Southwest Pasta Salad
on May 25, 2023
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This southwest pasta salad has all sorts of exciting ingredients in each bite. Loaded with grilled corn, black beans and a combination of raw veggies including bell peppers, tomatoes and radishes, it’s tossed in a healthy creamy dressing made with avocado, fresh lime juice and cilantro.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
The flavors are different than the usual pasta salad. Naturally pasta dishes, including salads, tend to have vegetables and other ingredients that are Italian or Mediterranean. With black beans, corn and radishes, this recipe is a great way to change up your pasta salad game.
It is a mayo-free pasta salad that has a creamy dressing. I am not a big mayonnaise person. Avocado adds that creamy richness in a much healthier way. And avocado is a perfect match with these Tex- Mex, southwestern flavors.
This pasta salad is vegan. As mentioned, avocados are a way to give you that plant-based creaminess for the dressing.
Pasta Salad Ingredients
This is what you need:
- Pasta: Corkscrew-shaped fusilli soaks up the avocado dressing and mixes well with the corn, black, beans and tomatoes. You can use gluten-free pasta like lentil or chickpea. Rotini pasta is a good substitute because it is almost identical in shape. I prefer spirals over penne because they really hold on to the dressing.
- Corn: Grilled corn is the only cooked ingredient other than the pasta. I love the crisp crunch of the kernels throughout the salad. Grilling gives the salad smoky flavor. You will miss out on that grilled taste, but you can use canned corn or thawed frozen corn instead. You will need about 2 to 2-1/2 cups.
- Black beans: Adding beans to any salad makes it filling to the point that you can serve it as a side or a main dish. I use canned beans because they are so convenient. You can substitute with kidney beans or pinto beans.
- Bell peppers are crisp and fresh. My preference for color are red, yellow or orange because they are sweeter than green peppers.
- Tomatoes: You can use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and just slice them in half.
- Radishes: For some fresh peppery crunch, I also stir in sliced radishes.
- Scallions add subtle oniony flavor that balances with the rest of the ingredients. You can substitute with half a small red onion, thinly sliced.
- Cilantro: There is chopped cilantro in the salad and more blended into the dressing.
- Avocado lime dressing: For this vegan pasta salad, I make a dressing with avocado, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper.
- Cheese: You can sprinkle in grated cheddar, crumbled feta or cotija cheese.
- Black olives: If you want to add flavor that’s a bit salty. You can stir in pitted olives either sliced or roughly chopped.
- Chicken or shrimp: Maybe you don’t need the pasta salad to be vegetarian. If that’s the case roasted or grilled chicken or shrimp are good options for a protein. Then that definitely turns this into a main dish.
How to Make this Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat.
1. Cook the pasta salted boiling water in a large pot. Follow the recommended cook time on the package, so the noodles turn out al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water in a colander.
2. Grill the corn. First drizzle it with olive oil. Then grill the cobs turning every so often until they are lightly charred.
3. Slice the kernels off the corn when it is cool enough to handle.
4. Make the dressing. Puree the avocado, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil in a food processor or blender until smooth.
5. Stir the dressing into the pasta in a large bowl.
6. Assemble the salad. Fold the corn, black beans, tomatoes, radishes, scallions and cilantro into the pasta.
Pasta salad is always a reliable side dish, but it’s also a great choice for a vegetarian main dish for a weekday, weekend or even a potluck. With its Tex-Mex inspired flavors, this recipe pairs well with anything that’s grilled and smoky. You can serve it with Barbecue Tofu Veggie Skewers or Grilled Halloumi and Veggies.
Storage & Leftovers
This pasta salad is best the day it is made. That’s very true with the dressing. Because it has avocados, it will brown, but leftovers will still taste good. You can keep them in the fridge in an airtight container up to 3 days. I like to let it sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, so it isn’t as cold.
Make sure not to overcook the pasta. You want the noodles to be al dente, so they have a nice bite.
You may think about cooking the pasta ahead of time, but don’t do it too early. Wait to cook the pasta until you are ready to assemble and serve the salad because you want it to be the freshest pasta salad possible and not have soggy noodles.
Adjust the seasonings as necessary. Taste the pasta salad because cold dishes usually need more salt than warm ones. Have a couple bites and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.
More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes
Did you make this pasta salad? Please leave a rating and comment below. Thanks!
Southwest Pasta Salad
- For salad
- 8 ounces fusilli pasta
- 3 ears corn
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1-15 ounce black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 4 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- For dressing
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 garlic clove
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat.
- While the grill heats up, cook the fusilli in salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water in a colander.
- Rub the corn with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Let the corn cool slightly before slicing the kernels off the cobs.
- For the dressing, puree the avocado, garlic, lime juice, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- In a large bowl, stir the dressing into the cooked pasta. Then fold in the corn, black beans, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, scallions and 1/4 cup cilantro leaves.
Cheese such as grated cheddar, crumbled feta or cotija cheese
Roasted or grilled chicken or shrimp
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.