This flavourful, slightly spicy Southwestern Quinoa Salad is a delicious meal or side dish that I know you're going to love.
How Do I Know You'll Love This Salad?
This quinoa salad is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian. But even if those things are not a concern for you, you'll love it because it's just plain delicious. It's also hearty, filling, and nutritious. And versatile: a southwestern quinoa salad is perfect for meal prep, pot lucks, side dishes or just as a meal on its own.
It couldn't be any simpler to make, and this recipe makes enough salad for eight full servings. This means you may have leftovers, which will keep all week in the fridge, so it's ideal for quick lunches or dinners, too.
What You'll Need to Make This Recipe:
Quinoa comes in white, red, black, and tricolour. Other than colour, there is very little difference between the varieties. I like to choose red, black, or tri-coloured quinoa when the colour will stand out in a dish. Because this is a vibrant salad by itself, I used white quinoa. Feel free to use whatever quinoa variety that you have on hand or prefer.
Canned black beans are super convenient, and that's what I'm using for this quinoa salad.
Canned or frozen corn kernels work equally well here. If you're using frozen corn, simply run the frozen kernels under cold water to quickly defrost, then add them to the salad.
Grape tomatoes are the perfect size for halving and using here because they have thick skin and will hold their shape without making the salad soggy. This is especially important if you want to have leftovers. You can also use whole cherry tomatoes, too. Or you can substitute sweet bell pepper, diced.
Red Onion is ideal for salads because they have a milder flavour than yellow onions. You can substitute shallots, green onions (use both the white and green parts), or sweet onions. Learn about using different onion varieties raw in salads, plus a trick for making them less pungent: Using Raw Onions In Salads
What You Need To Make The Chilli Lime Dressing
Salads are where your good extra virgin olive oil is going to shine, and if you have it, use it. It's ok to use regular olive oil though if that's what you have.
It wouldn't be a Southwestern salad without lime juice! The juice of one lime is about 2 tablespoons, which is exactly what you need for the recipe.
Honey adds the perfect sweet contrast to tart lime and spicy chilli powder in this dressing. The only real substitute for honey that makes sense in a Southwestern recipe is agave nectar. Using agave nectar in place of honey will also make this a vegan recipe. Because agave nectar is sweeter and more liquid than honey, use just half the amount of agave nectar as honey in the recipe if substituting.
Chilli powders vary greatly as far a spice. This recipe, with two tablespoons of a mildly spiced chilli powder, has just the right amount of kick so that even spice intolerant folks should be ok with it. Be sure to taste, and dial your heat up or down, depending on how you like it. You can also substitute a good taco seasoning for the chilli powder.
Cilantro; you either love it or you hate it. If you are in the latter camp, you can substitute parsley, or just omit it. If you are a cilantro fan, but don't have fresh on hand, use two teaspoons of dried cilantro in place of the fresh. (Be sure to taste and add more if you like).
How to Cook Perfect Quinoa
This Southwestern Quinoa Salad is based on quinoa, which you will, of course, need to cook first. Luckily, quinoa is incredibly easy to cook. Here are just a few tips.
- Always rinse quinoa before cooking. The grain's natural coating, called saponin, can make it taste bitter when cooked. Just put the uncooked quinoa in a strainer or sieve, and run it under cold water for a few minutes.
- One cup of dry quinoa equals about three cups cooked.
- Use two cups of water (or broth, or other liquid) for every cup of dry quinoa.
- Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. The grains should be tender and the liquid absorbed.
- Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes, covered.
- Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
- Allow the quinoa to cool if you are using it in a salad, like this Southwestern quinoa salad, or Sweet Potato Quinoa Chickpea Salad
Just a Few Simple Steps To Make This Southwestern Quinoa Salad:
It couldn't be any easier to make this recipe. Just three steps!
- Put all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
2) Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
3) Pour salad dressing over the salad and stir to combine.
Try Some Delicious Optional Salad Additions
Here are a few optional additions to make this Southwestern quinoa salad even tastier:
- Avocado; sliced or cubed, added just before serving
- Cucumber; cut into 1" quarter slices
- Jalapeno; fresh slices, or pickled
- Roasted red pepper
- Sun-dried tomato
- Hot sauce; any Mexican or Southwestern hot sauce
How to Serve Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Although this salad is perfection just as it is, it also makes a delicious side dish. Try serving it alongside a burger, like Southwestern Bean & Lentil Veggie Burgers, or Chipotle BLT Cheeseburgers. It will also make a perfect accompaniment for Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Turkey Tacos with Mango Salsa or Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken Thighs.
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa cooked and cooled
- 1 15 0z can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 12 oz can corn drained
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- ½ cup red onion finely diced
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp lime juice one lime
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp chilli powder or more to taste
- ¼ tsp salt
- Combine quinoa, beans, corn, tomatoes, onion and cilantro in a large bowl.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl
- Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients
- Stir gently to combine dressing with salad ingredients
- Serve with avocado or other optional ingredients, and extra lime wedges.