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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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! ♡Print
Zesty Southwest Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Avocado
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 2-4 1x
- Category: Side Dishes, Entrée Salads & Bowls Recipes
- Method: Stovetop, No-Cook
- Cuisine: Southwest American, Mexican & Tex-Mex
- Diet: Vegetarian
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.
- 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
- 2–3 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
- 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 Assembly & Serving:
- Mix the dressing: Add all listed ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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
This recipe was phenomenal! My husband and I both loved this one so much. There’s nothing that I would change. This is perfect we is.
Ah, I’m so glad to hear you & your husband both enjoyed this one, Rachel! Thanks for dropping a comment! xx