Southwest quinoa salad ready to serve in a white large bowl

The Best Southwest Quinoa Salad Recipe For Fall


Fall is here and I have the perfect savory southwest quinoa salad to enjoy this autumn! Great for serving as a side dish, or the main!

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The Makings of a Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest salads are known for being a savory salad. This is because of the vegetables, spices, and flavorful dressing we use to create this delicious dish! There’s a few extra additions to this popular salad that you’ll only find in this recipe…

This recipe features the classic ingredients, along with a few seasonal extras. The sweet potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and corn showcase fall produce and add so much depth to this dish. Plus, it all ties together with the classic arugula, cherry tomatoes, and black bean base!

Of course, we can’t forget the quinoa in this southwest quinoa salad! This small addition makes the salad much heartier, and adds a great texture. Overall, this salad is packed with tons of nutrients and is very filling! So, let’s get into the beginning steps!

A full photo of the southwest quinoa salad plated and ready to be consumed.

What is a “Southwest Salad”?

First, there needs to be a little understanding of the general knowledge of southwest food and its origins! The southwest salad was inspired not only by this region but also its specific genre of cuisine. Southwest food is a large fusion of different recipes enjoyed by Spanish settlers, Native Americans, Cowboys and Mexicans in the post-Columbian era. It blends together the rich flavors of each culture, such as the spices of Mexico with more traditional American cuts of meat (i.e. pork, beef, etc.).

This salad combines those traditional Mexican flavors with American style cuisine. The more Mexican inspired flavors of this specific dish includes the chipotle, corn, peppers, cilantro, lime, avocado, etc. You will typically see those ingredients in most traditional Mexican dishes. These ingredients add that infamous spicy kick to the salad. So there you go, just a little background on what inspired this Southwest Salad.

Roasting the Veggies

This salad is loaded with fresh vegetables! Some are featured raw, like the tomatoes, while others are roasted first. Before we dive into the salad, we start with roasting the vegetables, as that will take the most time in this easy recipe.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. This is in preparation for our sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, and yellow corn. Based on your preferences, you may want to include the zucchini in this mixture. This recipe calls for raw zucchini, but you can add them to this step if you prefer cooked zucchini.

Prep the ingredients according to the recipe and and place in a medium-sized bowl. Next, drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss. Now combine the paprika, garlic powder, cumin, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. This spice blend will emphasize the “southwest” in the southwest quinoa salad and really build those deep flavors! Sprinkle this mixture over your vegetables and toss again to combine. Once your vegetables are now evenly coated, spread them out onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack.

A zoomed in photo of the salad showing detail of the different layering and colors of the dish.

Let’s Make the Quinoa

If you’ve visited my blog before, you know that I’m a big fan of adding quinoa to salad recipes! Quinoa is such a powerful grain and very versatile. You can prepare your quinoa to be boiled to a fluffy texture, ground up to make flour, or rolled into flakes. As well, it’s gluten-free and has many health benefits! Some of these positive impacts include:

  • Vitamins: Adding this gluten-free gain into your diet can increase your daily intake of important vitamins for your body. Quinoa is rich in copper, iron, zinc and Vitamin B6.
  • Nutrient Dense: Just one cup of cooked quinoa equates to 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 5 grams of fiber!
  • Plant Based Protein: Did you know that quinoa contains complete protein? Complete proteins contain all nine amino acids in significant amounts. While all animal sources of protein are complete, the majority of plant proteins are not. As a complete plant protein, quinoa is one of the exceptions.

Now you understand why I love quinoa so much! But back to cooking the quinoa for this southwest quinoa salad. Quinoa is similar to rice, just a bit different when it comes to preparation. For every cup of quinoa, you’ll need a cup and three-fourths of water or broth. I opt for chicken or vegetable broth because it adds more flavor and nutrients to the quinoa. Combine your quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15 minutes. Then remove from heat- still covered- and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Once finished, remove the lid and fluff with a fork!

Details on the salad's toppings and everything in it.

Putting Together The Salad

While your vegetables are baking in the oven, we have time to prepare the salad base. Grab a large salad bowl and add the following: arugula, halved cherry tomatoes, black beans, pepita seeds, red onion, avocado, and cilantro. You’ll also add the cooked quinoa once it has cooled and the zucchini if you choose to use it raw.

Now, that’s a lot of ingredients! There may be a few questions regarding how best to prepare some of these items. Here is a small breakdown of how I like to prepare this southwest quinoa salad base:

  • Red Onion: Let’s talk a bit about this root vegetable. It has a sharp flavor, so if that isn’t your jam then I have a solution for you! If you want the crunch of the crisp onion without the pungent flavor, add the onion to a bowl of ice water for 20 minutes before dicing it. This will help to tone down that taste while preserving the texture.
  • Pepita Seeds: Now, what are pepita seeds? These green seeds are also known as pumpkin seeds! The main difference between the two are that pumpkin seeds have a shell, while pepita seeds do not. These seeds have a delicious nutty taste and slight crunch to them.
  • Black Beans: Infamous in southwest salads, there is a trick to preparing these legumes. Make sure to rinse and drain the beans TWICE before adding them to the salad. This will wash away the liquid from the can.

Alright, now that those ingredients are tossed together, go ahead and take out your vegetables from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before adding to your bowl. Your salad is almost done!

A Quick Little Salad Dressing

This salad dressing for our southwest quinoa salad couldn’t be easier to make! This recipe uses a homemade chipotle dressing to give the dish a hint of spice. To make your salad dressing, add the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce to a blender with the lime juice, greek yogurt and garlic. The chipotle in the adobo sauce are the key to the heat, while the lime juice and greek yogurt balance it out. Blend until smooth- this should take about a minutes or so. This dressing is crucial to creating that famous southwest salad!

A zoomed in photo of the salad dressing. A yellow-orange colored creamy dressing.

Finishing Off this Southwest Quinoa Salad

Now that your vegetables are room temperature, your dressing is made, and your salad is waiting… let’s add in all the ingredients. Add in your vegetables to your salad base and toss. Then, add a light amount of dressing to the salad and toss to combine. You can always add more dressing, but you can’t add less once it’s in!

If you are looking for a little more crunch, I would suggest toasting or air frying sliced corn tortillas for some homemade chips! Season it with a little olive oil and tajin before crisping up. This is a great addition to the salad. Also, if you want a bit more protein in this recipe, either grilled chicken or steak would be an amazing pair.

All that’s left is to maybe, just possibly, store the leftovers in your fridge in a sealed container for the coming days. As we know, salads tend to wilt fast, so I wouldn’t recommend doing a meal prep with this dish. Just reserve the dressing on the side. I’m sure you and others will finish the entire dish upon making and won’t have any leftovers!

Fall Southwest Quinoa Salad

Recipe by Arianna LitrentaCourse: Salads, Lunch, Dinner, SidesDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



This play on a traditional southwest salad is the perfect recipe to utilize fall produce in a unique way!


  • 1 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

  • 1 cup yellow corn

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 3 teaspoons paprika

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 cups of arugula, washed

  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked

  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed twice

  • 3/4 cup pepita seeds

  • 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped

  • 1/4 red onion, diced

  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced

  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

  • Ingredients for Chipotle Dressing
  • 2 chipotle peppers from the can with the adobo sauce

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt

  • 1/4 cup lime juice

  • 1 garlic clove, grated


  • Preheat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add the sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, and yellow corn to a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and toss.
  • Combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle into the bowl and toss to combine before spreading evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack.
  • While the vegetables are in the oven, add the following to a large salad bowl: arugula, tomatoes, cooked quinoa, black beans, peptic seeds, zucchini, red onion, avocado, and cilantro.
  • Once the vegetables have finished cooking, allow them to cool for ten minutes before adding to the bowl.
  • Make the dressing by adding the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce to a blender with the lime juice, greek yogurt and garlic.
  • Blend until smooth (roughly one minute).
  • Add a light amount of dressing to the salad and toss to combine.
  • Serve and enjoy!


  • If making ahead of time or storing leftovers, reserve the salad dressing and only use whe

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