Mexican Quinoa Salad is made with tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, and a bright lime dressing for a light, and refreshing Tex-Mex spin on Quinoa Salad.
Whether serving as a filling and wholesome gluten-free lunch, as a meatless meal, or as a side dish alongside Beef Tacos, Honey Lime Chicken Fajitas, or Sweet Potato Tacos, Mexican Quinoa is an easy, healthy, versatile dish that everyone loves.
Say hello to your new favorite Tex-Mex side dish! While I love Instant Pot Refried Beans and I will never turn down chips and homemade salsa, this Tex-Mex-inspired quinoa salad is singing with flavor and texture.
From the fluffy quinoa to the bright lime dressing to the sweet tomatoes to the hearty beans, this Mexican Quinoa Salad is not only delicious but it is also loaded with protein and nutrients. In fact, it is hearty enough to be served as a main course!
why you will love Mexican Quinoa
- Easy Recipe. Whether you start with Instant Pot Quinoa or prepare the quinoa on the stovetop, this recipe is ridiculously simple to prepare.
- Complex Flavors. The dressing is tangy, bright, and slightly smokey and helps to marry together the earthy flavor from the quinoa and beans with the fresh tomatoes and cilantro.
- Healthy. Mexican Quinoa Salad is full of protein, complex carbohydrates, and tons of fiber and nutrients.
- Allergy-Friendly. Mexican Quinoa is gluten-free, egg-free, and nut-free, and can easily be made dairy-free by omitting the feta cheese.
- Party-Favorite. This Mexican Quinoa Salad is an unexpected, welcomed dish that is always devoured at potlucks and parties.
Notes on Ingredients
- Quinoa: This recipe can be made with white quinoa, red quinoa, or multi-colored quinoa.
- Broth: To cook the quinoa, use either store-bought or homemade vegetable broth or chicken stock. Keep in mind that you will want to use vegetable broth to keep this dish vegetarian-friendly.
- Lime: Use fresh limes! No exceptions! Be sure to wash, dry, and zest your lime BEFORE juicing it. Using both the juice and the zest of the lime in the dressing will add amazing flavor, but it is next to impossible to zest a lime after cutting it open.
- Seasonings: Smoked paprika and cumin give this quinoa salad an irresistible smokey undertone that contrasts the bright acidic lime juice in the dressing. Feel free to use regular paprika in place of smoked paprika if you don't have it on hand.
- Beans: Black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans in this recipe. I like to use my instant pot black beans, but canned beans work as well. Just be sure to rinse and drain canned beans well prior to adding to the salad.
- Tomatoes: Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are best in this Mexican Salad, but you can also use seeded Roma or vine-ripened diced tomatoes.
- Cheese: Either crumbled Queso Fresco or feta cheese can be used and add a nice salty, creamy bite to the quinoa salad. Omit the cheese to keep this Mexican Quinoa Salad dairy-free. It will still be delicious.
- Cilantro: If you don't like cilantro, simply omit it. The lime juice and seasonings will still be enough flavor for this dish.
- Onion: Use a finely diced red onion or sweet onion, or omit the onion altogether if desired.
- Optional Additions: Corn and avocados are also a great addition to this Mexican Quinoa salad. You can add up to 2 cups of fresh corn kernels or defrosted frozen corn kernels. Add diced avocados right before serving so they don't turn brown.
How to Make Mexican Quinoa Salad
Step One: Prepare Quinoa
The first step to making this salad is to prepare the quinoa. You can simmer the quinoa on the stovetop per the directions, or you can opt to use my recipe for Instant Pot Quinoa.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a rolling boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add in quinoa, reduce the heat, place a lid on the pan, and simmer the quinoa until it has absorbed the liquid and has puffed up.
- Remove the quinoa from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, fluff with a fork. Anytime you cook rice or quinoa, be sure to fluff with a fork, not a spoon. Mixing with a spoon will crush the grains and make them mushy.
Step Two: Prepare Dressing
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt, garlic, lime zest, and lime juice until well combined.
Step Three: Assemble the Salad
Mexican Quinoa Salad is best assembled 30 minutes prior to serving but can be assembled up to 48 hours in advance.
- Once the quinoa is cooled, add the prepared dressing to the quinoa, and gently toss it together. You don't want to mix vigorously as that can cause the quinoa to break down and lose its texture.
- To the dressed quinoa, add the beans, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and cilantro and gently fold them together to combine.
Step Three: Chill
In order to have the best flavor in this Mexican Quinoa Salad possible, it is best to chill the dish for at least 30 minutes before digging into it! This will allow the quinoa to absorb the flavor of the dressing and become an irresistibly good dish.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the Mexican quinoa salad for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
One of the many things I love about this Mexican Quinoa Salad is that it is so versatile. Below are some of my favorite
- As a Meatless Entree: Thanks to the heartiness of the quinoa and beans, this Quinoa Salad is substantial enough to be served as a meatless main course.
- As a Taco Filling: Use this Mexican Quinoa as a unique, vegetarian filling for tacos served in corn or flour tortillas.
- As a Side Dish: You can't go wrong pairing Mexican Quinoa with a side for dishes like Instant Pot Steak Fajitas, Shredded Chicken Tacos, or Grilled Shrimp.
More Tex-Mex Side Dishes
If you enjoyed this Mexican Quinoa Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Mexican Quinoa Salad
For the Quinoa
- Bring the broth to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Once boiling, stir in the quinoa and ½ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed the liquid and puffed up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
For the Lime Dressing
- In a small bowl, whisk the oil with the lime zest, lime juice, paprika, cumin, minced garlic, and salt.
For the Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Once the quinoa has cooled, combine the dressing and quinoa together in a large mixing bowl, gently tossing to combine. Fold in the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, feta, and beans to evenly combine.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
- Serve as desired.
This post was originally published in 2016 but has been updated in 2020 with new photos and a video.