This Mexican Quinoa Salad is filled with vibrant colors and textures. Made with healthy quinoa, sweet corn, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and then finished with an irresistible honey lime dressing, it is a fabulous way to use leftover quinoa and is ready in under 10 minutes.
I’m bringing you a new quinoa recipe every day of this week. Because aren't you bored of eating quinoa just as a side dish? Amazingly nutritious, quinoa makes a great base for fresh salad recipes because it soaks up all the zesty flavors and blends itself with all the other ingredients.
This Mexican quinoa salad is not only refreshing with bright summer flavors but also is light, and healthy with good-for-you ingredients like the carrot raisin salad, filling and incredibly flavorful!
It makes the perfect lunch, especially If you have leftover cooked quinoa from dinner. It is loaded with fiber, and a great source of plant based protein. You will love this zucchini fritters recipe. Surprisingly quinoa tastes amazing sweet too! Check out this creamy quinoa porridge.
When it comes to cooking quinoa to use for salad, I like to use this instant pot quinoa recipe, because it yields fluffy quinoa every time! Make sure that you cook it a day or several hours in advance, so it has a chance to cool completely, just like for fried rice.
Cold quinoa is not only drier with a firm texture, but also does a better job of absorbing the bright and flavorful honey lime dressing! We keep things simple with a combination of fresh lime juice, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper and a touch of cumin for smokiness.
Why this recipe works?
- This Mexican quinoa salad is not only ultra flavorful and colorful, but also packed with superfoods. It is loaded with protein, is gluten free and can be made vegan by switching maple syrup for honey.
- Whether you already love quinoa or don’t cook it often, this will get you started! Although it makes a fantastic salad base, it doesn’t have that much flavor by itself. That's why I opted for a bright and flavorful salad dressing. As the salad sits, the quinoa absorbs the dressing and gets more and more delicious over time.
- It is also very easy to toss together, makes a great meatless meal with whatever you have have around, especially if you use leftover quinoa.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Quinoa - I've used white quinoa for this Mexican quinoa salad recipe. You can use any type you like from white, red, black or tri-color. Red or Tri colored grains will add extra interest with more pop of colors and make it more chewier, almost crunchy texture.
- Tomatoes - Cherry tomatoes add great flavor and visual interest to the Mexican quinoa salad. They are sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. Quarter especially large cherry tomatoes or halve smaller ones.
- Corn - Fresh corn of the cob in the peak of summer is sweet, delicious and is such a treat. It contains a great deal of sugar and very little starch. Just slice the kernels off the cob and add them to the salad.
- Red onion – It adds crunch, flavor, some sweetness and a subtle bite. If you'd like to remove some of that harsh bite, then give them a rinse first before adding it into your Mexican quinoa salad.
- Avocado - Adds creaminess and butters things up, making this salad taste indulgent. Use perfectly ripe but not under or over ripe, as they make a huge difference. You can tell if an avocado is ripe, if it yields to firm gentle pressure (will have a slight give, but not squishy).
- Cilantro - Adds freshness and brings home the Mexican flavors. But if you don’t care for it, you can leave it out.
No elaborate ingredients here! For the honey lime dressing you’ll need lime juice, olive oil, honey, cumin, salt and pepper. It’s light, zesty, refreshing with just a touch of smokiness.
This recipe is delicious, hearty, and extremely satisfying the way it's written. However, there are lots of variations you can do to make this salad your own.
- Toss in some drained and rinsed canned black beans or garbanzo beans for added protein and fiber.
- Diced bell peppers escalates the color factor and adds crunch.
- Diced English cucumber will freshness and crunch.
- Give a final sprinkle of cojita cheese for something creamy and salty.
- Give it a Mediterranean spin with some feta cheese, sliced olives, and use lemon instead of lime.
- Make it a complete meal by tossing in diced chicken.
- Use lemon juice instead of lime and maple syrup for honey.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
- Cook, cool quinoa and add into a large bowl.
Pro tip to cool quinoa if didn't plan ahead: Spread the warm, cooked and fluffed grains on a sheet pan in an even layer. Pop the sheet pan into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or into the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Add raw corn kernels.
Pro tip: To cut corn kernels off the cob, lay the corn down on the cutting board and using a sharp knife, slice off a strip of kernels lengthwise. Rotate the cob and repeat as necessary.
- Add halved or quartered cherry tomatoes.
- Add diced avocado, thinly sliced red onion and chopped cilantro into the bowl.
Make honey lime dressing by mixing lime juice, honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin together until honey is fully dissolved.
Pour over the ingredients and toss gently to combine. Serve the Mexican quinoa salad immediately or chill it in the refrigerator before serving (wait to add avocado just before serving).
This summery Mexican quinoa salad pairs well with just about anything! Perfect as a side dish alongside grilled chicken thighs or makes a delicious, satisfying lunch that won’t leave you hungry an hour later. It's is also perfect for barbecues, potlucks or cookouts.
How to make ahead?
Keep the avocados out until just before serving and this makes a great make ahead summer salad. It is perfect for making ahead because the flavors develop over time and the ingredients hold up well when refrigerated.
Store Mexican quinoa salad without avocado, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If you’re meal prepping then, you can portion out individual servings and store in smaller containers. Top with avocado just before digging in!
- Rinse your quinoa before cooking to remove the bitter tasting saponin compound. To rinse, place the grains in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for about 30 seconds or until the water runs clear. Let drain thoroughly.
- Begin with a well seasoned cooked quinoa for a flavorful base. Learn how cook fluffy and flavorful quinoa in instant pot which is simple yet tasty. You can also use quinoa cooked in chicken stock for a more depth of flavor.
- Let cooked quinoa rest before opening your instant pot so that it has a chance fully bloom and pop open.
- Make sure to cook the grains ahead and let cool completely, so it doesn't wilt the vegetables from it's heat.
- Rinse the sliced red onion in water to remove any harshness if desired.
- Use a ripe avocado that is not too soft or it will become mushy when stirred into the salad.
- Toss the avocado just before serving so it maintains the vibrant green and doesn't become mushy.
- Dress to your preference! Use as mush or as little dressing as you'd like, although I love a generously dressed salad.
- Squeeze your limes fresh for the best flavor and not from any bottles.
Cold! This great summer salad that comes together very quick with leftover quinoa. As the salad sits, the grains absorbs the dressing and gets more and more delicious over time. Just wait to add the avocado until serving time.
Each serving of this salad has 5 grams of protein, but you could always add more by tossing in about cooked black beans, chickpeas or leftover cooked chicken.
There are several proven methods:
1. Simple method - Lay the corn down on the cutting board and using a sharp knife, slice off a strip of kernels lengthwise. Rotate the cob and repeat as necessary.
2. Two bowl method - Place a small bowl inverted into a large bowl. Place the cob on the inverted, smaller bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut downward, as close to the base of the kernels as possible. Rotate the cob, and repeat the cut until all the kernels have been removed. All the kernels will fall into the large bowl.
3. Bundt pan method - Place the tip cob in the center hole of a bundt pan.
Hold the cob steady and cut corn with downward strokes using a large sharp knife. Corn kernels will fall directly into the bundt pan.
More summer salad recipes
Mexican Quinoa Salad
- 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
- 1 cup raw sweet corn kernels
- 1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
- 1 to 2 avocados, diced
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- chopped cilantro, as desired
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add cooled quinoa with corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion and cilantro into a large bowl. Drizzle dressing evenly and toss gently until well combined. Tip: Dress to your preference! Use as much or as little dressing as you'd like, although I love a generously dressed salad (You will have some leftover dressing)
- For dressing, stir all ingredients in a small measuring cup, until honey is thoroughly dissolved (Make sure to mix until honey is dissolved. It tends to settle in the bottom and can be a little stubborn to combine). Tip: I like to add all dressing ingredients into a small glass jar and shake vigorously, until well combined.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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