Southwest Pasta Salad


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This quick and easy vegetarian Southwest pasta salad is loaded with black beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, and al dente noodles tossed in a creamy avocado lime dressing and garnished with salty cotija cheese for the perfect summertime side dish! Ditch the mayo-laden pasta salads at your next backyard BBQ and surprise your friends with this unique pasta salad!

Overhead shot of a pasta salad garnished with cotija cheese and chopped cilantro

You’ll Love This

  • The flavors are outrageous. Creamy avocado lime dressing, salty cotija cheese, black beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro come together for the tastiest summer side dish you’ve ever had! Top with super easy Homemade Fried Tortilla Strips for another layer of texture or add leftover shredded chicken, and this Southwest pasta salad can easily pass for a main dish!
  • It’s not your typical mayo-laden pasta salad. I’m not a mayo hater by any means, but this salad gets its creaminess from the avocado and sour cream and I’m here for it. With a hint of lime and fresh cilantro and you might just want to drizzle this dressing on all your Mexican favorites – Easy Vegan Tacos, Ground Beef Flautas, or Slow Cooker Chicken Tostadas, perhaps?
  • It’s the perfect meal prep recipe! Pasta salads are my go-to meal prep recipe for busy weeks and this Southwest pasta salad is one of my absolute favorites. If you’ll be making this pasta salad ahead of time, just add half the dressing initially and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Then each day before you have lunch, drizzle a bit more dressing over the salad and toss to coat everything evenly. Be sure to season to taste with salt as well. And feel free to add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brighten everything up!
Close up shot of a Southwest salad garnished with cotija cheese and chopped cilantro

Instructions

Add pasta, black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, and cotija cheese to a large bowl.

Overhead shot of a large white bowl filled with ingredients to make pasta salad

Add avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, honey, garlic powder, a splash of water and a couple pinches of salt and pepper to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Overhead shot of homemade creamy avocado lime dressing

Pour dressing over the salad.

Overhead shot of a large white bowl filled with ingredients to make pasta salad

Toss to coat evenly.

Overhead shot of a large white bowl filled with ingredients to make pasta salad

Then garnish with Homemade Tortilla Strips, cotija, sliced jalapeno, and fresh chopped cilantro.

Overhead shot of a Southwest pasta salad garnished with cotija cheese and chopped cilantro

Tips

  • Moderately salt your pasta water. I’d recommend anywhere from 2-4 tablespoons of Kosher salt in your pasta water. Your pasta water should be as salty as the ocean. This is your first chance to season the pasta, so this is an important step.
  • Cook the pasta just until al dente. I like to set my timer for 1 minute less than the lowest recommended cooking time. So if the package says to cook the pasta for 9-11 minutes, I set my timer for 8 minutes and start tasting the pasta then. Once it’s just al dente – tender but still has a bit of a toothsome bite – I drain the water immediately.
  • Slightly overripe avocados work well in the creamy dressing recipe for this Southwest pasta salad. If you’ve got some avocados that are getting a little mushy, this Southwest pasta salad is the perfect recipe to use them up! Of course, perfectly ripe avocados will work too.
  • Switch up the veggies or add shredded chicken. You can totally customize this Southwest salad to suit your family’s taste. Diced red peppers, sliced ripe olives, or even fresh baby spinach leaves would be great substitutes for any of the beans or veggies in this dish. Also, feel free to add leftover grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken to make it more of a main dish a well.
  • The dressing will thicken a bit as it sits. Feel free to add a splash of lime juice to loosen things up a bit. Also, taste it after adding the lime juice – it will likely need another couple pinches of Kosher salt as well.
Overhead shot of a Southwest pasta salad garnished with cotija cheese and chopped cilantro

Family Favorite Pasta Salads

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Southwest Pasta Salad

This quick and easy vegetarian Southwest pasta salad is loaded with black beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, and al dente noodles tossed in a creamy avocado lime dressing and garnished with salty cotija cheese for the perfect summertime side dish! Ditch the mayo-laden pasta salads at your next backyard BBQ and surprise your friends with this unique pasta salad!

  • Author: Kylie Lato
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Mexican/American

Scale

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 16 oz. pasta, cooked al dente and cooled
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup petite diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese

Dressing:

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • splash of water
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Garnish:

Instructions

  1. Add pasta, black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, and cotija cheese to a large bowl.
  2. Add avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, honey, garlic powder, a splash of water and a couple pinches of salt and pepper to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour dressing over the salad.
  4. Toss to coat evenly. Then garnish with tortilla strips, cotija, sliced jalapeno, and fresh chopped cilantro.

Notes

Moderately salt your pasta water. I’d recommend anywhere from 2-4 tablespoons of Kosher salt in your pasta water. Your pasta water should be as salty as the ocean. This is your first chance to season the pasta, so this is an important step.

Cook the pasta just until al dente. I like to set my timer for 1 minute less than the lowest recommended cooking time. So if the package says to cook the pasta for 9-11 minutes, I set my timer for 8 minutes and start tasting the pasta then. Once it’s just al dente – tender but still has a bit of a toothsome bite – I drain the water immediately.

Slightly overripe avocados work well in the creamy dressing recipe for this Southwest salad. If you’ve got some avocados that are getting a little mushy, this Southwest pasta salad is the perfect recipe to use them up! Of course, perfectly ripe avocados will work too.

Switch up the veggies or add shredded chicken. You can totally customize this Southwest salad to suit your family’s taste. Diced red peppers, sliced ripe olives, or even fresh baby spinach leaves would be great substitutes for any of the beans or veggies in this dish. Also, feel free to add leftover grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken to make it more of a main dish a well.

The dressing will thicken a bit as it sits. Feel free to add a splash of lime juice to loosen things up a bit. Also, taste it after adding the lime juice – it will likely need another couple pinches of Kosher salt as well.

Keywords: avocado pasta salad, creamy southwest pasta salad, healthy southwest pasta salad





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