Southwest Pasta Salad

This Fresh Southwest Pasta Salad is my go-to whenever I need to take a dish to a party, and also a favorite summer dinner at our house.  It’s great with grilled chicken (Grilled Taco Chicken is a perfect pairing) or by itself as a one-dish dinner.  It’s so good and flavorful, packed with veggies, and does well sitting out or in the fridge for while before or during serving. Leftovers are fantastic, too!

Southwest Pasta Salad in serving bowl

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pasta salad in bowl


A fresh and flavorful twist on a traditional pasta salad.  Filled with fresh veggies, black beans, and a zesty dressing!


1/2 lb bowtie pasta
1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, diced or about 3/4 C or halved cherry tomatoes
1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced small
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup frozen fresh corn
zest from 2 limes
optional: 8 oz diced cooked chicken (this is fantastic)
1/2 cup Queso Fresco or Cotija Cheese (or you could sub grated jack, cheddar or pepperjack)

6 Tbs fresh lime juice (about 3 juicy limes)
1/4 C white wine or rice vinegar
45 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar (add a touch more if your limes are extra sour/bitter)
3/4 C canola oil
1/2 C roughly chopped cilantro


Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions.  While it’s cooking, prepare dressing.

First zest your limes and place the zest in a large salad bowl.

Place the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and sugar in a blender.  (Basically everything except the cilantro and oil)  Process until smooth.  With the motor running slowly, add the oil in a steady stream until incorporated.  Add the cilantro and pulse so it gets broken up, but some pieces still remain in tact.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse immediately with cold water to cool.  Place the pasta in the large salad bowl with the lime zest.  Add black beans, tomatoes, diced pepper, green onions, corn (no need to thaw the corn),  and chicken if desired.  Toss with dressing.  Taste, and add additional salt and pepper to taste.  For best results, chill for 1 hour before serving.  Right before serving, sprinkle cheese on top.  Serve with extra lime wedges if desired.

Makes about 4-6 dinner sized servings or 10-12 side servings


How to Make Southwest Pasta Salad

You can really use a variety of vegetables according to what you like- I’m using black beans, bell pepper, frozen corn, tomatoes, and green onions

chopped vegetables

Southwest Pasta Salad Dressing

This dressing is based off of our favorite Cilantro Vinaigrette.  All of the same flavors, but intensified, because pasta salads so easily soak up dressing and mellow out flavors. Simply mix all of your veggies with some cooked and cooled pasta and pour the dressing over.
salad ingredients in a bowl

Optional Ingredients

I like to sprinkle on the cheese just before serving.  Queso Fresco or Cotija is my favorite, or you can use grated pepperjack, jack, or cheddar.

Southwest pasta salad in a bowl


  1. Great post. Great blog. I don't mean to be a brat, but I have a comment. If you go through the trouble of salting the pasta water, aren't you rinsing off any flavoring you may have added by cooling your pasta in cold water? I prefer to cook my pasta very al dente and then drain it and let it sit an cool off a little as I work on the other ingredients. That way the pasta will "cook" a little bit longer as it cools, but not get mushy. Plus, sometimes the flavors absorb a little better when there is still a little residual heat. Just wanted to add my two cents. I hope it didn't come off too snobbish.

  2. I'm SO making this for tonight's dinner! Scratch what was already on the menu; this is now front and center! I adore SW foods, and not just because I live in Phoenix.

  3. ooh this looks yummy! can't wait to try it ive been looking for a new pasta salad. and that barilla pasta is awesome its the only good for you pasta my fam will eat!

  4. Oh hooray! My husband came home with extra cilantro and I was just looking last night for something to use it up. This looks fantastic; I'm always happy for new vegetarian dishes. And I'll have to search out that pasta – I haven't seen it in Winco.

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