Southwest Pasta Salad

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Liven up your next pasta dinner with this Southwest Pasta Salad. It’s got all the fun south-of-the-border flavors with the ease of a noodle salad.

metal bowl of southwest rice pasta salad

If you make a pasta salad with rice noodles…

…you’re gonna want some beans to go with.

And if you’ve got beans and rice together, well, naturally you need to add some corn kernels, chopped pepper, cilantro, and tomatoes.

And since it’s a pasta salad, it’s only natural to add some black olives and onions.

This recipe was born out of my desire to make a gluten-free pasta salad and it kind of got a life of its own after that. I started with rice pasta and since I serve a lot of rice and beans around here, it only made sense to throw in a can of black beans. 

Make Southwest Pasta Salad for an easy supper!

Pasta salads are some of the easiest recipes to prepare. They easily feed a crowd, come together quickly, and can be made several days in advance.

Assembling several types of salads at one time can make for an easy and delicious meal that is very serve-yourself. Perfect for busy families!

Give your next pasta salad a little southwest twist with this recipe for Southwest Pasta Salad.

metal bowl with pasta salad ingredients

How do you make a cold pasta salad?

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Since the pasta is going to be dressed, you want it just a bit undercooked. That gives it room to absorb the dressing without getting soggy.

Rinse, drain, and cool the pasta. Then toss it with the dressing and the mix-ins. That’s it! Super simple.

Chill the pasta salad until ready to serve, up to three days in advance.

What goes in a pasta salad?

A cold pasta salad is one of the easiest dishes to prepare. It’s also the most versatile. You can add whatever mix-in’s you like and change up the flavor profile in a myriad of ways. Asian flavors? Sure. Mediterranean? Absolutely! Italian? Of course.

Choose a salad dressing and then get creative with the mix-in’s. Options include:

  • shredded or crumbled cheese
  • cooked chicken or turkey
  • sliced salami or pepperoni
  • olives (sliced or whole)
  • artichoke hearts
  • asparagus
  • assorted grilled vegetables
  • corn and peas
  • diced peppers
  • shredded carrot
  • sliced or chopped onion
  • chopped fresh spinach
  • diced tomatoes
  • garbanzo beans or other favorite beans
  • fresh, chopped herbs

How do you make Southwest Pasta Salad?

It’s pretty simple to assemble this pasta salad with a southwest flair. I like using rice pasta because it adds just that bit of rice flavor that I associate with Mexican food. You can use regular wheat pasta as well.

I’ve included other mix-in’s that I associate with the southwest: corn, black beans, cilantro, chopped peppers, sliced black olives, chopped onions, and tomatoes.

ingredients for southwest pasta salad

How I make this good and cheap:

This Southwest Pasta Salad is pretty economical by virtue of its being a simple pasta dish. Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe even more affordable:

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale! When I see a great price on pasta, I buy a lot of it. We almost always have a stockpile of noodles in the pantry.
  • Shop at your cheapest stores. This may vary based on where you live and how close you are to great stores. For me, Costco and ALDI are the best game in town, even though I have to drive a town over to get to them. These ingredients are pretty cheap at both places.
  • Make your own salad dressing. In a pinch, you could use bottled dressing, but making homemade is so much cheaper. Tastier, too!

Tools I use to make this recipe easy:

This is a pretty straight-forward dish. You don’t need any fancy equipment to cook pasta! However, having some good basic kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.

  • large stockpot – Mine is a Kitchenaid that I’ve had for 14 years!
  • collander – We just bought this one this year to replace a broken plastic one.
  • large pasta bowl – I have one like this and love it!

bowl of southwest pasta salad with red spoon

0 from 0 votes
Southwest Pasta Salad
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
Liven up your next pasta dinner with this Southwest Pasta Salad. It's got all the fun south-of-the-border flavors with the ease of a noodle salad.
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: black beans, corn, pasta, pasta salad, southwest, southwest pasta salad
Servings: 8
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 pound favorite short pasta try a rice pasta!
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 16-ounce can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn kernels if frozen, no need to thaw
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper cored, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Rinse and drain.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oregano, cumin, pepper, and salt, stirring to combine. Slowly whisk in the oil.
  3. Add the pasta to the dressing and stir to combine. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, pepper, olives, cilantro, and onions. Stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Pasta salad is good in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Southwest Pasta Salad | Life as Mom

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. Lauren says

    This is such a great idea! I just found your blog recently – it all looks wonderful!

    In terms of the swap, everything on my blog is gluten free, and occasionally free of more =D.

  2. Susie says

    That looks GREAT!

  3. Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free says

    I love this idea of sharing allergy friendly recipes. I agree that they're more prevalent and, honestly, I appreciate you bringing awareness to it in a kind way. Too often those of us with food allergies are belittled – "Oh, just eat a little…it won't hurt you. And, it will make the hostess happy." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that I'd be stinkin' rich!

  4. Just Me says

    so nummy!!! Thanks!

  5. Hoosier Homemade says

    Sorry I don't have a recipe today, I thankfully don't have any restrictions that I cook for, yet.

  6. Anne says

    Thanks so much for this topic! My son has multiple allergies, and as prevalent as that is these days, it's hard to find good recipes. I'm looking forward to browsing through all the links here!

  7. Linda says

    This is a wonderful topic, and I almost forgot you were doing it this week. I'm looking forward to checking out these links.

  8. Kara@ Creations by Kara says

    Oops, I entered the wrong recipe, and I don't know how to delete the link. Sorry.

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  10. JessieLeigh says

    Blessedly, we have no food allergies or restrictions in our family… but your recipe looks wonderfully yummy all the same! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  11. karen says

    Like Lauren, everything on my site is made gluten-free. I don't specify "gluten-free flour" in my recipes, though, since I've had several friends who can have "normal" flour and have made my recipes with great results.

  12. Mel says

    I just found your blog — thanks for the recipe swap. It's the only way we can all help each other with these special diets! I like that now I can look at other's blogs and get even more ideas. Thank you!

  13. Out Of The Box Living says

    Peanut clusters made with "Enjoy Life" brand chocolate chips. The chocolate chips are free of wheat/gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, casein, potato, sesame and sulfites – and they taste like regular chocolate! I found these at a couple regular grocery stores.

    There's not really a recipe for this, but last year, when I had to go dairy-, soy- and tree nut-free for my little nursling, I made lots of these for treats since there weren't many options at holiday time!

    Instructions: melt chocolate according to package directions. Mix in peanuts (or other nuts if you can't have peanuts). Drop spoonfuls onto wax paper, allow to cool and harden, and then try not to eat all of them in one sitting!

  14. Fran says

    I’m lactose intolerant and have always dreaded the holidays, as all the food seems to be loaded with dairy. After a recommendation of one of my friends, I found this nutrition coach named Rose Cole who has a holiday cookbook and has tons of dairy free recipes. Her site is

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