This southwest quinoa salad is the perfect lunch or meatless dinner. It’s loaded with plant-based protein and veggies. All tossed with a lime vinaigrette; it’s flavorful, easy, and healthy.
This southwest quinoa salad recipe is my new favorite salad for food prep. It’s perfect for having in the fridge for easy lunches throughout the week.
It’s also great for an easy and filling meatless meal. And if you want to add in more protein, my cilantro lime chicken would be amazing with this.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a grain crop, but it’s not a cereal-grain (like oats). Quinoa itself is actually a seed that is prepared and eaten more like a grain would be, which is why people refer to quinoa as a grain. It comes in many different colors, most notably white and tri-colored.
Quinoa is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and other vitamins and minerals. It’s a complete protein, which means it offers all nine essential amino acids. And as a bonus, it’s naturally gluten free!
Why Rinse Quinoa Before Cooking?
Did you know some quinoa requires you to rinse it before cooking? Quinoa is naturally coated in something called saponin. This can make the cooked quinoa taste soapy or bitter. Good news though… some quinoa comes already pre-rinsed, so look for the label to state this. If it’s not pre-rinsed, a quick rinse before cooking will help to remove the saponin… because nobody wants soapy tasting quinoa!
How to Make Southwest Quinoa Salad
- Start by cooking the quinoa according to the package directions.
- While the quinoa is cooking, chop up all the veggies and cilantro. In addition, drain the beans, take the corn out of the freezer, and set these aside.
- After you have prepped the veggies and beans, make the dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients for the lime vinaigrette to a jar or small bowl. Shake, or whisk if in a bowl, until ingredients are combined. Store dressing in fridge while you are waiting to assemble the salad.
- Once quinoa has finished cooking, place in fridge (uncovered) for a minimum of 30 minutes to allow quinoa to cool (stir occasionally while in fridge to help with the cooling process). You could also spread quinoa onto a cookie sheet and place in the fridge – this will speed up the cooling process.
- After quinoa has cooled, add the quinoa, veggies, beans, corn, and cilantro to a large bowl. Pour dressing over all ingredients and mix until combined.
- Store in refrigerator until ready to eat. I like the salad to sit in the fridge for about an hour prior to eating to further cool and allow the dressing to sit with the salad.
- Right before serving, add in the chopped avocado. Serve and enjoy!
Tips for Keeping the Ingredients Clean
Black bean and chickpeas/garbanzo beans – 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 toxic chemical ending up in your food.
Veggies – neither peppers nor onions are on the dirty dozen list (2020). Important to note that onions are on the clean fifteen (peppers are not), so my preference is to still buy organic peppers. For the frozen sweet corn, you can go either way – sweet corn is actually on the clean 15, however, some sweet corn uses genetically modified (GMO) seeds, so I opt for organic to avoid GMOs.
Quinoa – 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!
Avocado oil – this is used in the dressing. When shopping for avocado oil, look for unrefined. This preserves the color and flavor. Plus, refined avocado oil can sometimes be extracted using chemicals and/or bleached and deodorized (yuk!). Primal Kitchen is my favorite.
Red Wine Vinegar – used for the dressing as well. Look at the ingredients and make sure the only ingredient is the vinegar. Preferably, look for ones with the “mother” (there are more health benefits to this). Popeian is my favorite.
Honey – honey is used in the dressing. I always use raw honey as it hasn’t been processed, like most regular honey has been. Raw honey contains it’s original nutrients and antioxidants, keeping it a real/clean food.
How Long Does This Last?
This southwest quinoa salad should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge.
If you are intentionally making this for meal prep, I recommend cutting up some avocado each time you eat the salad. Avocado left in the salad will start to brown. It’s still totally fine if it gets a little brown, but fresh avocado is always best in my opinion.
Other Recipes I Think You’ll Like
If you make this southwest quinoa salad, please let me know what you think! Leave a comment and a star rating below and/or share a photo on Instagram and mention @CleanPlateMama.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (same things as garbanzo beans)
- 1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 avocado (for serving)
Ingredients for the Dressing
- 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp. avocado oil
- 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. raw honey
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt (+ more to taste)
- Cook quinoa according to the package directions.
- While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. In a small jar or bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients. 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 the quinoa has finished cooking, place in a bowl and transfer to fridge to allow to cool. Let quinoa sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently so all quinoa can cool.
- 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 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 the dressing to sit. However, it can be served right away too. If desired, chop a fresh avocado and add to salad prior to serving.
- I use white quinoa, but any variation of quinoa will work. And try cooking your quinoa in broth instead of water. It helps to add some extra flavor to the quinoa (use the same amount of broth as you would water).
- I use avocado oil for the dressing, but extra-virgin olive oil would work too.
- To cool the quinoa, you can either place in a bowl in the fridge, or you can lay the quinoa out on a cookie sheet and then put the cookie sheet in the fridge (this will help speed up the cooling process).
- This makes 8 side servings, but if you’re eating it more as a meal, it will make 4 servings. Nutrition information is calculated off of 8 side servings.