You can use a variety of pasta shapes, but I recommend something with some texture which will catch the dressing and hold up in the vinaigrette. Bow ties and spirals are two of my favorites!
For the salad:
- 6oz small pasta, cooked according to package directions (I use GF- see notes)
- 1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups baby tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup sweet corn (I used cooked and cooled corn)
- 1 cup roasted bell peppers, diced
- 1/2 – 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4–1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
For the Chili Lime Vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 2–3 limes)
- 2–3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2–3 Tbsp rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- optional: 1/2-1 tsp honey or agave (use agave for vegan)
For the salad:
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cool slightly.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare all your veggies.
- When pasta is cool, add veggies to pasta.
- In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Taste and add additional lime juice, vinegar, or seasonings as desired. If dressing is too tart or acidic, add a small drizzle of honey or agave as desired.
- Stir dressing into pasta and veggie mixture and toss to combine well. Chill until ready to serve.
Shortcuts! If you prefer, you can use 1 1/2 tsp of your favorite taco seasoning in place of the cumin and chili powder for the vinaigrette. It’ll taste amazing either way! Or, I bet you could spoon over a few heaping tablespoons of your favorite salsa to use as a dressing instead. I also really like the jarred roasted bell peppers which cut down on prep time a bit.
Not vegan? I bet this would be amazing with some cheddar cheese tucked in there, but for the dairy free, this would be fabulous topped with some grilled chicken or even grilled steak.
What other veggies can I use? Whatever you like! You can easily add in a few handfuls of spinach or arugula for some extra color and nutrients, or add some shredded carrot, diced red or green onion, or even some black olives.
Gluten free pasta. We almost always use brown rice pasta (it has a texture really similar to the traditional white pasta made from wheat), but it can sometimes be a little chewy when cold. I’ve had the best luck for pasta salad with other pasta blends, like corn and quinoa or white rice. It’s less nutritious, but the texture is far superior for a cold salad.
Can I make this ahead of time? Yes, and I recommend it! Pasta salads get better with a little time, in my opinion. The pasta has more time to absorb the dressing, which makes every bite feel a little more flavorful. If you’re worried about your avocado browning, you can wait and do that *right* before serving, but I’ve found that with the lime and vinegar in the dressing, it stays pretty green for several hours ahead of time.
Want an extra flavor boost? Try using a flavored olive oil! I love the ones from Queen Creek Olive Mill. The roasted garlic or Mexican lime is fantastic here, or you can add a few drops of their chile or jalapeño olive oil for some serious kick.