Southwest Quinoa Salad

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Vibrant, zippy, & zesty Southwest Quinoa Salad! A healthy & hearty quinoa salad recipe, loaded with quinoa, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, queso fresco, & tossed in a simple cumin-lime dressing. This quinoa black bean salad is great cold or served at room temperature, making it an awesome plant-powered meal or side dish for warm weather dinners or potlucks. Light, delicious, & super meal prep-friendly! Naturally Vegetarian & Gluten-Free, very easily Vegan & Dairy-Free.

Close up of Southwest quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. Gold flatware is nestled into the quinoa salad for serving. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by chopped cilantro, lime wedges, & halved avocado.

Pin this Southwest Quinoa Salad recipe for later!

Hearty & healthy cold salads are one of my go-to warm weather meals. They’re easy to toss together, perfect for meal prep, they dance the fine line between “light lunch” & “easy side dish for dinner” beautifully, AND they’re the perfect quick & easy side dish for all things grilled. Not sure about you, but that’s a big win in my book!

This Southwest Quinoa Salad delivers on allllll of that & more! It’s a super hearty vegetarian salad filled with amazing textures – fluffy quinoa (my favorite plant-based protein powerhouse!), hearty black beans, creamy avocado, juicy summer tomatoes, & the cooling crispness of thinly sliced radish. It’s all tossed into a simple cumin-lime vinaigrette, which brings everything together in a bright + warming hug. If you love textures & Southwest flavors, you’re going to seriously love this quinoa black bean salad.

Southwest quinoa salad sits atop a small, speckled ceramic plate, next to a gold fork. The plate sits atop a light blue surface, next to a lime wedge & sprig of fresh cilantro.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad Recipe Highlights

This Southwest Quinoa Salad recipe is…

  • LOADED WITH FRESH FLAVORS & TEXTURES. It’s made with fresh summer ingredients, that when combined pack a big punch of light + bright flavor & loads of texture.
  • EASY TO THROW TOGETHER. It takes about 30 minutes to toss together with minimal clean up required. (It’s also super meal prep friendly!)
  • AN ALL-PURPOSE SUMMER DISH. Enjoy it as a light lunch or dinner, or pair it with all of your favorite grilled goodies, this quinoa black bean salad is seriously versatile for summer!

Zippy, zesty, bright, fresh! Plant-powered salads do not get better than this! ♡ Read on to learn more about this quinoa black bean salad, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Southwest Quinoa Salad Key Ingredients

This southwest quinoa salad is made with simple, fresh ingredients, that pack a big punch of light + bright flavor. It’s a texture-lover’s dream!

Southwest quinoa salad ingredients arranged on a light blue surface – olive oil, limes, lime zest, cilantro, avocado, queso fresco, quinoa, garlic, cumin, red onion, black beans, radish, jalapeno, & cherry tomatoes.
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You will need…

  • Quinoa – I’ve written about it many times before, but I really love the Simply Nature Organic Quinoa from ALDI. It’s affordable & high-quality (my favorite combination!), & I always keep it stocked in my pantry. Tips for cooking perfectly fluffy quinoa below!
  • Black beans – Again, Simply Nature Black Beans are my jam. They’re organic & taste really good…a combination that isn’t always easy to find.
  • Veggies – This quinoa black bean salad is BURSTING with veggies! I use jalapeno pepper for heat, radishes for crunch, avocado for creaminess, & cherry tomatoes for pops of bright flavor. That said, this is a pretty flexible salad & you can easily switch things up to use veggies you love or happen to have on hand at the moment.
  • Aromatics – Namely red onion & garlic for a little bite, & a pinch ground cumin to add some Southwest-style warmth to the simple dressing.
  • Limes – Both zest & juice for maximum bright citrus flavor.
  • Cilantro – Which I looove & use abundantly. If you have an aversion, simply skip it.
  • Queso fresco – A salty, tangy fresh Mexican cheese that adds great salty, tangy flavor to the quinoa salad. I am a major cheesehead, so I can’t not add cheese, but if you’re looking for a dairy-free or plant-based salad you can simply omit.

How to cook perfectly fluffy quinoa…every single time!

When it comes to grains, quinoa can be a little temperamental. Undercook it & it’s a crunchy mess. Overcook it & it’s a mushy disaster. But when it’s cooked perfectly, it’s a light + fluffy plant-based protein powerhouse – the perfect base for hearty cold salads like this Southwest quinoa salad!

Close up of Southwest quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. A woman's hands are shown holding gold flatware, serving the salad. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by chopped cilantro, lime wedges, & halved avocado.

Here’s how I always cook quinoa on the stovetop:

  • Boil Place quinoa, water & a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Stir to combine, then bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Simmer  As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, crank the heat down to low, creating a really slow simmer in the pot. Cover with a lid & let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Steam  Once it’s finished simmering, remove the pot from the heat & let it steam for 5-10 minutes more.
  • Fluff  Uncover & use a fork to fluff up the quinoa until it’s light & fluffy.

A couple of reminders for cooking with quinoa:

  • How much quinoa do you need? Quinoa triples in volume as it cooks – for example, 1 cup dry quinoa will yield 3 cups cooked quinoa. This Southwest quinoa salad recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, so you’ll need 1/2 cup dry.
  • 2:1 ratio: Quinoa is best cooked with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio. For every 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water. My stove runs a touch hot, so I always add in the smallest extra splash of water.
  • Storage: Cooked quinoa will keep for up to 1 week, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked quinoa or in a freezer container for up to 1 month.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad Assembly (+ a couple of other tips…)

With the quinoa cooked, veggies prepped & chopped, & black beans drained & rinsed, all that’s left to do is toss it all together & enjoy!

Southwest quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. Gold flatware is nestled into the quinoa salad for serving. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by chopped cilantro, lime wedges, & halved avocado.

Assembly

Prep the Southwest quinoa salad dressing right in the bowl you’ll use to toss together the salad, then pile all the ingredients on top, & toss to combine. Super easy, & 1 less dish to wash! I also suggest tossing this together when the quinoa is freshly cooked. The warm quinoa soaks up the cumin-lime dressing, bringing its zesty, zippy flavors to life.

Serving

Serve this quinoa black bean salad warm or at room temperature. The combination of black beans & quinoa make it wonderfully satisfying as a light + fresh vegetarian meal. Simply omit the queso fresco to make it vegan & dairy-free. It’s also a great side dish for summer potlucks & grill outs. It pairs well with everything from grilled chicken to turkey burgers or even grilled sausage. You really can’t go wrong!

Make-Ahead & Storage (+ Meal Prep!)

Quinoa salads are super make-ahead friendly. I like whipping this one up on Sunday afternoon to have in on hand during the week for an easy meal or side. It’s best when served within 3 days of assembly, though it’ll keep for up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This quinoa black bean salad is also super meal prep friendly. If meal prep is your jam, be sure to check out the prep tips included in the Recipe Notes, below!

Side view of Southwest quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface. In the foreground are cilantro leaves & halved avocado. In the background, a small ceramic plate with fresh cilantro leaves placed on top.

I can’t wait for you to try this Southwest Quinoa Salad recipe! It’s light, fresh, totally satisfying, & is the best easy dish for summer meals. If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Love cold salads? Same here! Try this herbaceous Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad, this Mediterranean-inspired Greek Farro Salad, or this light + bright Lemony Zucchini Salad next. Happy cooking! ♡

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How to make Southwest Quinoa Salad, Step 3 – Quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.

Zesty Southwest Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Avocado

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 24 1x
  • Category: Side Dishes, Entrée Salads & Bowls Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop, No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Southwest American, Mexican & Tex-Mex
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Vibrant, zippy, & zesty Southwest Quinoa Salad! Enjoy it cold or serve it at room temperature, this quinoa black bean salad is an awesome plant-powered meal or side dish for warm weather dinners or potlucks. Quick, easy, light, & super meal prep-friendly! Naturally vegetarian & gluten-free, very easily vegan & dairy-free.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, deseeded as desired & finely diced
  • 8 ounces radishes, cut into fine matchsticks (I use a julienne chopper)
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 large avocado, deseeded & diced
  • optional: 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves & tender stems, finely chopped

for the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 23 large, juicy limes, zested & juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flake, as desired

Instructions

PREP:

  • Cook the quinoa: Add 1/2 cup dry quinoa and 1 cup water or stock to a small saucepan with a lid. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil (uncovered) over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low or medium-low, bringing the quinoa to a slow simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat & let stand (covered) for 5 minutes. Uncover & fluff with a fork. Set aside, or store in an individual airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Chop the veggies: Finely dice the jalapeno & red onion. Julienne the radishes. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Set aside, or store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Southwest quinoa salad ingredients arranged on a light blue surface – olive oil, limes, lime zest, cilantro, avocado, queso fresco, quinoa, garlic, cumin, red onion, black beans, radish, jalapeno, & cherry tomatoes.

Southwest Quinoa Salad Assembly & Serving:

  1. Mix the dressing: Add all listed ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.How to make Southwest Quinoa Salad, Step 1 – Cumin-Lime dressing in a large glass mixing bowl on a light blue surface, with a woman's hand shown whisking it together.
  2. Assembly: Combine the quinoa, black beans, red onion, jalapeno, radish, tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco (if using), & cilantro in the mixing bowl over the dressing. Toss to combine, ensuring all of the quinoa is well coated in the dressing. Taste, seasoning with additional salt or ground black pepper as desired.How to make Southwest Quinoa Salad, Step 2 – Assembly, all quinoa salad ingredients grouped together in large glass mixing bowl atop a light blue surface.
  3. Serving: Serve it on its own for the perfect light + fresh vegetarian meal, or add a generous spoonful to your dinner plate. This salad is an awesome side dish for grilled chicken or taco night!How to make Southwest Quinoa Salad, Step 2 – Southwest quinoa salad tossed together in a large glass mixing bowl atop a light blue surface with 2 wooden spoons nestled into the bowl.

Notes

  • Make-Ahead & Storage: This Southwest Quinoa Salad is best when served within 3 days of assembly, though it’ll keep for up to 5 days. Store the assembled quinoa salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Meal prep: If you’d like to do just a little prep in advance to help cut down on the active prep time when you make your Southwest Quinoa Salad, there are a couple of different routes you can go…
    • 15-minute meal prep: Chop the fresh herbs & veggies, & make the salad dressing. Prep the cumin-lime dressing according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above, & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Finely dice a red onion & jalapeno. Shred some radishes into matchsticks. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes. Finely chop cilantro. Store the chopped veggies & herbs in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
    • 20-minute meal prep: Cook the quinoa according to Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
       

Keywords: southwest quinoa salad, quinoa black bean salad, cold salad, side dish recipe, easy, healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian, easily vegan, meal prep, summer, spring

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat

Southwest quinoa salad shown in light blue serving bowl, topped with fresh cilantro & lime wedges. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by chopped cilantro, lime wedges, & halved avocado.

Don’t forget to pin this Southwest Quinoa Salad recipe for later!!!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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