This southwest quinoa salad is filled with fluffy quinoa, crunchy veggies, cilantro, avocado, juicy tomatoes and cumin roasted chickpeas. Toss it with a spicy, creamy jalapeño ranch dressing and get ready for the best summer lunch!
I just love the flavors, textures, and colors of this southwest quinoa salad. It’s super flexible and you can substitute whatever veggies, nuts, or beans you have on hand. You can also make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for the best leftovers.
The combination of spicy jalapeño ranch, juicy sweet tomatoes, avocado and crunchy chickpeas is just so good on a hot summer day. We ramp up the crunch factor with thinly shaved red cabbage and sunflower seeds, increase the fresh factor with a heavy hand of chopped cilantro, and add a little more summer flair with sweet corn. It’s my ideal way to get more vegetables in!
Keep reading for the best ways to prep this salad and get even more ideas on making the recipe your own.
southwest quinoa salad ingredients:
- red cabbage
- cherry tomatoes
- sunflower seeds
- olive oil
- garlic powder
- jalapeño ranch dressing
how to make this quinoa salad:
- Roast the chickpeas.
- Make the jalapeno ranch dressing.
- Shave the cabbage and carrots.
- Slice the tomatoes and avocado.
- Assemble! Layer quinoa, roasted chickpeas, corn, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and avocado in a large bowl or platter. Drizzle with dressing and serve!
how to cook quinoa for a salad:
This is the best way to cook quinoa, whether for a salad or a side dish. I learned the technique from Cook’s Illustrated and haven’t looked back. The quinoa is always so fluffy, light, and flavorful. Here are the main tips (see the recipe card below for full directions):
- Toast quinoa in a dry pot until nutty and golden brown.
- Add a much smaller amount of water than you’re used to.
- Stir halfway through cooking.
The result is perfectly fluffy quinoa that is never soggy, waterlogged, or crunchy.
make this southwest quinoa salad ahead of time:
You could make this quinoa salad recipe ahead of time and store everything, tossed together, in the fridge. That’s how we enjoy the leftovers and they’re good.
BUT: If you want to make this salad for guests and showcase it in the best possible light, there are a few keys to prep and assembly that ensure each component is at it’s best.
We want crunchy chickpeas (not soggy), juicy and fresh tomatoes (cold and dull), vibrant cilantro (not oxidized and bland), creamy and clean avocado (not browned and muddy).
These small differences make a big impact on the final dish!
1 day ahead:
- Make the quinoa
- Make the salad dressing
- Shave the cabbage and carrot
1- 2 hours ahead:
- Roast the chickpeas
- Halve the tomatoes
- Thaw the corn
- Chop the cilantro
- Layer the salad in a large dish or bowl (keep at room temperature)
Just before serving:
- Slice the avocado
- Drizzle with dressing!
additions or substitutions to make this southwestern quinoa salad your own!
- Substitute any grain: you’ll need 2 ½ cups cooked grain (such as farro, bulgar, brown rice, wild rice, spelt, couscous)
- Black beans
- Grilled, sliced chicken or steak
- Shredded romaine
- Diced zucchini
- Chopped bell peppers, fresh or roasted
- Chopped cucumber
- Diced jicama
- Roasted diced chile peppers
- Sliced radishes
- Pickled jalapeños
- Minced red onion
- Minced green onions
- Roasted sweet potato or butternut squash
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Salted pepitas
- Crispy crumbled bacon
more quinoa recipes and grain salads to try:Print
southwest quinoa salad
This southwest quinoa salad is filled with fluffy quinoa, crunchy veggies, cilantro, avocado, cherry tomatoes and cumin-roasted chickpeas. Toss it with a spicy, creamy, cool jalapeño ranch dressing and get ready for the best summer lunches!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6
- Category: Salad
- Method: Tossed
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
southwest quinoa salad
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (about 2 ½ cups cooked), rinsed and drained
- 1 ⅓ cups water
- kosher salt
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1 cup shaved red cabbage
- 1 cup grated carrot (1 large carrot)
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup salted sunflower seeds
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 2 cups jalapeño ranch dressing
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Pat chickpeas dry with a clean dish towel, discarding any skins that come off.
- Transfer to prepared sheet pan and toss with olive oil, cumin, garlic, paprika, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until crisp, dry and golden. Let cool to crisp up more.
southwest quinoa salad
- Toast quinoa in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa starts to pop continuously, turn golden brown and smell nutty, 5- 7 minutes.
- Stir in the water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer, and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer until grains are just tender and liquid is absorbed, 18- 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
- Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork, then set aside to cool.
- In a large serving platter or bowl, combine cooked and cooled quinoa, roasted chickpeas, corn, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and avocado.
- Drizzle with half the dressing and serve, passing extra dressing on the side.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Serving Size: ⅙ of salad (no dressing)
- Calories: 315
- Sugar: 6.2g
- Sodium: 596mg
- Fat: 14g
- Saturated Fat: 1.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 11.2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Fiber: 10g
- Protein: 10g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: southwest quinoa salad