This southwest-inspired pasta salad is filled with spicy chipotle flavor! It’s a great make-ahead lunch or dinner recipe and it’s packed with protein and fiber!

southwestern pasta salad
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It can be hard to find hearty lunch recipes that can be made in advance and served cold, but this southwest pasta salad fits the bill! Tender pasta is tossed with black beans, roasted corn, creamy avocado, chopped tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and crunchy tortilla chips. Drizzle the creamy chipotle dressing on top for a flavor packed meal that is surprisingly healthy!

southwestern pasta salad

The Best Pasta for Pasta Salad

This one is totally up to you but I prefer bowtie or rotini pasta. Short pasta is easier to mix and the bowtie or rotini shapes will hold onto the dressing. To give this pasta salad an extra nutritional boost, I used chickpea noodles. They have a lot more protein and fiber than traditional pasta, so this plant-based meal is protein-packed!

The Trick to Perfect Pasta Salad

I learned the secret to perfect pasta salad from America’s Test Kitchen. You have to slightly overcook the pasta. I normally like my pasta al dente but for pasta salad, it’s best to cook it until it’s a little bit softer, since it will firm up in the fridge. Cook it a little softer than you typically would for regular pasta!

southwestern pasta salad

How to Make this Recipe Vegan

This one is an easy one to make completely plant-based! Just use vegan sour cream for the dressing. I typically use plain Greek yogurt, but vegan yogurt or vegan sour cream is a great substitute.

The Best Way to Cook Pasta for Pasta Salad

This is a trick I learned from America’s Test Kitchen. You actually want to overcook the pasta for pasta salad. Instead of stopping the cooking once the pasta is al dente, add 1-2 minutes of additional cooking time so the pasta is soft. Then drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. (I know, normally we don’t advise rinsing pasta but in this case, it’s the best thing to do!) Then toss the pasta with the sauce and additional ingredients.

yogurt adobo sauce

Make Ahead Tips

If you’re planning to make this 1-2 days ahead of time, wait to add the avocado until you’re ready to serve it. If you’re planning to serve it within a few hours, go ahead and add the avocado but make sure it’s coated with the dressing. That will help prevent the avocado from browning.

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southwest pasta salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Pasta Salad
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This southwest-inspired pasta salad is filled with spicy chipotle flavor! It’s a great make-ahead lunch or dinner recipe and it’s packed with protein and fiber!


Units Scale
  • 8 oz chickpea pasta or whole wheat pasta
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, or vegan sour cream
  • 1/4 cup adobo sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey, if not vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup roasted corn (see note)
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Once the water is boiling add the pasta. Add 1-2 minutes to the suggested cooking time. (We want to slightly overcook the pasta to achieve the best texture once cooled.)
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
  4. Whisk together the yogurt, adobo sauce, agave, vinegar, lime juice, and salt. Thin with water, if desired.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, black beans, corn, avocado, and cilantro.
  6. Drizzle with dressing. Start with 1/4 cup of dressing, then add more, if desired.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Looking for more meal prep ideas? I have a whole list of make ahead salad recipes! Here are a few other recipes you may enjoy.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

Chopped Mediterranean salad in a bowl

Vegetarian Taco Pasta

taco pasta