Southwest Pasta Salad with Chipotle Ranch is easy to make and loaded with flavor. Black beans, corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables combine with rotini noodles and a spicy cashew-based dressing. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free.
Pasta salad is a staple at potlucks and barbecues.
And there are so many ways to make it.
One easy version I’ve been making for years is with artichoke hearts.
And sometimes I like eating leftover Cherry Tomato Penne Pasta cold.
But now I’ve come up with a new pasta salad that’s oil-free and substantial enough to be a complete meal since it’s high in protein.
And this Southwest Pasta Salad is also delicious as a side dish with favorites such as veggie burgers or other salads.
What makes this pasta salad Southwestern?
One of my favorite flavors of the Southwest is chipotle pepper.
You’ve probably heard of chipotles but may not realize they are smoked and dried jalapeno peppers.
The smoky flavor is unique, and a little goes a long way.
I use a small amount in the dressing for Southwest Pasta Salad, but if you like heat, I encourage you to add a little more.
And if you can’t find chipotle powder at your local market, feel free to substitute it with your favorite chili powder, or even a little smoked paprika.
Southwest Pasta Salad with Chipotle Ranch contains some of my favorite ingredients.
I love the combination of flavors and textures of the black beans, corn, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, black olives and avocado.
And for the pasta, I like using gluten-free rotini.
Penne or shells are also nice options.
But if you aren’t gluten-free, you can use whole-wheat or any short pasta you like.
Plus as always, if you don’t like a particular ingredient, leave it out!
Think of this recipe as a guide.
Other additions that go well in this pasta salad are red or orange bell peppers, grilled zucchini, and jicama.
Making Southwest Pasta Salad with Chipotle Ranch is easy.
First I make the dressing in a blender.
If you don’t have a high-speed blender, soak the cashews for a few hours or overnight so they soften.
Or if you forget, simply soak them in hot water for 30 minutes.
After making the dressing, I transfer it to a small container and refrigerate it while I cook the pasta.
I like to rinse the cooked pasta under cold water to bring down the temperature.
Then everything goes into a large bowl and is tossed with the dressing.
Enjoy your pasta salad right away or refrigerate it for later!
Now let’s make Southwest Pasta Salad with Chipotle Ranch!
Southwest Pasta Salad with Chipotle Ranch (Vegan)
For the Chipotle Ranch Dressing:
For the Pasta Salad:
- 1 pound pasta (rotini, penne, or other short pasta), gluten-free, if peferred
- 1 can black beans, (1 1/2 cups) rinsed and drained
- 1 cup corn, (defrosted if using frozen)
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup black olives, sliced
- 1 cup green onions, sliced
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 avocado, cubed
- To make the Chipotle Ranch Dressing, add the ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small container and refrigerate while you prepare the pasta.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until it's cool.
- All the cooled pasta and other Pasta Salad ingredients to a large bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and carefully toss to coat.
- Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.