A few years ago, I’d buy a Southwest quinoa salad from the deli at Whole Foods. It was so flavorful and light, yet filling. Every time it was nearly gone, I’d kick myself for not getting the bigger size.
I love a good salad, but I also love variety and sometimes that means not eating the same leafy green salad on repeat. Ya know?
This southwest quinoa salad recipe is so easy to make and a great way to add some variety to your weekly menu. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based, making it the perfect dish for all crowds.
Plus, it tastes even better than the one I used to buy. Swoon.
How to Prepare the Quinoa
First, rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. This helps remove any bitterness and assists in cooking the quinoa more evenly.
Quinoa, like many grains or pseudo-grains, is very bland on its own. Instead of only adding flavoring at the end of the dish, I recommend adding spices to the cooking water to build the flavor early on.
Add the water, quinoa, and spices at the same time and bring to a boil.
Once it reaches a boil, you’ll add a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low heat, and get the other ingredients prepared while the quinoa lightly simmers while covered.
Southwest Quinoa Salad Ingredients
Simple ingredients are the name of the game around here and this quinoa salad is no different.
This recipe uses a mix of some pantry items as well as fresh ingredients that really bring forward those southwest flavors:
- black beans
- red bell pepper
- olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- raw honey
- chili powder
- ground cumin
- salt & pepper
No salad is complete without a dressing, and this just became one of my favorites.
The dressing has olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallot, raw honey, chili powder, ground cumin, salt, and pepper.
why shallot is used instead of red onion
If you’re unfamiliar with a shallot, it’s in the allium plant family (along with onions, garlic, leeks, and chives).
Shallots work well in this dressing because they’re sweeter and milder than an onion, which is especially great for those who don’t like the harshness that comes from raw onions.
- Cook the quinoa in vegetable or bone broth instead of water to add even more flavor (and extra nutrients).
- No quinoa? If you tolerate gluten, you could substitute couscous.
- No shallots on hand? Substitute 2-3 tablespoons of cooked yellow or red onion (to remove the harshness).
- Kidney or pinto beans can be subbed for the black beans.
- Any color of bell pepper will work (except for green).
- Sub the cilantro with green onion or leave out completely.
- No red wine vinegar? Use white wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar with a little more honey added.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup black beans*
- 1 cup corn*
- 1 medium red bell pepper diced
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1 shallot roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin divided
- 1 teaspoon chili powder divided
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Add the rinsed quinoa, water, and ½ teaspoon each of sea salt, cumin, and chili powder to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low (gentle simmer) and cover with a lid.
- Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the water (around 18 minutes is the sweet spot).
- While the quinoa cooks, dice the bell pepper and add to a medium-large bowl along with the black beans, corn, and cilantro. Set aside.
- Make the dressing by adding olive oil, red wine vinegar, raw honey, the remaining ½ teaspoon each of sea salt, cumin, and chili powder, freshly cracked pepper, and the roughly chopped shallot to a blender. Blend until dressing is combined (some texture from the shallot is fine). Set aside.
- After 18 minutes, carefully check by fluffing with a fork to see if the quinoa is done. Once done, remove from the heat and let steam for 5 more minutes with the lid still on.
- Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and let cool before adding to the bowl. Pour in the dressing and mix until well incorporated.
- This salad is best enjoyed cold and will keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for about a week.
- For the corn, you can use fresh, canned, or frozen. If using frozen, make sure to thaw first before using it. If using fresh, cook and let it cool before adding to the salad.
- If using canned beans, drain and rinse the beans before adding to the salad. This helps remove any excess salt.
- If you don't have a blender for the dressing, a jar with a tightly sealed lid will also work, just make sure to finely dice the shallot, and vigorously shake to combine the dressing.
- You can half this recipe, but keep in mind that it'll require less cooking time.
- This recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on whether you eat it as a side dish or a main.