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!
Creamy Mexican 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 and 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!
Tips for the best southwest pasta salad
- Best pasta to use. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gluten-free. With a simple swap in pasta, this dish can easily be made gluten-free. Use your favorite gluten-free pasta or even some cooked quinoa like I did in this southwest quinoa salad.
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:
- Buffalo chicken pasta salad
- Easy classic pasta salad
- Southwest cornbread salad
- Macaroni salad
- Greek pasta salad
Southwest Pasta Salad
- 13.25 ounce box penne pasta
- 15 ounce can black beans , drained and rinsed
- 11 ounce can corn , drained and rinsed
- 1/2 orange bell pepper , chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro , chopped
- 3 green onions , sliced
- 5 ounces cherry tomatoes , halved
Avocado Lime Dressing:
- 2 avocados , pitted and halved
- 3 green onions
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 Tablespoons fat free plain Greek yogurt
- juice of 1/4 lime
- 3/4 cup fat free milk
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Prepare other ingredients and pour pasta into a large bowl.
- Add black beans, corn, bell pepper, cilantro, green onions, and cherry tomatoes. Toss until combined.
- In a food processor or blender, combine avocados, green onions, garlic, cumin, Greek yogurt, lime juice, milk and taco seasoning. Pulse until combined and creamy. If too thick, add a little more milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
- 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.
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Recipe contributed by Jen from Yummy Healthy Easy.