This zesty quinoa salad with avocado is loaded with beans, corn, peppers, and onions all tossed in a southwest inspired lime vinaigrette. This salad comes together in 30 minutes and is great for food prep, a meatless meal, or a side dish!
Oh, salads, how I love thee! Seriously, I love salads so much! And this gem is no exception. Loaded with nutritious quinoa, plant-based protein, and fresh ingredients – you just can’t go wrong with this southwest inspired healthy & zesty quinoa salad. Clean eating at it’s best!
GLUTEN FREE + DAIRY FREE – this southwest quinoa salad is full of fresh ingredients, all naturally gluten free and dairy free.
QUICK AND EASY – All ingredients can be prepped while the quinoa is cooking/cooling. Takes only 30 minutes to make!
GREAT FOR FOOD PREP – I love making this zesty quinoa salad recipe early in the week and having it in the fridge for easy lunches or a side dish for dinner. It keeps well for days, so it’s perfect for making in advance.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Quinoa – I use white quinoa, but you can use any color, or tri-colored quinoa for this zesty quinoa salad. Note that if you use red or black quinoa, it will have a stronger flavor and a slightly crunchier texture.
Clean food tip: Most conventional quinoa is actually grown without the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals (it’s about time there is a crop that is still grown naturally). So, conventional quinoa is clean!
Red pepper – any sweet pepper will work, but I prefer using a red bell pepper.
Clean food tip: Because bell peppers typically show up on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List, I recommend purchasing organic if you can.
Sweet corn - You can use frozen or canned corn. I typically use frozen.
Clean food tip: Because some sweet corn uses genetically modified seeds, I recommend organic to avoid genetically modified corn.
Black beans and chickpeas – I like the combination of both beans, but you could use all black beans or all chickpeas.
Clean food tip: Read the ingredient labels and make sure the only ingredients are beans, water, and maybe salt (some cans of beans contain calcium chloride or other preservatives). Also, make sure the cans are BPA-free to avoid this chemical ending up in your food.
Cilantro – I love the flavor of fresh cilantro, but you can definitely omit if you’re one of the unlucky ones who thinks it tastes like soap!
Lime juice – Use real lime juice, not the stuff from a bottle. Fresh lime juice will give you the best fresh zesty flavor. Plus, you need some lime zest, so you’ll need fresh limes anyway 😊
Avocado oil – You can use avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil.
Clean food tip: Quality avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil are considered clean/healthy oils!
Honey - Can omit all together if you want to keep this sugar free.
Clean food tip: Look for raw honey, as it does not go through the same processing as regular honey. This means it retains most of the nutrients and antioxidants that honey is known for. Try to buy raw honey that has not crystalized yet (makes it easier to pour.)
Steps For Making This Salad
Step 1: Cook quinoa according to package directions. After quinoa has cooked, spread quinoa out on a cookie sheet and place in freezer to allow it to cool.
Step 2: While the quinoa is cooking, chop up all the veggies and cilantro. In addition, drain the beans, take the corn out of the freezer to thaw (if using frozen corn), and set these aside.
Step 3: Make the zesty lime dressing by adding dressing ingredients to a mason jar. Cover jar and shake to fully mix ingredients together. If you don’t have a mason jar, you can whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
Step 4: Add cooked quinoa, black beans, chickpeas, onions, peppers, corn, and cilantro to a large mixing bowl. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and mix everything together.
Step 5: Add diced avocado right before serving.
Now enjoy this delicious zesty southwest quinoa salad!
Oh yes! Quinoa is an extremely nutritious food! It's a good source of numerous vitamins and minerals. It's also known for being one of the only plant foods this is a complete protein (meaning it contains a balanced amount of all amino acids.)
Yes, quinoa is naturally gluten free!
I do not recommend it. Frozen quinoa is pretty "wet" when it thaws and you'll miss out on the nice light fluffy texture if you use frozen quinoa.
You can serve this warm, but I prefer it cold. The southwest flavor gets better over time as it all marinates together in the fridge and I think it's best straight from the fridge. But you can warm up this zesty quinoa salad before serving if desired.
This zesty quinoa salad will stay good in the fridge for 4-5 days when stored in an airtight container.
COOKING QUINOA: If you have some vegetable broth on hand, cook your quinoa using broth instead of water – it adds some extra flavor! Make sure you give the quinoa enough time to sit and steam in the pan (covered) after cooking – this really helps to get the nice fluffy texture of perfect quinoa.
CHOPPING VEGGIES: Make sure to finely chop the bell pepper and onion. I find that smaller pieces helps to distribute the flavor and crunch more evenly.
ADDING THE AVOCADO: Avocado is a must in this quinoa salad with avocado, but I recommend dicing and adding to the salad right before serving. If you have leftovers, no worries. The avocado may brown slightly, but it will still taste good!
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Zesty Southwest Quinoa Salad (with avocado)
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (same thing as garbanzo beans)
- 1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 avocado (for serving)
Ingredients for the Dressing
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- 1 tbsp. lime zest
- 1 tbsp. honey
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Cook quinoa according to the package directions. After quinoa has cooked, spread quinoa out on a cookie sheet and place in freezer for 10 minutes to allow quinoa to cool.
- While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. In a small jar or bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients. If using a jar, cover jar and shake ingredients together, or whisk together if in a bowl. Place dressing in fridge until ready to add to the salad.
- After quinoa has cooled, transfer quinoa to a large bowl and add in the black beans, chickpeas, corn, peppers, onion, and cilantro. Pour dressing (shake or mix dressing again before adding to salad) over salad ingredients and mix until combined. Taste and add in additional salt or fresh lime juice if desired.
- You can serve right away, or place in fridge until ready to serve. I like to let the salad sit in the fridge for an extra 30 minutes before serving. This allows the salad to further cool and allows everything to marinate. However, it can be served right away too. Chop a fresh avocado and add to salad prior to serving.
- I recommend finely chopping the bell pepper and onion. I find that smaller pieces helps to distribute the flavor and crunch more evenly.
- Dice the avocado and add to the salad right before serving. If you have leftovers, no worries. The avocado may brown slightly, but it will still taste good.