup for a vegan salad
For The Salad:
- 2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 10 oz cans (small can) of whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper cored and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper cored and chopped
- 1 jalapeno deseeded and chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes rinsed and chopped
- 4 stalks of scallions chopped
- ¼ cup of red onion chopped
- 1 ripened avocado cut into cubes
- 1 cup cilantro chopped (optional)
- To cook the quinoa: Place quinoa in a saucepan and cover with water over medium-high heat. Add in a pinch of salt. Put the lid on, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for 12-14 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then fluff it with a fork.
- To make the chili-lime dressing: Place olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, salt, and honey in a small jar, put the lid on, and give it a vigorous shake.
- To Make the Salad: Place black beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeno, cherry tomatoes, scallions, and red onion in a large salad bowl. Add in the cooked quinoa, cubed avocado, and chopped cilantro. Drizzle it with the dressing. Give it a gentle toss.
- Rinse the quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter outer layer called saponin that can be washed away by rinsing the quinoa under cool running water. Simply place in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse for 1-2 minutes. To save you a step, certain manufacturers sell pre-rinsed quinoa - just look for the note on the package
- Add a bit of smokey flavor. When making the vinaigrette, substitute the chili powder for an equal amount of sweet smoked paprika instead.
- Toss the ingredients and dressing with the quinoa while still warm. Warm quinoa soaks up the dressing much more efficiently and warms up the remaining ingredients so that they can soak up more of the dressing, too! Allow the mixed salad to cool for a few minutes and then add the finishing touch of the avocado and cilantro. Serve it warm, room temperature or chill it down in the fridge for a cold quinoa salad.