Southwest Pasta Salad is an ideal recipe for lazy days when nobody feels like cooking a complicated meal. This easy dish is pleasingly different than the usual macaroni salad, boasting a creamy homemade ranch style dressing with taco seasonings and all the trimmings!
Served with main dishes like tender Rosemary Chicken and crisp fresh corn, this southwest inspired Pasta Salad is the perfect side dish! Not only uniquely delicious, it’s so easy to make. Who can complain about that?
Southwest Pasta Salad
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Even though this pasta salad looks identical to the traditional macaroni salad, it is definitely zesty and different. Your guests will be so surprised when they take their first bite, expecting traditional macaroni salad, but finding something so unique!
Southwest Pasta Salad Ingredients
- Pasta: While this recipe calls for macaroni, you could use rotini, tri-color pasta, penne – you name it. Even gluten free pasta is an option, just check your mayo and spices for hidden ingredients before you claim the gluten free crown!
- Veggies: Red onion and red pepper will give your macaroni salad color and zing. But don’t stop there, add some jalapeños, olives or avocado. Use what you have on hand or if you want to add a little extra kick to your salad!
- Corn and Black Beans: These ingredients bring the “southwestern” style to your macaroni salad. This combo is terrific, you can’t possibly go wrong.
- Seasonings: Southwest spices like chili powder and cumin are combined with lime juice, mayo and sour cream for an amazingly tangy and spicy dressing. Add some fresh cilantro for real southwest flare.
You can turn this easy side dish into a complete meal by simply adding sliced grilled chicken on top. It would be the perfect picnic or lunch box meal.
Let’s Make Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta al dente, about 9 minutes, rinse well and drain. Rinsing pasta thoroughly prevents it from sticking together without having to coat it with oil. Oil can hinder the dressing from coating the pasta.
- Dice red peppers into quarter inch pieces or smaller and either dice or thinly slice red onions to desired size. Drain and thoroughly rinse black beans.
- There are so many options for corn.
- Frozen corn – defrost corn by rinsing under cool water, or add about 2 tablespoons water to corn kernels and microwave on medium power for 2 minutes and drain.
- Leftover corn on the cob – this is perfect for this recipe! Simply slice the kernels off the cob and break up the pieces.
- Canned corn – thoroughly drain and rinse canned corn for delicious results.
- Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth and creamy. Pour over salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh cilantro, olives, and/or avocado. Add some grilled chicken, and look! Your side salad just became a complete meal!
How Long Will It Last?
It is a good idea to keep all pasta salads refrigerated until ready to serve. This Southwest Pasta Salad will last for about 3 to 5 days. Once served, try not to allow it to sit at room temperature for more than about 2 hours.
You can freeze pasta salad, but be sure the pasta is cooked to just al dente or it may become mushy. It is best to defrost in your refrigerator.
Since this salad can be prepped ahead of time and either frozen or stored in the refrigerator, it makes the perfect side dish when you are preparing for a party, or to take to a potluck or barbecue.
How To Store Pasta Salad
Always store pasta salad in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.
- If you are planning to serve it the same day, keep it in the fridge ready to go in a pretty salad bowl.
- If freezing, or keeping in the fridge overnight, use two or three airtight containers so the bottom of the salad doesn’t get soggy from too much weight on top.
This is not your grandmother’s macaroni salad, folks. Get your southwest on tonight, and trust me, you won’t regret it!
More Delicious Pasta Salad Recipes!
Spinach & Tomato Chicken Pasta Salad – so full of flavor!
Spaghetti Salad – a new way to enjoy spaghetti.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad– zesty and delicious!
BLT Pasta Salad – bacon, lettuce and tomato? Yes!
BBQ Chicken Macaroni Salad – a twist on a classic.
Southwest Pasta Salad
- ½ lb macaroni noodles uncooked
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh, frozen or canned and drained
- 1 cup red pepper diced
- ⅓ cup red onion diced
- 1 ⅓ cup black beans drained & rinsed
- Cook macaroni according to package directions. Run under cold water to cool completely.
- While macaroni is cooking, combine all dressing ingredients and refrigerate to blend flavours.
- Add the cooked macaroni, corn, peppers, onion and beans to a large bowl. Add the dressing and stir to cover completely.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.