Tender penne pasta, black beans, corn, peppers, cilantro, onions and tomatoes tossed in a delicious and creamy avocado lime dressing. This southwest pasta salad is easy, healthy and full of Mexican flavors!
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Easy Southwestern Pasta Salad
Today I have a super easy and delish recipe for you…my favorite southwest pasta salad! This dish is a quick and simple vegetarian pasta salad recipe that’s loaded with veggies and fresh flavor. It’s the perfect recipe to bring to a BBQ along with my broccoli salad recipe and it makes a wonderful addition to any potluck, picnic or just enjoyed as a side dish with dinner.
The avocado lime dressing is made using avocado, Greek yogurt and a little taco seasoning, among other flavorful ingredients. Blend it all together and then drizzle on the top or toss it in with the noodles and veggies. It’s super creamy and packs a punch of flavor in every bite. Your family will love it and keep going back for more!
Bright and fresh veggies pair perfectly with pasta, beans, and corn before being tossed in an avocado lime dressing ties it all together.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Pasta. I prefer penne for this salad as it is typically on hand and holds the dressing beautifully.
- Black beans. A great way to sneak in a little extra protein and they go great with corn.
- Corn. The sweetness of corn works so well with the zesty dressing.
- Bell pepper. I like to use orange bell peppers for their subtle spice, but any color will do.
- Cherry tomatoes. The brightness and acidity of tomatoes add an extra layer of flavor.
- Cilantro. The freshness of this herb plays perfectly with the bright flavors.
- Green onions. The slight crunch and zip of green onion works is a great addition to the other flavors and textures.
- Dressing. I love to make the Avocado Lime Dressing for this southwest pasta salad, but cilantro lime dressing or an easy salsa ranch dressing would be amazing, too.
Tips for the Best Southwest Pasta Salad
- Ripe veggies. Look for veggies that are crisp, bold in color and have a fragrant aroma. Freshly picked ripe vegetables will make a big difference in flavor.
- Finely dice. While the pasta cooks, dice the veggies and herbs into small, evenly sized-pieces. Chopping them into smaller pieces allows for more veggies to make their way onto your fork with each bite!
- Serving the dressing. If you prefer a well coated and creamy pasta salad, toss the dressing in with the remaining ingredients until the whole salad is covered in dressing. For a more subtle taste, try drizzling the dressing on top right before enjoying.
How to Make Southwest Pasta Salad
It just takes four steps to create a fresh and hearty salad.
- Cook the pasta. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and run under cold water.
- Layer the ingredients. In a large bowl, add the pasta, black beans, corn, bell peppers, green onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.
- Make the dressing. In a food processor or blender, blend avocado, green onions, garlic, Greek yogurt, milk, lime juice, cumin, taco seasoning., salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy. If too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out.
- Serve. Drizzle dressing over the top of the salad or toss it with the other ingredients to combine.
- Dressing. Other types of creamy dressings would also taste delicious. Try this cilantro lime dressing or an easy salsa ranch dressing.
- Grilled corn. The char and smoky flavor from grilled corn adds another delicious component to this dish. It’s not a necessity, but it really does make a difference in flavor.
- Protein. Although this is a vegetarian recipe, that doesn’t mean you can’t add meat. It would taste delicious with grilled chicken or salsa chicken added in. Ground beef would make it a variation of a taco salad!
- Extras. The deliciousness doesn’t have to stop here. Try adding in a few extras for more flavor, such as cotija cheese, black olives or diced jalapenos.
You want to use a variety of pasta that holds the sauce nicely with it’s shape and ridges. Penne is usually my first pick (and it’s almost always in the pantry), however rotini, farfalle and macaroni noodles are all great options.
For this southwest version, you can assemble all the salad ingredients but I would wait to add the dressing until right before serving since it is avocado based and might brown.
You can store this for up to 3 days covered in the refrigerator. If the pasta starts to dry out, you can add some additional dressing.
Make-Ahead and Storing
This recipe can easily be made ahead of time. Mix all ingredients together and hold off on adding the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and store in fridge until ready to serve. Then toss in the avocado lime dressing to evenly coat the pasta and veggies.
If you have leftovers, simply place them in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Sometimes I save a little extra of the dressing and mix it in before enjoying again so that the noodles don’t dry out. :)
More Potluck Salad Recipes
Southwest Pasta Salad
Avocado Lime Dressing
- 2 avocados , pitted and halved
- 3 green onions
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 3 Tablespoons fat free plain Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup fat free milk
- ¼ lime , juiced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 (13.25-ounce_ box penne pasta
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 (11-ounce) can corn , drained and rinsed
- ½ orange bell pepper , chopped
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 3 green onions , sliced
- 5 ounces cherry tomatoes , halved
Avocado Lime Dressing
- In the base of a food processor or blender, pulse avocados, green onions, garlic, Greek yogurt, milk, lime juice, cumin, taco seasoning., salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy. If too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a large bowl, toss pasta, black beans, corn, bell pepper, cilantro, green onions, and cherry tomatoes until combined.
- Serve either by drizzling with dressing (as shown) or toss to coat pasta and veggies. Enjoy!
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
Recipe contributed by Jen from Yummy Healthy Easy.