Southwest Quinoa Salad

BY : PUBLISHED : March 22nd, 2022 UPDATED: October 17th, 2022

This Southwest Quinoa Salad is hearty, wholesome, and packed with familiar Southwestern flavors, including black beans, tomato, bell pepper, and an oil-free cilantro-lime dressing. Grain-free, gluten-free, vegan, and a delicious, versatile meal-prep main! Once your quinoa is cooked, it'll just take 10 minutes to put all together!

completed Fresh Quinoa Salad in a blue bowl against a white background

Fresh and Vibrant Mexican Quinoa Salad

Here at PBOAB, we love quinoa salads. They’re hearty, healthy, flavorful, and super easy to customize. Plus, since quinoa is packed with fiber and contains all the essential amino acids, it makes for a complete protein, excellent for adding to meat-free meals. So, having shared a Mediterranean quinoa salad and Tanzanian grapefruit quinoa salad, now it’s the turn of this Southwest quinoa salad (also called Mexican quinoa salad).

With ingredients including black beans, tomato, bell pepper, lime, and cilantro, this black bean quinoa salad is loaded with typical Southwestern/Mexican flavors and ready to impress as a side or main at potlucks, picnics, BBQs, or even for a nutritious meal-prep meal.

Plus, since the zesty lime-cilantro dressing is oil free, this Mexican quinoa salad also cuts down on calories and fat found in many other recipes. Luckily, with the combination of fresh flavors, nutrients, and colors, this is a vegan quinoa salad that we happily return to time and time again! We’ve even included a list of further recipe add-ins and variations below for those who enjoy even more choice.

Looking for more ways to enjoy quinoa? You might enjoy this cheesy quinoa bowls, artichoke quinoa salad, quinoa tater tots, or even cinnamon-orange quinoa porridge!

The Ingredients

  • Quinoa: Use white or tri-color quinoa (red quinoa is chewier but technically OK to use too), pre-cooked and cooled. It’s best to cook it in vegetable broth for added flavor. 
  • Beans: We used a combination of black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas), canned. However, feel free to use other beans like pinto beans, kidney beans, etc. If you want more canned beans recipes, we've got 59 canned beans recipes you might enjoy! 
  • Vegetables: All you need for this simple Southwestern quinoa salad is red bell pepper (or orange or yellow), red onion, and cherry or grape tomatoes.
  • Cilantro: A generous amount of finely minced cilantro leaves helps to infuse the Mexican quinoa with more fresh flavor.
  • Lime: Adds lovely depth and a zingy dressing to the Southwest quinoa bowl.
  • Salt & Black pepper: Added to taste.
ingredients measured out for fresh quinoa salad against a white surface

There are several ways to boost the ‘dressing.’ Add a pinch of cumin and chili powder for extra flavor. You could also make an oil-based dressing using light and fruity extra-virgin olive oil (use 2 tablespoon in a 1:1 ratio with lime juice). You could add a drizzle of maple, too, if preferred.

Optional add-ins & Recipe Variations

There are several ways to boost the flavor and customize this Southwest quinoa salad, including:

  • Garlic: Sauté minced garlic until fragrant, then cook with the quinoa to infuse it with extra flavor. 1-2 cloves or adjust to taste.
  • Avocado: Add diced avocado to the Southwest quinoa salad just before serving (as it will brown while sitting).
  • Spice: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or some finely chopped chili.
  • Pickled ingredients: Pickled red onion or pickled jalapenos, finely chopped, are a great addition to this Mexican quinoa recipe in place of their fresh counterparts.
  • Tofu: Marinated or lightly fried tofu with taco seasoning (or something similar with a bit of heat) could work very well. Here's a great guide to tofu if you want to learn more about this protein-packed food! 
  • Other vegetables: corn (frozen, canned, or charred), spinach or kale, crispy chickpeas, black olives, cucumber (English or Persian), roasted sweet potato, etc.
  • Nuts/Seeds: Add extra crunch and nutrients with pepitas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, etc.
  • Salsa: A dollop or two of salsa (like this roasted red salsa or tomatillo salsa verde) over the Mexican quinoa salad when serving is a simple way to add extra flavor.
completed Fresh Quinoa Salad in a blue bowl against a white background

How to Make Southwest Quinoa Salad?

First, you’ll need to cook the quinoa. Follow our instructions here on how to cook quinoa on the stove or in an Instant Pot. Make sure to rinse it first and allow it to thoroughly cool before moving on to the below steps.

  • 1) Drain and rinse the beans, dice the red onion and bell pepper, halve the tomatoes, and finely mince the cilantro.
fresh quinoa salad ingredients on a chopping board against a white marble surface
  • 2) Then, transfer all the ingredients to a large serving bowl and toss to combine.
chopped ingredients in a green bowl

You can enjoy the Southwestern quinoa immediately, though it’s even better to leave it for 20-30 minutes chilling in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust any of the elements before serving!

FAQs

Can I substitute the quinoa?

You could use several grains instead of quinoa, such as wild rice, couscous, farro, etc. However, the cooking methods and times will vary.

Can I use freshly cooked quinoa?

The quinoa needs to be chilled before mixing with the fresh veggies; otherwise, it can cause them to wilt. Leave at least an hour or two for it to cool down. To speed up the process, spread it across a large tray in a thin layer and transfer it to the fridge/freezer.

Can I substitute the cilantro?

Parsley could work as a substitute for those that are not a fan of cliantro. 

completed Fresh Quinoa Salad in a blue bowl with utensils against a white background

Top Recipe Tips and Notes

  • To enhance the quinoa flavor: Lightly toast it in the pan/skillet until fragrant before cooking it.
  • Using leftover cooked quinoa: You can refer to this post for how to cook quinoa on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. It should be fully cooled before making this Mexican quinoa salad.
  • Adjust the vegetables added: Based on what you have in your kitchen/pantry. This veggie quinoa is highly versatile.
  • Leave the black bean quinoa salad to marinate: This will give the flavors a chance to meld for a better overall result.

How to Store?

You can cook the quinoa up to 2 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Likewise, the vegetables can be chopped up to a day in advance.

Store any leftover Southwest quinoa salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.

You can also freeze the quinoa bean mixture (minus the fresh vegetables). Store in portions either in Ziplock/Stasher bags or airtight containers for 3-4 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before adding the fresh veggies and seasoning, then mix and enjoy. 

completed Fresh Quinoa Salad in a blue bowl with utensils against a white background

How to Serve?

There are several ways to enjoy this Mexican quinoa salad, whether as an appetizer, side, or main.

This Southwest quinoa salad is also a great option for taking to potlucks, BBQs, and other large gatherings. You could even enjoy it warm with a sprinkle of your favorite melty vegan cheese.

More Easy Vegan Quinoa Recipes

Or browse through our entire list of budget-friendly vegan quinoa recipes!

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

completed Fresh Quinoa Salad in a blue bowl with utensils against a white background

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Toni Okamoto
If you are a bit turned off by green salads then this is your recipe! It is super packed with protein, and it will be your perfect work lunch, quick meal on the go, and potluck favorite!
5 from 32 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 322 kcal
METHOD Stovetop
DIET Vegan

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 15 ounces of black beans, drained
  • 15 ounces of garbanzo beans, drained
  • ½ cup of finely diced red onion
  • ½ cup of finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup of halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of minced cilantro
  • Salt, to taste (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)
  • Juice of a lime (optional)

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients.
  • Chill to let the flavors meld.

Video

Notes

Customize your flavor:
  • Garlic: Sauté minced garlic until fragrant, then cook with the quinoa to infuse it with extra flavor. 1-2 cloves or adjust to taste.
  • Avocado: Add diced avocado to the Southwest quinoa salad just before serving (as it will brown while sitting).
  • Spice: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or some finely chopped chili.
  • Pickled ingredients: Pickled red onion or pickled jalapenos, finely chopped, are a great addition to this Mexican quinoa recipe in place of their fresh counterparts.
  • Tofu: Marinated or lightly fried tofu with taco seasoning (or something similar with a bit of heat) could work very well. Here’s a great guide to tofu if you want to learn more about this protein-packed food! 
  • Other vegetables: corn (frozen, canned, or charred), spinach or kalecrispy chickpeas, black olives, cucumber (English or Persian), roasted sweet potato, etc.
  • Nuts/Seeds: Add extra crunch and nutrients with pepitas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, etc.
  • Salsa: A dollop or two of salsa (like this roasted red salsa or tomatillo salsa verde) over the Mexican quinoa salad when serving is a simple way to add extra flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 16gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 716mgPotassium: 795mgFiber: 16gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 858IUVitamin C: 37mgCalcium: 101mgIron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedonaBudget! 🙂

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

About Toni Okamoto

"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez

View all posts by Toni Okamoto

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Jay says

    Looks so good!!

    • Andrea White says

      So refreshing!

  2. Michelle Cehn says

    Simple and delicious. What more could you want? Oh yeah, HEALHY!

    • Andrea White says

      Right?! Fresh and delicious!

  3. Tina G says

    Such a fresh and delicious recipe!

    • Andrea White says

      Fresh and tasty!

  4. Teodora Grujic says

    Perfect recipefor lunch at work!

    • Andrea White says

      Definitely so!

  5. Amanda Meth says

    Such a protein-packed meal!

    • Andrea White says

      Love it!

  6. Gina House says

    Fantastic recipe! Quinoa has such a great texture and is so satisfying.

    • Andrea White says

      Love a good quinoa dish!

  7. Andrea White says

    So fresh and wholesome!

  8. Nancy Wu says

    this quinoa salad is perfect. we make this all the time !

    • Andrea White says

      Light, fluffy, and so nutritious!

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