When you need a hearty salad that’s nutritious and can be prepped ahead, this southwest quinoa salad is the recipe to make!
Cooked quinoa replaces the chopped lettuce or spinach and gets mixed with southwest flavors of black beans, corn, salsa, and chili spices.
It’s a delicious, meatless recipe you can make as a side dish for cookouts and dinner or include in your lunch meal prep.
Southwest Quinoa Salad Ingredients
Fresh ingredients like tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado paired with pantry staples like canned beans, corn, quinoa, and jarred salsa make this epic recipe simple and delicious.
Specifically, you’ll need:
- quinoa: white or red quinoa will work.
- fresh or jarred salsa: adds a bright “zip” of flavor.
- chili powder and ground cumin: brings just enough heat.
- corn: canned or frozen.
- canned black beans: swap for your favorite variety of beans: chickpeas, pinto, red kidney. etc.
- tomatoes: Roma, cherry, grape, any of these work
- fresh cilantro and green onions: add more depth of citrusy, savory flavor. Feel free to omit, if you’re not a fan of fresh herbs in salad.
- avocado: a yummy topping that adds healthy fats.
- shredded cheese: optional, but never a bad idea where taco flavors are involved.
Creamy Lime Dressing
If you like to add flavor through the dressing in your salads, then I recommend you don’t skip this with my creamy lime dressing. It balances out the salsa, cumin, and chili powder, and it can be prepped up to a week in advance.
Here’s what you need to make it:
- plain yogurt
- fresh lime juice
- black pepper
- garlic powder
However, if you want to make this dairy-free, omit the cheese from the salad, and swap the yogurt-based dressing for this simple lime vinaigrette.
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- ½ lime, juiced
- black pepper
- garlic powder
How to Make Southwest Quinoa Salad
I recommend cooking the quinoa ahead of time, so it’s ready to go when you are. It will refrigerate for up to 4 days, and to reheat, add up to ¼ cup water to 2 cups of cooked quinoa, and microwave until just warmed through- about a minute.
Grab a large bowl, those ingredients, and let’s prepare this easy salad.
- Grab a large bowl
Combine the cooked quinoa, salsa, and seasonings in the large bowl and fold to combine.
- Top with veggies
Add corn, black beans, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions. Fold to combine the ingredients.
- Make the dressing
In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the quinoa salad and toss to combine.
- Dish up
Serve the salad topped with diced avocado, shredded cheese, and chopped cilantro.
Watch this recipe video to see how quickly this salad comes together:
*Recipe note: in the video, you’ll notice I make this salad without the dressing. It is optional, and I prefer to leave it out whenever I prep it ahead. More details on why, below.
Hot or Cold Quinoa Salad
This is one of those salads that can be served warm or enjoyed straight from the refrigerator, chilled. However, if you assemble it ahead of time, I recommend adding the dressing once you’re about to serve it. This way you have the option of reheating it in the microwave without ‘cooking’ the dressing.
Serving Quinoa Salad for Dinner
This quinoa salad can stand alone as an entrée or side dish to a protein such as grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, or my favorite way- a fried egg on top!
Its ability to be prepped days ahead also makes it an easy addition to any meal, and if you want to pack this for lunch, you can grab those directions in this post.
I have so many recipes like this one that can be made ahead and turned into healthy lunches or meals later week, which you can check out in my new Meal Prepp’d eBook.
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How to Meal Prep Southwest Quinoa Salad
The entire salad can be prepped ahead and seems to taste better as time goes on. That being said, I would not add the dressing, cheese, or avocado until you are about to serve it or pack it into lunch containers.
Otherwise, if you prefer to partially prep the ingredients, 2 to 3 days before you plan to eat:
- Cook the quinoa
- Chop the green onions
- Chop the tomatoes
- Prepare the creamy lime dressing
- Refrigerate each of the ingredients into separate airtight containers.
How Long Does it Last?
This salad will keep fresh for up to 4 days refrigerated in an airtight container without any dressing or avocado. The quinoa and veggies have ample time to absorb all the flavors from the dressing and salsa.
Southwest Quinoa Salad Bowls
For the Southwest Quinoa Salad:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup jarred salsa
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup frozen or canned corn, thawed or rinsed and drained
- 15- ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- Avocado, peeled and diced
- Shredded Cheddar cheese
For the Creamy Lime Dressing
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Bring the water to a boil, then stir in the quinoa, lower the heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes and turn off the heat.
- Cover and let sit for 6 minutes – you’ll know the quinoa is ready when you see the little white “tail” of the germ around the outside edge of each seed.
- Once quinoa is done, transfer it to a large bowl and add the salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Fold to combine.
- Stir in corn, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions. Fold a few times until thoroughly combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. Pack the dressing into mini sauce containers or add it to the salad and toss to combine.
- Serve topped with avocado, cheese, and additional cilantro.