This light and refreshing Mexican Quinoa Salad combines quinoa, black beans, corn, and tomatoes with a tangy lime vinaigrette. It’s a delicious, healthy side dish you can bring to picnics, potlucks, and barbecues!
If you’re looking for a meal that checks all the boxes, this is it! This zesty Mexican Quinoa Salad is not only packed with vegetarian and gluten-free ingredients, but it’s also simple to make and doesn’t skip out on flavor.
Quinoa is a great grain to work with because it’s high in protein and fiber. It also absorbs all of the tasty seasonings and juices added to the salad, transforming a simple grain salad into a hearty meal or side packed with Mexican veggies and flavor.
This recipe is a total crowd-pleaser and is a must at your next party or barbecue! Skip the beans and rice and serve this tasty salad next to these Easy Grilled Shrimp Skewers or Carne Asada Tacos in the summertime.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Quinoa – This tiny grain packs in plenty of protein and fiber. You can make a big batch of quinoa in no time and use any extras in chili, burrito bowls, or stuffed peppers. Feel free to use any color of quinoa you like, whether it’s red, white, or a mix of the two.
- Black beans – You can use canned and drained black beans or black beans that are cooked from dry. The beans will make this salad extra filling, making it a great option to eat for weekday lunches or a quick snack.
- Yellow corn – For a pop of color and a natural sweetness.
- Grape tomatoes – These will add a slightly sweet and acidic note to the salad along with some garden ripe freshness.
- Red onions – These are the best onions to use in salad because they have a mild flavor and add some crunch and sweetness to each bite.
- Cotija cheese – For a salty bite and a bit of texture. If you can’t find cotija, it can easily be swapped with crumbled feta cheese.
- Dressing – A simple mix of oil, white wine vinegar, oregano, cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice is the finishing touch on this bright and tangy salad.
How to make Mexican quinoa salad
- Cook and cool the quinoa: Cook the quinoa until it absorbs all of the water. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Make the dressing: Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a bowl or combine them in a mason jar. Seal the lid and give it a good shake to bring all of the flavors together.
- Dress the salad: Pour the dressing into the cooked and cooled quinoa along with the black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, and crumbled cheese. Toss until all of the ingredients are evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, then enjoy!
Tips and substitutions
- It’s important that the quinoa is completely cool prior to assembly. This ensures the dressing coats the outside of the grain instead of being absorbed and the veggies don’t cook when combined with the heat.
- While you can use a mix of red and white quinoa, be cautious if you are using black quinoa. It has a tougher exterior and a longer cooking time.
- If you prefer this salad with creamy dressing, toss in my Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing instead.
- Need some toppings? Add cilantro, pickled jalapenos, or even a little smoked paprika to finish it off.
- If you are making this salad more than 2 days ahead of time, do not toss in the tomatoes until it’s time to serve. The fresh tomatoes can release their natural juices and become soggy if they sit too long.
If you anticipate leftovers a lot of, keep the tomatoes on the side before serving or assembling the salad to prevent them from getting soggy.
To store, keep the leftover salad in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge. Feel free to mix in a little more oil and extra seasonings like lime juice before eating as the quinoa does tend to dry up as it sits.