Deliciously fresh, perfect for eating hot or cold, this vegan Southwest Quinoa Salad makes a perfectly packable lunch or a tasty side all year round. As a bonus, you can get this yummy dish on the table in just 30 minutes.
This post was originally published on January 30, 2017
What do you get when you combine nutty, fluffy quinoa, creamy black beans, sweet red bell pepper & corn kernels, and lots of fresh herbs in a Cumin Lime dressing? Why, this delicious and refreshing Southwest Quinoa Salad, of course!
This wholesome grain salad is filled with proteins, nutrients, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables for a satisfying side or a light, refreshing mid-day meal. You can also enjoy it warm or cold, making it a perfect, bright side that you can enjoy year-round!
Oh, and in case you weren't aware: quinoa is naturally gluten free! That's right, folks. This yummy, filling southwest quinoa salad is both vegan AND gluten free, making it the perfect salad to bring to a potluck or grill out. Basically everyone can eat it!
So spice up your Taco Tuesday with this meal-prep friendly, super healthy grain salad and enjoy the leftovers all week long. I can guarantee you won't regret it!
Recommended Ingredients and Equipment
The ingredients for this vegan quinoa salad are super straight forward. They are easy to find at your local grocery store and highly versatile.
Here is everything you need.
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- Dried Quinoa - I used white quinoa in this recipe, but feel free to use any color you have on hand!
- Black Beans - I like to use canned beans for convenience, so simply drain and rinse them if you follow suit. You can also cook your own black beans from dried if you prefer.
- Red Bell Pepper - I love the color of red bell pepper, but orange or yellow will do just fine here.
- Red Onions - Red onions are best for eating raw, but in a pinch, feel free to swap in sweet yellow onions instead.
- Jalapeño - Fresh jalapeños can vary wildly in terms of their spice quotient. I recommend removing the seeds and membranes prior to slicing, as this is where the majority of capsaicin (the compound that tastes "hot") lives. If you are not a fan of spicy foods, feel free to omit them.
- Cilantro - One of my favorite all-time herbs, I know cilantro is not for everyone. If you're one of those people who equate cilantro to the flavor of soap, I recommend swapping in some fresh flat leaf parsley instead.
- Limes - Fresh is best here! To get the most juice from your limes, give them a firm roll on the countertop for about 15-20 seconds before slicing them in half.
Step One - Cook Quinoa
Cooking quinoa is very similar to cooking rice. To begin, quinoa should always be first rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear. Rinsing is key for getting a clean, nutty flavor. Otherwise, quinoa can sometimes taste dirty and gritty.
Once it’s rinsed, drain the water and transfer quinoa to a saucepot with a tight fitting lid. Add 2 parts water and a pinch of salt for every 1 part quinoa and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the water is completely absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let it sit an additional 5 minutes before uncovering and fluffing with a fork.
Pro Tip: If you plan on eating the salad warm, feel free to move directly to assembling it now. However, the veggies and herbs will wilt a bit if added to warm quinoa, so it is best to cool the grains first if you plan on eating this chilled.
Once the quinoa is cooked, transfer it to a shallow bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let to quinoa cool down before adding the remaining salad ingredients.
Step Two - Prep the Veggies
While the quinoa cooks and chills, you can prepare the vegetables. Chop the peppers, onions & herbs, rinse the black beans, and set everything aside.
Pro Tip: Do your best to cut everything roughly to uniform size. The peppers and onions should be about the same size as the black beans and corn.
Step Three - Make Cilantro Lime Dressing
Simply mix together the ingredients for your dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings. Since there isn't anything to emulsify it, be sure to whisk again right before dressing your quinoa salad to ensure an even distribution of ingredients.
Once the quinoa has cooled, add the vegetables, top it with the dressing, and mix to incorporate everything.
Serving and Storing
Serving - My Southwest Quinoa Salad can be eaten the same day it’s made or made in advance on your meal prep day. Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. This allows the salad to cool down and lets the flavors marinate. It can be served as part of a summer potluck or for a light lunch or afternoon snack. It would also be delicious to stuff into bell peppers and bake!
Storing - Uneaten quinoa salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Tips and Tricks
- Want the most juice from your limes? Give them a firm roll on the countertop for about 15 seconds prior to cutting into them.
- Rinsing is key for getting a clean, nutty flavor. Otherwise, quinoa can sometimes taste dirty and gritty. If you want to cut out a step, opt for pre-rinsed quinoa and save yourself a little time and energy!
- Do your best to cut everything roughly to uniform size. The peppers and onions should be about the same size as the black beans and corn.
- Worried about heat from the jalapeños? Remove the seeds and white membrane from the peppers and you'll remove the majority of the capsaicin (the compound that tastes spicy) from the fruit.
- If you plan on eating the salad warm, feel free to assemble it right away. However, the veggies and herbs will wilt a bit if added to warm quinoa, so it is best to cool the grains first if you plan on eating this chilled.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I’m glad you asked! Let me tell you.
-One serving has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
-It contains a healthy amount of important vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, folate, and iron.
-It’s one of the few plant-based foods that naturally contains omega-3 fatty acids.
-Quinoa has all NINE essential amino acids making it a complete protein.
-And it is very high in antioxidants.
Despite being a gluten-free superfood, quinoa is delicious! It has such a delightfully nutty taste and fluffy texture, it pairs so well with most vegetables, nuts, fruits, and all sorts of herbs and spices. Ready to give this southwest quinoa salad a try? I think you’re going to love it!
This yummy grain salad is a favorite of mine because it is so darn versatile. Feel free to serve it warm or cold, as a side or as the main dish. It would pair fantastically with anything in the Tex-Mex realm, including my Vegan Enchiladas Verde with Cashew Creme, Sheet Pan Vegan Fajitas with Soy Curls, or Vegan Black Bean Enchiladas.
If you want to eat it as an entrée salad, top it with some extra goodness like sliced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, and a handful of greens to bulk it up. It also does very well as a packed lunch or picnic salad.
You can also use it to stuff bell peppers for a fun, vegan twist on the Tex-Mex favorite. Cover with vegan cheese, bake and top with a dollop of vegan sour cream for a yummy and filling dinner!
For sure! The recipe can be made up to a day in advance. Making it in advance can help the flavors marinate for a bolder flavored salad.
I get it! Quinoa can be difficult to master. Check out this article more details on how to make the perfect quinoa.
Other Quinoa Salad Variations:
- Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad
- Strawberry and Mint Quinoa Salad
- Spring Quinoa Salad with Peas and Asparagus
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Check out all my vegan salad recipes for more inspiration.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
- 1 ½ cup dried quinoa
- 1 cup fresh corn
- 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup red onions, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
- Rinse quinoa and set aside. Bring 2 ¾ cups water to a boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until water has evaporated and quinoa is cooked. Transfer to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 20 minutes.
- Dice the onions, bell peppers, and jalapeno pepper. Rinse the black beans and corn. Set aside.
- While quinoa is cooking, mix together salad dressing ingredients. Once the quinoa is no longer hot to the touch, stir in the salad dressing so that the quinoa is fully coated.
- Add the vegetables, black beans, and corn. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Rinsing dried quinoa is key for getting a clean, nutty flavor. Otherwise, quinoa can sometimes taste dirty and gritty.
- I struggle with cooking quinoa. Any tips for getting it right? I get it! Quinoa can be difficult to master. Check out this article more details on how to make the perfect quinoa.