Southwest Pasta Salad is a scrumptious pasta-loaded potluck dish that combines the flavors of corn and black bean salad with char-grilled sweet corn. You’ll flip for this southwest salad recipe!!
Whether you need a side dish for a potluck picnic, poolside party, summer BBQ, or just a simple weeknight meal, you can never go wrong with pasta salad!
The best part? Pasta salads are ridiculously simple to make, and you can even make them the night before your event. This means, there’s one less thing to prepare before your guests arrive!
Southwest Pasta Salad
Loaded with plenty of fresh veggies, tender rotini, cubes of cheddar and spicy dressing, this corn and black bean salad will be the star of any potluck or summer barbecue.
Another favorite southwest salad recipe is steak fajita pasta salad. It has all the flavor of steak fajitas, and it’s easy to make for a quick summer meal!!
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Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Skip the Grill.
Cook ears of corn on the cob in the air fryer to keep all of your prep inside. Chop the other veggies and boil the rotini at the same time, then toss everything together.
An average sized ear of corn on the cob yields between ½ and ¾ cup of kernels. If sweet corn isn’t in season, you can substitute it with fire-roasted corn kernels, sold in the frozen food section of most grocery stores.
Or, feel free to use plain frozen corn.
TIP: Be sure to thaw and drain frozen corn before adding it to your salad.
- Want to adjust the spiciness?
Adjust the number of chipotle in adobo to reach your desired spice level. I find 2 peppers give a mild spiciness, and 3 peppers is moderately spicy.
- Don’t add the dressing too soon.
As with any pasta salad, the dressing gets absorbed into the pasta as it sits. If you’re not serving immediately, I recommend tossing with ½ of the dressing, and reserve the remaining dressing for tossing again just before serving.
- Wear gloves!
Jalapeños and other spicy peppers contain oils that can irritate your skin and eyes. Prep spicy chiles last, and discard the gloves immediately afterward. This helps to prevent transferring the oils to other surfaces.
Quick Kitchen Hack to Dice Avocados
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Large pot and strainer for the rotini.
- Quality knives and a big solid cutting board make prepping a breeze and are well worth the investment.
- Food Processor – A food processor or high speed blender makes the task of combining the southwest pasta salad dressing ingredients much easier.
- Serving bowl with tongs – These bamboo hands help to toss everything gently and are attractive enough for serving as well.
Southwest Salad Recipe FAQ
This southwest pasta salad has a mayo-based dressing, so it will keep for 3 to 4 days when refrigerated in an airtight container. Dairy products tend to spoil fairly quickly, and especially if they’re in pasta salads that sit in the hot sun for too long.
To prevent bacteria from forming, you may want to set the serving dish inside of a larger metal bowl. Fill the larger bowl with ice cubes first, then nestle your pasta salad serving dish into the ice.
Can I double this recipe?
Absolutely! As written, this southwest salad recipe yields about 8 servings as a side dish. If you add meat to the salad, it makes a fantastic main dish for 4-6 people.
Be sure to increase the ingredient amounts of the veggies, and make additional chipotle ranch dressing if you’ll be serving a larger crowd.
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Other Easy Pasta Salads
Southwest Pasta Salad
- 1 pound rotini pasta, cooked and drained
- 3 ears of corn, grilled and cut from cob (about 1 ½ cups kernels – see Notes for substitutes)
- 1 ½ cups halved grape tomatoes
- 1 cup black beans, (if canned, drained and rinsed)
- 2 bell peppers, diced (any color)
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
- 2 avocados, pitted, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2-3 chipotle in adobo sauce, (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, or lemon juice
- In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, corn, tomatoes, black beans, bell peppers, cheese, avocado, and chopped cilantro. Toss to combine.
- Prepare the chipotle ranch dressing by placing all dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Chop/blend until pureed and evenly combined. Thin with water for desired consistency as needed.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to distribute. (See Notes)
- Serve immediately.
- Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use within 3-4 days.
- An average sized ear of corn on the cob yields between ½ and ¾ cup of kernels. If sweet corn isn’t in season, you can substitute it with fire-roasted corn kernels, sold in the frozen food section of most grocery stores. Or, feel free to use plain frozen corn. Thaw and drain frozen corn before adding it to the salad.
- Adjust the number of chipotle peppers for desired spice level. I found 2 to be very mild and 3 to be moderately spicy.
- As with any pasta salad, the dressing gets absorbed into the pasta as it sits. If you’re not serving immediately, I recommend tossing with ½ of the dressing, and reserve the remaining dressing for tossing again just before serving.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published May 2015, updated and republished April 2022
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