This Southwestern Quinoa Salad does have some carbs, but you can use more red pepper and fewer beans for a lower-carb option! And just replace the cilantro with green onion if you don’t want Cilantro in your Southwest Quinoa Salad!

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad shown in two serving bowls with forks

Lots of people are becoming fond of the South American seed product called quinoa (keen-wah), and I knew quinoa had become mainstream when I noticed you could buy a giant bag of it at Costco! And although I resisted for a week or two, eventually I bought one of those huge bags and stored it in the freezer.

I made a lot of tasty things with my big bag of quinoa, but this Southwestern Quinoa Salad is probably my favorite quinoa recipe to date. And I’ve enjoyed this so much through the years that I’m featuring it for my Friday Favorites pick this week!

Besides the cumin-lime-chile flavors in the dressing, I loved this salad with quinoa because the crunch of the red pepper, the softness of the beans, and the slight chewiness of the quinoa was such a nice combination of textures. The salad stayed good in the fridge for days, so it would be perfect to make on the weekend and take for lunch during the week. And if you haven’t tried quinoa yet, this Southwest Quinoa Salad may be the recipe that will turn you into a quinoa fan.

What ingredients do you need for this recipe?

(This is only a list of ingredients; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)

  • quinoa (rinsed if needed, check the package)
  • water
  • salt
  • red bell pepper
  • canned black beans
  • green onion
  • fresh cilantro (or use more green onion)
  • fresh-squeezed lime juice, I used my fresh-frozen lime juice
  • Spike Seasoning (affiliate link), or other all-purpose seasoning blend
  • ground cumin (affiliate link)
  • ground Ancho chile (affiliate link) (see notes)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil

What is Quinoa?

Many people think of quinoa as a grain, but it’s actually a seed and this healthy ingredient is loaded with fiber and high in protein. Read about health benefits and nutrition facts of quinoa to find out more about this healthy food.

What gives this quinoa salad the Southwest Flavors?

This salad is loaded with Southwestern flavor notes from ground cumin, ground Ancho chile, lime juice, and cilantro!

How many carbs are in the Southwest Quinoa Salad?

As written, this recipe for quinoa salad has about 14 net carbs per serving.

How can you make Southwest Quinoa Salad lower in carbs?

Quinoa does have some carbs, but it’s also high in fiber and protein, and it’s the black beans that have the most carbs here. If you want to make a version of Southwest Quinoa Salad that’s lower in carbs, use two red peppers and half as many black beans. That will still be delicious!

Make Quinoa Salad for Weekend Food Prep:

This recipe has been added to a category called Weekend Food Prep where you’ll find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!

Southwestern Quinoa Salad process shots collage

How to make Southwestern Quinoa Salad:

(This is only a summary of the steps for the recipe; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)

  1. Check the label to see if your quinoa has to be rinsed and rinse if needed.
  2. Then combine the quinoa and water with a little salt and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  3. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and let it cool while you prep other ingredients.
  4. Drain one can of black beans into a colander, rinse until no more foam appears, and let them drain until they are dry.
  5. Chop up a red bell pepper into small pieces (about the same size as the black beans.)
  6. Stir together the lime juice, Spike Seasoning (affiliate link), ground cumin (affiliate link), ground Ancho chile (affiliate link) or chili powder, and black pepper and then whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.
  7. Thinly slice the green onions. Wash, dry, and chop the cilantro. (Oops, didn’t take a photo of that!)
  8. When the quinoa is fairly cool, stir together the quinoa, diced red pepper, black beans, and sliced green onions so they are well combined. Then stir in enough of the dressing so all the ingredients are moistened. (Save any extra dressing to add after the salad has been refrigerated.)
  9. Gently stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad cropped image of two bowls of salad

Make it a Meal:

Southwest Quinoa Salad would make a lovely side dish for something like Spicy Broiled Shrimp, Air Fryer Marinated Chicken Breasts, Spicy Air Fryer Fish, Chicken Souvlaki, or Cuban Flank Steak.

More Tasty Ideas with Quinoa:

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans
Yield: 6 servings

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Southwestern Quinoa Salad is a great meatless side dish that's loaded with healthful ingredients.


Salad Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa (rinsed if needed, check the package)
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2 T fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. Spike Seasoning (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground Ancho chile pepper (see notes)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Check the quinoa package to see if it needs to be rinsed (it often does) and rinse in a fine-mesh strainer if needed.
  2. Combine quinoa, water, and salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
  3. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let it cool while you prep other ingredients.
  4. Drain the beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water, until no more foam appears.
  5. Let beans drain until they are quite dry (or pat dry with paper towels if you want to speed it up.)
  6. Cut out the stem and remove seeds from the red bell pepper and cut into very small dice (about the size of the black beans.)
  7. Slice the green onions into thin slices and wash, dry, and chop the cilantro.
  8. When the quinoa is fairly cool, combine quinoa, black beans, diced red bell pepper, and sliced green onion in a bowl.
  9. Add enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients.  (You probably won’t need all the dressing, but save the extra to stir into any leftover salad that’s been in the fridge.)
  10. Gently stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.
  11. This keeps very well in the fridge for several days.
  12. The salad absorbs the dressing when it’s refrigerated, so it’s best with a little more dressing stirred in when you’re eating the leftover salad.


Just use regular chili powder if you don’t have Ancho chili.

This recipe adapted from Santa Fe Quinoa Salad at Food and Wine.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 185Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 0mgSodium 727mgCarbohydrates 20gFiber 6gSugar 2gProtein 6g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating (under the PRINT button in the recipe) or share a photo of your results on Instagram! THANKS!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Even though quinoa is a seed and it’s a low-glycemic ingredient, this Southwest Quinoa Salad would be limited to phase 2 or 3 for the original South Beach Diet and it’s probably a bit high in carbs for traditional low-carb diet plans unless you follow the tips above to make a version that’s lower in carbs. But quinoa is gluten-free, vegan, low-fat, and high in protein, fiber, and nutrients.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Salad Recipes to find more recipes like this one. Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Instagram, on TikTok, or on YouTube to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
Southwestern Quinoa Salad was first posted in 2012, and it quickly became one of my favorite salads to make on the weekend and eat all week. It was last updated with more information in 2024.

Pinterest image of Southwestern Quinoa Salad

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