Traditional pasta salad gets a Tex-Mex makeover with avocado, black beans, corn, and jalapeno—plus a creamy, dreamy dressing flavored with cumin and lime. Fiesta Pasta Salad for the win!
Easy Cold Pasta Salad Perfect For Summer
Pasta salad is one of my favs! And in the summer, when all I want are stupid-easy meals that still pack a healthy punch, it’s a lifesaver. This one is perfectly balanced, with protein from black beans, healthy carbs from your favorite pasta, a rainbow of veggies, and the perfect fiesta flavor.
From the creamy dressing flavored with cumin, garlic, and lime, to the cool-hot bite of chilled jalapeno, this pasta salad is destined to be an instant favorite. It’s great for a meal on its own, or for a side dish at a bigger meal. You can add chicken, or swap out veggies, or whatever floats your boat!
So if you’re tired of the same-old-same-old recipes (we’ve all been there), please give this one a try! You’ll be glad you did, I promise.
What You’ll Need
This colorful salad is just bursting with satisfying, savory ingredients like avocado and black beans. It’s a hearty meal, all in one dish!
- Pasta: For this recipe, I like to use farfalle, or bow tie pasta. You could also use other medium shapes, from macaroni elbows to rotini to penne. It’s up to you!
- Black Beans: While you can definitely soak and cook the black beans from scratch, it’s easy and quick to use canned! I use one 15 ounce can of black beans, rinse15 ounce can of corn kernels, rinsed and drained, just like with the beans.
- Avocado: Peel, pit, and dice up two whole avocados.
- Cheese: You’ll need 1½ cups of shredded cheddar cheese.
- Tomatoes: Any type of tomato will work! I prefer the sweetness of cherry tomatoes.
- Jalapeno: Bring a little spice to your life! You can also omit the jalapeno, if you prefer.
- Fresh Chopped Cilantro: If you’re not a fan, feel free to omit this as well, or replace it with parsley.
A cold and creamy dressing works perfectly with this pasta salad, and thanks to the spices, lime juice, garlic, and honey, it adds a ton of flavor! Trust me, this recipe will make your mouth happy!
- Yogurt: You’ll need half a cup of plain yogurt
- Mayonnaise: Have ready half a cup of your favorite mayo.
- Lime Juice: You can use juice from concentrate if you prefer, but fresh lime juice really adds a bright note!
- Olive Oil: Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil gives the best flavor.
- Garlic: You’ll need two cloves of fresh garlic, pressed.
- Honey: A tablespoon of honey perfectly sweetens the dressing.
- White Vinegar: To add character and sharpness to the dish, use a little bit of white vinegar.
- Spices: Cumin, paprika, and garlic powder bring earthy, satisfying notes to the recipe.
- Oregano: The pungent flavor of dried oregano is perfect with pasta and veggies.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste.
How to Make Fiesta Pasta Salad
The most detailed part of this recipe is the prep work, getting the vegetables chopped and the dressing ingredients measured. From there, it’s so simple: you just mix it up!
- Cook the Pasta. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Draint it, and rinse with cold water until it’s cooled down to room temperature (or cooler). Transfer the cooked pasta to a large salad bowl.
- Combine Salad Ingredients. To the pasta add black beans, corn, diced avocado, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro; toss to combine and set aside.
- Make the Salad Dressing. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayo, oil, lime juice, garlic, honey, vinegar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Dress the Pasta and Chill. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad, and toss gently to combine. Don’t over-mix or the avocado and tomato may be somewhat bruised. Taste for seasonings, and adjust accordingly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour, or longer, before serving.
Tips for Success
But wait, there’s more! Here are just a few things you should know before you get into this recipe, from jalapenos to honey.
- Jalapeno Prep: When it comes to hot peppers, many people don’t consider jalapenos over the top. But they’re still spicy enough to irritate the skin, and especially sensitive skin. So I always recommend using gloves while seeding and chopping jalapenos, and never touch your face or eyes! Remove the gloves carefully and wash your hands before proceeding with the recipe.
- Pasta Preferences: I like my pasta to have firmness and “bite,” but you may prefer yours to be softer. It’s totally fine to “overcook” the pasta slightly in order to have a softer dish, or to cook it “al dente” if that’s what you like!
- Honey Substitute: If honey doesn’t work for you, you could also sweeten this dressing with an equal amount of maple syrup or brown sugar (just make sure to whisk well to dissolve the sugar crystals).
This is a really versatile pasta salad template, so feel free to customize it to your own tastes! Not a fan of black beans? No problem! Want to add cucumber? Go for it! Here are some of my favorite ideas for making this recipe your own.
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad: Substitute chickpeas for the black beans, roasted zucchini for the avocado, chunks of fresh diced mozzarella for the cheddar, and add cucumbers and black olives. You can keep the dressing the same, or simply splash on your favorite Italian dressing!
- Favorite Garden Pasta Salad: For this version, I like to replace about ¼ of the cooked pasta with blanched green beans or asparagus. From there, use chopped hard-boiled egg instead of avocado, and omit the jalapeno and cilantro. Use the dressing given here, or try a creamy poppy-seed dressing instead. For a special touch, sprinkle each serving with crispy bacon bits.
- Tex-Mex: Make the salad as written, but for the dressing, combine half a cup of mayonnaise, half a cup of yogurt, and half a cup of salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add bacon bits or grilled chicken.
- Nicoise: Make the salad and dressing as written, but add one 6 ounce can of tuna in oil, drained well and flaked with a fork.
What Goes with Cold Pasta Salad?
Pasta salad is a meal in itself, but you can also serve it up as a delicious side dish with your favorite protein! This nicely-balanced version goes with just about everything!
- Chicken: A side of Baked Caesar Chicken goes amazingly with this cold and refreshing pasta dish! It’s an easy and tasty way to prep chicken that works in a lot of different menus!
- Popcorn Shrimp: No one can resist these crispy, crunchy little bites! I love making Popcorn Shrimp as a light and festive protein during the summer months—or anytime!
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: Packing a picnic lunch has never been easier! Just box up some of this amazing pasta salad in airtight containers, and bring along a few Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs. They’re easy, healthy, and peel perfectly, every time.
How to Store Extras
- To store this pasta salad, place leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days. Please note that the avocado may discolor and/or lose its texture over time.
Fiesta Pasta Salad
For the Pasta Salad:
- 1 pound dry bow tie pasta
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 ounces) corn kernels, rinsed and drained
- 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
- 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, and finely diced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the Dressing:
- COOK pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled.
- Transfer pasta to a large salad bowl.
- To the pasta add black beans, corn, diced avocado, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro; toss to combine and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the yogurt, mayo, oil, lime juice, garlic, honey, vinegar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper; whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
- Pour dressing over the pasta salad and toss gently to combine.
- Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.