Are you looking for a versatile summer to fall salad that ‘s super healthy but so good you wouldn’t even guess it and that can double up as a side or a vegetarian main dish salad? That’s Southwestern Quinoa Salad. And it’s jumping with flavor, lime, garlic and all of the usual suspects that go along with that fresh Southwestern vibe.
I’m lovin’ this salad, which is fabulous throughout the year, but especially as an end of summer/early fall salad. The flavors are bold, the veggies are gorgeous and it has some heft from the beans and quinoa. It’s def protein-packed and ya gotta love that. And ya gotta love that this is a great salad to use up some gorgeous grape or cherry tomatoes if you grow your own and have a glut of them. And if you don’t grow them, who cares? They’re going to be at a great price at a farmer’s market or the store and have marvelous flavor in season.
About Southwestern Quinoa Salad:
Southwestern Quinoa Salad is super versatile. Just take the basic concept and the marvelous dressing and run with it. Don’t have grape or cherry tomatoes? Just use chunks of the standard ones. Don’t like beans? You’re not alone; leave them out. No green onion? Try red onion. Have an extra ear of corn leftover from dinner? And let’s not forget avocado if you have it on hand. I didn’t put it in the original recipe, but I’m eating more and more of them lately. How about you? Add it if you want. Or black olives. Well, you get the idea! Make Southwestern Quinoa Salad your own.
I had a big surprise with my salad; my son decided to toss some grated cheese on his and loved it. When I was faced with a few leftovers, that inspired me to add a little Feta. It was fantastic and changed things up a bit. Mexican queso would be even better and more in keeping with the style.
Not only is this salad versatile as a side or a main vegetarian dish, but it’s also just about the perfect thing to bring to a barbecue or a cookout. There’s really nothing in this that needs to be a big concern if left out for a while and it’s great cold or at room temperature. That also makes it a great meal prep recipe for lunches. And the flavors just get better and better as it sits a bit.
This salad is gonna be perfect as a side with anything Southwestern, maybe on a bed of lettuce or spinach if you’d like, and goes especially well with grilled chicken or fish. It does have a bit of zestiness from the red pepper flakes in the dressing, just a touch, not anything overwhelming, and that makes it a good marriage for Cajun or Barbecue flavors, too. That dressing, btw? It makes a fantastic marinade for chicken or fish, too.
Making Southwestern Quinoa Salad:
The only actual cooking involved is to make the quinoa. I have a great post on Light, Fluffy Quinoa, with directions to make in the Instant Pot or on the stove. You’ll need about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Start with 1 cup of raw quinoa and you’ll end up with three times that amount. Any time I make quinoa, though, I make extra and freeze it for down the road.
You may need more than 1 lime for the dressing; with a big juicy lime, one is usually sufficient but if your limes are small and stingy, they’ll give about half the juice a big one.
It’s key to cut the tomatoes in half because the juices are going to blend with the dressing and the rest of the ingredients. I like to place them inside a lid with a lip, like you’d find for yogurt or cottage cheese, then place a second lid, lip side down over them. Hold the top lid firmly and slice through, between the two lids, horizontally. Easy peasy. Just make sure to keep a few lids on hand!
Saving Money on Southwestern Quinoa Salad:
I priced this meal out at $6.54 and I usually like to keep most my meals around five dollars. Less expensive options would have been green pepper rather than yellow, whole tomatoes in chunks instead of grape or cherry, and beans cooked at home (divide them into 3 portions and freeze the other two; a pound will give roughly the equivalent of three cans) rather than canned. Sugar is cheaper than honey and that would knock off a penny or two.
So you see, it’s a lot of small decisions that affect the total cost. What’s a dollar a meal over the course of the year? $1,095 dollars. A dollar and 54 cents? $1,796. Wow.
The elephant in the room as far as cost is really the Quinoa and the olive oil, though. Both are a little pricier than say rice or vegetable oil, for instance. The bottom line is that the first few substitutions would not have had a huge impact on the flavor or quality of the meal – just the looks. Messing with the olive oil and the quinoa would have really affected the nutritional value. I’m willing to buy ingredients that are a good nutritional value, even if they cost a bit more. If you’d like to see more on the nutritional value and health benefits of Quinoa, check out what The World’s Healthiest Foods has to say.Print
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Mexican or Southwestern
- zest and juice of one or two limes (about 1/4 cup juice)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 tablespoon honey (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (may use fresh minced garlic)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 bell pepper (any color) diced small
- 1 1/2 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, cilantro or a combination
- 4 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
Cook Quinoa according to package directions 1 cup uncooked) or check my post on Quinoa for the best Light, Fluffy, Quinoa. Best if quinoa is room temperature or cooled.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, the lime & zest, vinegar, olive oil, honey, cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and salt & pepper. Add vegetables and herbs first, tossing to coat. If time allows, let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the black beans and the cooked and slightly cooled Quinoa. Mix together and serve at room temperature or refrigerate as desired.
Keywords: Beans, Bell Peppers, canned beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Dried Beans, Green Onion, Lime, Main dish salad, Mexican or Southwestern, Quinoa, Red onion, Salad, Tomatoes, Vegetarian Meal.