Quinoa Southwest Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing is a protein-packed, make ahead-friendly lunch or dinner. This healthy quinoa salad recipe is filled with nutritious ingredients like black beans, fire-roasted corn, avocado, and fresh tomatoes. Gluten free, vegetarian, and only 30 minutes to make.
Why You’ll Love this Quinoa Southwest Salad
This healthy quinoa salad is the kind of make-ahead lunch I look forward to all day. It offers a pleasing contrast of textures between the juicy tomatoes and creamy avocado, and has enough protein and fiber to fuel me for hours. Plus, the creamy chipotle dressing–a lively blend of chiles, honey, and lime–is a sure-fire way to perk up ANY salad.
This quinoa salad recipe is quick and easy to prepare, and yields enough for several lunches. It’s also a perfect party salad, because it can be made ahead and tastes great both cold and at room temperature. I also love to snack on it as a dip, and scoop it up with tortilla chips. Truly, you can’t go wrong with this flavor fiesta of a combo.
In addition to being easy to prepare, this quinoa salad recipe is also:
- Naturally gluten/grain-free
- Rich in protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants
- Vegetarian, and easy to make vegan with a few simple swaps
- Kid-friendly, and a great way to sneak in extra veggies
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Quinoa: Most think of quinoa as a grain, however it’s actually a seed with an impressive nutrition profile. Quinoa is high in protein plus naturally gluten free, making this salad perfectly suitable for those avoiding grains.
- Black beans: You need one can of black beans for this salad, which offers a one-two punch of protein and fiber. You can also use chickpeas or edamame here, if you prefer.
- Frozen corn: I love using Trader Joe’s frozen fire-roasted corn, however any sweet corn will work. Just make sure you completely thaw it prior to stirring it in the salad
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add a burst of juicy freshness to the salad. You can also use diced roma or heirloom tomatoes, depending on what’s in season.
- Avocado: For a jolt of satiating fats and fiber, one whole avocado lends crave-worthy creaminess.
- Pumpkin Seeds: I love using roasted, salted pumpkin seeds for added crunch and nutty richness. Alternatively, you can use peanuts, sunflower seeds, or pistachios.
- Cilantro: Every fully-loaded salad needs a fresh herb counterpart. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, you can add chopped green onion/scallions or chives instead.
- Creamy Chipotle Dressing: A simple mix of Greek yogurt, mayo, olive oil, adobo sauce, honey, and lime juice. If you’re making the salad vegan/dairy free, there are a couple options here. You can use a cashew or coconut-based yogurt, or omit the yogurt and mayo entirely and make a cashew-based chipotle sauce. (See recipe notes below.)
Step 1: Cook the Quinoa
Start by combining the quinoa, broth, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and adobo sauce in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low boil, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer, covered, until the quinoa is fluffy. This usually takes about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare Creamy Chipotle Dressing
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, mayo, olive oil, adobo sauce, honey, lime juice, garlic powder, and salt; stir with a whisk to combine.
Step 3: Combine other Salad Ingredients
To the bowl with quinoa, add black beans, fire-roasted corn, tomatoes, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro; toss to combine. Add dressing, and stir well to coat. Serve warm, chilled, or closer to room temperature.
FAQs and Expert Tips:
Is Quinoa Good for You?
Pronounced “keen-wah”, this pseudo seed has an impressive nutrient profile (see below). Quinoa has a rich, nutty flavor and is extremely versatile in cooking. If I’m not using it in a salad or wrap, I use it as a higher protein substitute for rice or couscous.
Here are all of the benefits of quinoa:
- Plant-based complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.
- Contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat omega-9, and polyunsaturated fat omega-3.
- Contains antioxidant phytonutrients called flavonoids.
- Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.
What to Serve with Quinoa Southwest Salad:
This quinoa salad recipe is plenty satiating on its own, however it’s also super versatile as a side dish. Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
- Salmon: You can’t go wrong with omega-3-rich salmon, especially when treated to a 5-Ingredient Curried Maple Mustard Glaze or Blackened Salmon.
- Tofu: These Chili-Lime Peach and Tofu Skewers totally fit the bill here.
- Chicken: Macadamia Crusted Chicken with Pineapple Salsa is the perfect flavor pairing for this salad.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:
- To Make Ahead. Feel like a meal prep master by prepping this healthy quinoa salad recipe at the start of the week. From there, you can pull it right out of the fridge and enjoy on chilled or closer to room temperature.
- To Store. This salad will last in the refrigerator up to 4 days (even after being dressed!). This salad DOES not freeze well and should not be frozen.
More Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipes to Try:
If you give this quinoa southwest salad a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates.
Quinoa Southwest Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- Medium Saucepan with Lid
- Mixing bowls
- 3/4 cup dry (uncooked) quinoa
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (sub chicken broth)
- 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from canned chipotle chiles in adobo)
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen/thawed (or canned) fire-roasted corn (sub sweet corn)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (see notes below for vegan alternative)
- 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I use avocado oil mayo)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from canned chipotle chiles in adobo)
- 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- Combine quinoa, broth, adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer, covered, until the quinoa is fluffy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let quinoa cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare Creamy Chipotle Dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk to combine.
- To the bowl with quinoa, add black beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds; toss to combine. Add dressing and stir well to coat. Enjoy warm, chilled, or closer to room temperature.