Southwest Pasta Salad

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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!

titled (and shown in glass bowl): southwest 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

This southwestern salad is a fantastic Mexican party food dish! It’s a vegetarian salad, but the flavors are perfect for pairing it with some pulled pork or crockpot shredded chicken.

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.

overhead: small bowls of grape tomatoes, grilled corn, cooked rotini, chipotle in adobo, mexican spices, and dressing ingredients

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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overhead: southwest salad recipe ingredients in bowl

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.
pouring chipotle ranch dressing over southwestern salad

Quick Kitchen Hack to Dice Avocados

Rachel Ray Magazine has a fantastic time-saving trick for chopping avocados. All you need is a metal cooling rack that’s “griddled” (the kind with little squares in it).

  1. Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit.
  1. Put one half, cut side down, on the rack over a bowl, then push down with your palm. The grid will cut the avocado into a perfect dice!

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.
overhead: bowl of corn and black bean salad with rotini, avocado, cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese cubes

Southwest Salad Recipe FAQ

Is pasta salad good after 5 days?

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.

What goes with cold pasta salad?

This dish makes an excellent side for all of your cookout favorites!

Pair it with grilled steak, a tray of sliders, or even slow cooker meatballs. For an easy weeknight meal, serve the southwestern salad with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

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.

bowl of rotini and vegetables

Enjoy!

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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southwest pasta salad closeup

Other Easy Pasta Salads

closeup: corn and black bean salad with rotini

Southwest Pasta Salad

Donna Elick
Southwest pasta salad is a scrumptious pasta potluck dish based on corn and black bean salad. This southwest salad recipe is a must-make!
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 1 d 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Tex Mex
Method Food Processor, Mixed
Servings 8 as side dish

Ingredients
 

  • 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
  • teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, or lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Donna’s Notes

  1. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use within 3-4 days.
  1. 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.
  1. Adjust the number of chipotle peppers for desired spice level. I found 2 to be very mild and 3 to be moderately spicy.
  1. 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 4 | Calories: 606cal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 487mg | Sugar: 7g | Fiber: 9g | Calcium: 249mg | Iron: 2mg

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.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled pinterest collage for southwest salad recipe

Originally published May 2015, updated and republished April 2022

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