Mexican pasta salad is a cold pasta salad made with vegetable pasta, diced vegetables, pinto beans, and grilled corn, dressed in a slightly spicy southwest dressing.
As summer comes to an end, I whipped up a vegan Mexican pasta salad recipe for dinner. Mexican pasta salad tastes like all my favorite Mexican flavors in one bowl, served cold with my vegan southwest dressing. Filled with fresh vegetables, grilled corn, and beans, and topped with avocado and tofu feta cheese, this Mexican pasta salad recipe es muy Bueno!
We love Mexican food, and I'm the loving end of the summer vegetables like corn, zucchini, and fresh garden tomatoes. Since everyone loves Mexican food and pasta, I chose to combine our favorites in one delicious bowl.
So, this week, try Mexican pasta salad instead of a hot, vegan Mexican meal.
- Vegetable Pasta: I used Trader Joe's Vegetable Radiatore or pasta of choice. I love bright-colored pasta, especially ones made with veggies like the Trader Joe's brand.
- Organic Pinto Beans: Pinto beans are hearty and thick. They hold up well in salads and tend to be meatier than other beans.
- Yellow Bell Pepper: Yellow bell peppers are sweeter than green peppers.
- Red Bell Pepper: Red bell peppers are the sweetest bell peppers available, and their vibrant color adds to the beauty of this Mexican pasta salad.
- Red Onion: raw red onion is spicy yet sweet, combining well with the other ingredients in the pasta salad.
- Grape Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes have a firmer exterior. Their skin is thicker and contains fewer seeds than other tomatoes while maintaining their flavor.
- Corn: I like to grill my corn for a charred smokey flavor.
- Zucchini: Zucchini is in season and very inexpensive this time of year. For that reason, I like to add it to salads instead of cucumber; Zucchini contains fewer seeds and doesn't make the salad soggy and watery.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is the perfect fresh herb for this Mexican theme pasta salad.
Salad Ingredient Substitutions
- Choose any pasta, gluten-free or whole grain is preferred as a substitute.
- Black beans also work well with this Mexican pasta salad recipe.
- Choose any colored bell peppers. Green peppers will give a more robust taste rather than a sweeter taste profile.
- White or yellow onion substitute for red onion in recipes.
- Choose cherry tomatoes or Roma tomatoes as substitutes if you don't have grape tomatoes.
- Cucumber is another option for this salad, or if you like the zucchini idea, yellow summer squash works well.
- Frozen or canned corn is a replacement for grilled corn.
- And, if you don't like cilantro (some say it tastes like soap), try basil or parsley for a fresh herb taste.
What is Vegetable Pasta?
Believe it or not, all pasta is not created equally. Healthy pasta exists! I love Trader Joe's Vegetable Pasta.
In each 12-ounce bag, this vegetable pasta only contains five simple ingredients:
- Organic Durum Wheat Semolina
- Red Bell Pepper
If looking for gluten-free pasta for this Mexcian pasta salad recipe, I suggest the following options:
Making the Pasta Salad
Once cooked, rinse the vegetable pasta in cold water, tossing to cool all the pasta.
Then, transfer the pasta to a large bowl before adding the other ingredients.
Then, gently toss the pasta, vegetables, and beans and keep the noodles intact.
- Raw Cashews: The raw cashews provide creaminess to the dressing.
- Fresh Salsa: Choose your favorite salsa and flavor; some like it hot; some don't. I like it hot.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar provides a tanginess and acidity to the dressing.
- Lime Juice: The lime juice gives the dressing an added citrus component.
- Water: Water is used to thin if necessary (depends on the chunkiness of salsa)
- For a nut-free option, substitute white beans, sunflower seeds, or silken tofu.
- Another nut-free dressing option is Vegan Green Goddess Dressing.
- Choose jarred salsa if fresh salsa is not available. I prefer store-bought fresh salsa from the produce section if I don't make my own.
Then, fold in half the dressing and refrigerate—the rest of the dressing until ready to serve. Right before servings, toss in the remaining dressing.
To enhance the already incredible Mexican flavors, I added a few extra ingredients as garnish.
- Tofu Feta Cheese
- Lime wedges
- Chopped avocado (to avoid browning, add the avocado right before serving)
- Sliced jalapenos
The pasta salad will stay fresh for 4-5 days when stored in an airtight container.
I recommend making this pasta salad ahead of time because the flavors get better and more pronounced as it sits. Then, of course, you can enjoy it right after assembling, but if you have 8 to 12 hours to let it sit in the refrigerator, you'll be happy you did.
The key to keeping macaroni salad from drying out is the pasta. If you don't cook it enough, the pasta won't grab onto the dressing and will dry out. If you overcook the pasta, it will be completely soggy and gross. Cook the pasta just right, and your macaroni salad will stay perfectly creamy.
- I use a vegetable chopper to make meal prep easier and cut my vegetables in uniform sizes.
- Fold in half the dressing, and add the rest of the dressing right before servings. This allows the flavor to enhance while keeping the pasta salad moist.
- If using the nut-free option for the dressing, and using white beans or silken tofu, reduce the water by half the amount indicated in the recipe. Of course, you can always add more water to thin the dressing to your desired texture.
- Remember to blend thoroughly when using the brand in dressing and add a little more water to rescue the graininess.
- I prefer fresh salsa from the store rather than jarred salsa for freshness.
- You can find fresh-made salsas in the refrigerator section of your grocery store by the produce section.
Before summer comes to an end, give this Mexican pasta salad a try. You will love the combination of flavors and subtle spicy goodness!
Other Great Vegan Mexican Dishes
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Mexican Pasta Salad
- 12 ounces vegetable pasta I used Trader Joe's Vegetable Radiatore or pasta of choice
- 15 ounces organic pinto beans or black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 yellow bell pepper diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 red onion diced
- 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
- 2 corn on the cob grilled or boiled, cut from the cob, or 2 cups canned or frozen corn
- 1 zucchini diced
- ⅓ cup cilantro chopped
- ⅓ cup vegan tofu feta cheese
- 2 avocados diced (do not dice until right before serving to avoid browning)
- 3 limes cut into wedges
- 3 jalapenos sliced thin
- Cook the pasta according to instructions on the package
- Immediately transfer to a colander and run cold water through the pasta to stop cooking and bring to room temperature.
- Once cooled, transfer pasta to a large bowl.
- Now add the chopped vegetables, pinto beans, and cilantro.
- Toss lightly to avoid breaking the delicate pasta
- Then make the dressing.
- Choose one of the 2 dressing options.
- Place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour half the dressing over the pasta and vegetables, and fold I carefully.
- Reserve the remaining dressing and cover.
- Cover the pasta salad and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Right before serving, fold in the remaining dressing.
- Spoon Mexican pasta salad into individual bowls or plates.
- Then, add chopped avocado, sliced jalapenos, sprinkle with vegan feta cheese, and add a couple of lime wedges to each bowl.
- To enhance the already incredible Mexican flavors, I added a few extra ingredients as a garnish add tofu feta cheese, lime wedges, chopped avocado (to avoid browning, add the avocado right before serving), and sliced jalapenos.
- When making the dressing, the amount of water used depends on how watery or chunky the salsa you choose is. First, try to blend it without water; then add the water slowly, blend, and add water to desired thickness.
- For the best results, only fold in half the dressing to the pasta salad, and then add the rest of the dressing right before serving.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂