Home Recipes Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest pasta salad is one of my all-time favorite side dishes! Every bite is bursting with fresh, vibrant flavors and complementary textures. 

You’ll love the classic Tex-Mex ingredients, and the chipotle lime dressing is out of this world. It’s smoky, spicy, and has just the right amount of zing. 

Southwest pasta salad made with rotini pasta, black beans, corn kernels, red bell pepper diced, diced red onion, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno pepper minced, fresh cilantro chopped, avocado diced, crumbled feta cheese coated in a creamy white dressing served on a white bowl.
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Pair that with juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado, sweet corn, and more for a real show-stopper.

Make it for your next potluck or backyard BBQ, and everyone will beg for the recipe!

Why You’ll Love This Southwest Pasta Salad

Flavor Explosion: This pasta salad features fresh veggies, chipotle lime dressing, and spicy peppers. Each mouthful is like a party for your taste buds. 

Versatile: This pasta salad is pretty hearty thanks to the black beans and pasta. It makes a nice main course if you need a light lunch. It’s also the perfect side for any occasion.

Easy to Prepare: This recipe features simple, easy-to-follow steps and readily available ingredients. It’s perfect for beginner chefs, busy weeknights, and last-minute get-togethers.

Black beans, corn kernels, red bell pepper diced, diced red onion, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno pepper minced, fresh cilantro chopped, avocado diced, crumbled feta cheese in a glass bowl on a white wooden table.

Ingredients

  • Rotini Pasta: The pasta’s spiral shape is perfect for holding the dressing and other ingredients. It also adds a fun texture to the salad. 
  • Black Beans: These small, dark beans have a creamy texture and earthy flavor. They add plenty of protein and fiber. 
  • Corn Kernels: Sweet and juicy, corn adds a pop of color and crunch to the salad.
  • Red Bell Pepper: Peppers are crisp and sweet. They add vibrant color, a fresh taste, and a nice crunch. 
  • Red Onion: For that mild, sweet, earthy flavor that only onions can provide. They also add additional crunch.
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes: Tomatoes provide a sweet, juicy burst of flavor in every bite. 
  • Jalapeno Pepper: These add a spicy kick to enhance the salad’s Southwestern flair. 
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro: Cilantro adds a bright, herbaceous, almost citrusy note. 
  • Avocado: For extra heartiness. It’s creamy and rich, with a smooth texture and loads of healthy fats. 
  • Crumbled Cheese: I prefer cotija, but feta also works well. Both are salty and tangy, adding a delightful contrast to the other ingredients. 
  • Chipotle Lime Dressing: It’s made with mayo, sour cream, chipotle peppers, garlic, honey, lime, and spices. It’s smoky and tangy for the perfect finishing touch. 
Creamy southwest pasta served in a white bowl garnished with fresh parsley leaves.

How to Make Southwest Pasta Salad

Follow these steps to make Southwest pasta salad: 

1. Cook the pasta. Follow the instructions on the package to cook the pasta until al dente. Then, drain and rinse it under cold water and transfer it to a large bowl. 

2. Make the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. 

3. Add the veggies and dressing. Add the beans, corn, bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro to the bowl with the pasta. Then, pour the dressing over the top. Toss to coat. 

4. Add the avocado and cheese. Gently stir the dried avocado and crumbled cheese into the salad. 

5. Chill. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

6. Season and serve. Stir the salad well. Taste and add more seasonings as needed. Garnish with extra cilantro (if desired), and enjoy! 

Rotini pasta with black beans, corn kernels, red bell pepper diced, diced red onion, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno pepper minced, fresh cilantro chopped, avocado diced, crumbled feta cheese coated in a creamy white dressing served on a white bowl on a white wooden table.

Tips for the Best Southwest Pasta Salad

Pasta salad recipes are fun because you can easily tweak them to suit your tastes. Here are a few tips and variations you can try:

  • Pick a small pasta. Rotini works well. You could also use penne, fusilli, or shells. Anything small with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the dressing. 
  • Give it a good rinse. It may seem unimportant, but it isn’t! Be sure to rinse the pasta to stop it from cooking further. It also gets rid of excess starch, which messes with the dressing’s consistency. 
  • Get ahead of the game. This is one of those recipes that tastes better after sitting for a while. For the best flavors, make it about 24 hours before serving it. 
  • Try an avocado trick. Toss it with lime juice to prevent it from browning. Also, wait until the last possible moment to add it. 
  • Vary up the veggies. Add extra peppers, green onions, diced radishes, olives, and more. 
  • Pack in some protein. Grilled chicken works well. You can also toss the salad with shrimp or steak strips. Just be sure the meat is fully cooked before you add it. 
  • Try other fun add-ins. Veggies aren’t the only thing you can add to this pasta salad. Immediately before serving, top it with tortilla strips, pepitas, sunflower seeds, etc. 
Closeup of southwest pasta salad served in a bowl.

How to Store

If you’re likely to have leftovers, leave the cheese and avocado out. Store them separately, and add to the leftovers immediately before serving. 

To Store: Place the pasta salad in an air-tight container in the fridge. It should remain fresh for 3 to 4 days.

Southwest Pasta Salad

Course: Side DishCuisine: American
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes
Calories

419

kcal

Try this Southwest pasta salad for your next potluck and watch it disappear! With beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, and a chipotle lime dressing, it’s just too good.

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Ingredients

  • For the Pasta Salad
  • 12 ounces rotini or other short pasta

  • 1 can (15-ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh, canned, or thawed frozen)

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion, diced

  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

  • 1 avocado, diced

  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese

  • For the Chipotle Lime Dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • zest and juice of 1 lime

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Cook until al dente. Then, drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • While the pasta cooks, make the dressing. In a blender or food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, chipotle peppers, garlic, honey, lime zest and juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Add the black beans, corn, bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro to the bowl with the pasta. Pour the dressing over the top and toss until everything is well coated.
  • Gently stir in the diced avocado and cotija cheese.
  • Cover and refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Give the salad a good stir and taste for seasoning before serving. Garnish with extra cilantro if desired. Enjoy!

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

2 thoughts on “Southwest Pasta Salad”

  1. Enjoyed the flavor of the dressing. It had a little kick to it. I also added black olives for additional color. I’d certainly make it again. My prep time was much more than 10 minutes, cutting up different items,

    Reply
    • This makes me giggle because it’s just so me! Every time I see “10 minutes” prep time and then see all the veggies I have to cut, I know that isn’t going to happen for me. I’m such a slow chopper. :-p

      Reply

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