This southwest pasta salad features black beans, corn, crunchy veggies, avocado and a tangy and flavorful homemade dressing. It is the perfect side dish for summer picnics, BBQs and celebrations!
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This southwest pasta salad is a fun and flavorful twist on traditional pasta salad. It makes the perfect side dish to grilled chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers.
Make this southwest pasta salad for Memorial Day, 4th of July or any other BBQ or celebration you have going on this summer. It’s easy, can be made ahead of time and is a crowd pleaser! It’s also naturally vegan and can easily be made gluten free.
This pasta salad is also flexible in that it’s possible to omit or substitute an ingredient or two for what you have on hand and still have a delicious and flavorful end result. Here is what I put in my version (substitution options below):
Pasta: use a short pasta shape that has nooks and cranies that can ‘catch’ the dressing, such as rotini, farfalle, gemelli or penne.
Black beans: drained and rinsed well.
Corn: fresh is ideal, but frozen works too.
Veggies: we are using red and green bell peppers for color, flavor and crunch, cherry tomatoes, red onion and scallions.
Avocado: avocado adds a touch of creaminess. The lime juice in the dressing will keep it from turning brown.
Lime juice & zest: the key to this dressing. Adds flavor, zestiness and compliments the other flavors flawlessly.
Cilantro: lots of cilantro to add flavor and freshness.
Oil: I recommend a high quality olive oil, but canola oil or a similar neutral oil will work as well.
White wine vinegar: white wine vinegar is a balanced option that doesn’t overpower the other flavors of the dressing.
Spices: chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, salt and pepper.
How to make the dressing
Finely mince the garlic and chop the fresh cilantro.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the lime juice and zest, chopped cilantro, oil, white wine vinegar, spices and minced garlic. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.
How to make southwest pasta salad
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse for 10 seconds.
Add pasta to a large mixing bowl along with corn, black beans, red and green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onions and scallions. Pour over dressing and toss well to ensure everything is coated in dressing.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t overcook the pasta! You want al dente pasta for a nice bite and to prevent mushy pasta salad.
- If you are not tossing the pasta with dressing right away, toss the pasta with a small amount of oil to prevent sticking.
- Try to chop your veggies into similar sized pieces that allow you to get every ingredient evenly in each bite.
- Add the avocado right before serving for ultimate freshness. However, the lime juice in the dressing should help keep it from turning brown.
What should I serve with this southwest pasta salad?
Protein: hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, grilled chicken. Try marinating the chicken in a southwest style marinade to compliment the flavors of the pasta salad.
Vegetable sides: corn on the cob, grilled vegetables, green beans
Misc: sandwiches and paninis, deviled eggs, garden or caesar salad, caprese salad
How far in advance can I make this?
I recommend making this pasta salad the day of or day before. Wait to add the avocado right before serving.
How to store pasta salad?
You can store this pasta salad in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Should I rinse my pasta?
One of the only times you should rinse pasta is for pasta salad. Rinsing the pasta will stop the cooking process, cool down the pasta and help prevent the pasta from getting sticky and gummy.
How to mix it up
- Try using fire roasted corn and peppers for extra depth of flavor. You could purchase them fire roasted or char them at a high heat yourself before adding to the pasta salad.
- Use a variety of beans, such as black, kidney and pinto.
- Add diced chicken for some additional protein!
- Try adding in black olives.
- If you enjoy some heat, add in a finely minced jalapeño (seeds removed)
- Top everything with crumbly cotija or queso fresco cheese!
Pasta: for a gluten free pasta salad, use gluten free pasta. I like Banza chickpea pasta.
Black beans: If you do not like or have black beans, try pinto or kidney beans.
Cilantro: If you do not have fresh cilantro, use 1 tsp dried cilantro or up the coriander used to 2 tsp. If you do not like cilantro, you can omit it or sub with fresh parsley. Parsley will provide a different flavor but will add freshness similar to cilantro.
White wine vinegar: white wine vinegar is not too strong, nor does it impart too much flavor. However, in a pinch, you can use rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Garlic: in a pinch, you can use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. Use 1 tsp of garlic powder.
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- Summer Shrimp and Corn Risotto
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- Burger Bowls with Special Sauce
- Ratatouille Gnocchi
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Southwest Pasta Salad
- 8 oz pasta
- 1/2 cup corn
- 1/2 cup black beans drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped (approximately 1/2 bell pepper)
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped (approximately 1/2 bell pepper)
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1/4 cup red onion finely diced
- 1 avocado cubed
- 1/4 cup scallions chopped (approximately 1 scallion)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro packed and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 limes zested and juiced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the lime juice and zest, chopped cilantro, oil, white wine vinegar, spices and minced garlic. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse for 10 seconds.
- Add pasta to a large mixing bowl along with corn, black beans, red and green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onions and scallions.
- Pour over dressing and toss well to ensure everything is coated in dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.