Packed with flavor, color, and protein, this vibrant Southwestern Quinoa Salad is the perfect make-ahead dish for healthy weekday lunches.

southwestern quinoa salad garnished with a lime wedge and cilantro in a glass bowl on a marble surface

This recipe is…

One of the most frequently asked questions we get around here is: “What about lunch?” You see, after Cook Once, Eat All Week (our incredibly time-saving, life-giving dinner meal prep solution) was released, you guys wanted MORE! We get it! Cook Once, Eat All Week made such an impact that you wondered if the same template would work for other meals. The answer is YES! This Southwestern Quinoa Salad + our Thai Chicken Salad were designed to be made together, all in one day, for a seriously tasty, incredibly nutritious meal prep lunch duo. (Don’t worry, the process is QUICK – here’s how you do it: Easy Meal Prep Lunch Plan.) 

This satisfying quinoa black bean salad gets its crave-able southwestern flair from a vibrant combo of bell peppers, cilantro, limes, corn, and avocado. The chicken and quinoa give it a double dose of protein that’ll keep you full and energized for hours — no more afternoon slump or mindless snacking with this as your midday meal! 

Why You’ll Love This Quinoa Salad Recipe

  • Make once, have three healthy lunches for the busy week ahead
  • Colorful veggies and herbs make a vibrant, flavorful dish
  • Protein-packed chicken and quinoa will power you through your day 
  • Quick and easy recipe takes just 30 minutes to throw together

Southwestern Quinoa Salad Recipe Ingredients

Here’s all you’ll need to grab to whip up this vibrant lunch salad. Find ingredient notes (including substitutions and swaps) below.

Ingredients for southwestern quinoa salad sit in a variety of bowls on a light grey colored surface.
  • Quinoa – we’ll divide 2 cups of cooked quinoa evenly between our 3 salad portions. Quinoa adds healthy carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants to this meal. It’s definitely an ingredient you don’t want to skip!
  • Red Bell Pepper – a diced red bell pepper adds a pop of color + crunch, but also a good dose of vitamins 
  • Diced Chicken – 2 cups of diced chicken gets added to the mix too. Pro tip: buying rotisserie chicken saves SO MUCH time.
  • Corn Kernels – is it even a southwestern dish without corn? You can use fresh, frozen (just thaw first), or canned for this recipe.
  • Black Beans – a ½ cup of black beans brings flavor and even more protein to your lunch. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, feel free to replace the chicken with more black beans.
  • Cilantro – we’ll give the cilantro a rough chop and toss it in too. 
  • Green Onion – thinly sliced green onion adds great flavor to this dish.
  • Avocado – the avocado won’t go in our salad until we’re ready to eat it, but it’ll add some healthy fats to keep us satisfied.
  • Lime Juice – 3 tablespoons of lime juice goes into our salad. Freshly squeezed is the best, but if you only have bottled, that’ll work too.
  • Avocado Oil – a couple of tablespoons of avocado oil (sub with olive oil if needed) will help our salad to stay moist while adding a dose of healthy fat.
  • Salt + Pepper – a couple pinches of salt + a pinch of pepper will get the job done. 

A full ingredient list with exact amounts can be found in the recipe card below.

Recipe Variations and Modifications

  • Go vegetarian – swap extra black beans in for the chicken to make this dish vegetarian. 
  • Swap your herbs – cilantro adds authentic Southwestern flavor to the beans and veggie medley. But if you’re not a fan of its distinctive flavor, use fresh basil or parsley instead.
  • Pick your beans – likewise, black beans are traditionally the Southwestern bean of choice. But if you’d prefer, swap in cannellini, navy, or garbanzo beans instead. 

How to Make Our Southwest Quinoa Salad

Making this hearty salad is so easy: other than cooking the quinoa, it’s basically just a chopping and tossing situation. Here’s how you’ll do it.

Dry quinoa is shown being poured into a metal pot.
Cubed pieces of chicken are shown being poured over the top of the quinoa.

Step 1: we’ll use 1 cup dry quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water to get our 2 cups of cooked quinoa. For a few simple tips on making it, click here.)

  • Step 2: if you’re using rotisserie chicken, dice the breast meat into ½ inch chunks. If you aren’t using rotisserie chicken, you’ll just need about 2 cups of diced chicken breast.
A variety of chopped veggie are shown being poured into a large metal mixing bowl.
Ingredients for southwestern quinoa. salad are shown being mixed together in a large metal mixing bowl.

Step 3: dice the pepper into ¼ inch pieces, give the cilantro a rough chop, and slice the green onions. Thoroughly drain and rinse your black beans and corn (if using canned).

Step 4: toss the quinoa, chicken, bell pepper, corn, black beans, cilantro, lime juice, avocado (or olive) oil, salt, and pepper together. (If you’re meal prepping, divide equally between 3 containers.)

Cubed avocado pieces are shown being poured into the large metal bowl.

Step 5: When you’re ready to eat, mix ⅓ of a diced avocado into your salad and enjoy! 

Recipe Tips

Store-bought chicken v. homemade: Using rotisserie chicken is a huge timesaver here. But if you’d rather cook it yourself, check out our easy recipe for Oven Baked Chicken Breast and Instant Pot Shredded Chicken.

Spice things up: If you want to kick things up a notch, add a Southwestern spice like red chili flakes, cumin, or ancho or chipotle chile powder.

How to Serve

Enjoy this quinoa black bean salad right away at room temperature, or chill and serve cold.

How to Store

Refrigerate the quinoa salad in individually portioned airtight containers so you have healthy lunches ready to go for the week (we like this same-sized glass set). They’ll stay good for up to five days. 

two rectangular glass containers filled with southwestern quinoa salad side by side on a marble surface

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cook quinoa?

There’s no need to be intimidated by cooking this versatile whole grain. For the low-down on how to cook perfect, fluffy quinoa every time, check out our easy primer.

Is quinoa healthy?

Quinoa is an ancient whole grain from South America that has become hugely popular in the last decade or two. Packed with nutrients, plant compounds, and high in fiber, it offers myriad health benefits while steadying blood sugar and keeping hunger at bay.

How do you keep avocados from browning?

Leaving the pit in…submerging in water...You’ve probably heard all kinds of kooky ways to prevent avocados from browning. But there’s no real secret to it: browning occurs when air oxidizes the fruit’s delicate green flesh. (Yes: avocado is technically a fruit!) So to prevent a cut avocado from turning color, cover the exposed flesh tightly with plastic wrap, or store it cut-side-down on a small plate, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use the rest.

More Favorite Lunch Recipes

If you tried this Southwestern Quinoa Salad, or any other recipe on the Fed & Fit website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let us know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

5 — Votes 7 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 3 servings
This southwestern quinoa salad is the perfect make-ahead lunch with fluffy quinoa, crunchy red bell pepper, corn, black beans, and chicken!


For the Quinoa:

  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

For the Salad:

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups diced chicken, either from a rotisserie chicken or 1 pound of cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • Soak the quinoa for 2 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly and add to a pot with the water, salt, and olive oil.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Toss the quinoa, chicken, bell pepper, corn, black beans, cilantro, green onions, lime juice, olive oil salt, and pepper together in a large bowl, then portion into 3 containers.
  • Once you are ready to eat, dice up 1/3 of an avocado, then mix it into the salad and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • If you’re going to eat the salad immediately, go ahead and stir in the avocado. If you are prepping it for later, don’t add the avocado until it is time to eat.


Calories: 568kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 724mg | Potassium: 1055mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1650IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 4mg

Additional Info

Course: Lunch
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 3 servings
Calories: 568
Keyword: lunch, meal prep, quinoa, quinoa black bean salad, quinoa salad, quinoa salad recipe, southwest quinoa salad,, southwestern

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Elizabeth Brownfield

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  1. I omitted the bellpepper (husband doesnt like them) and tossed the quinoa mixture with baby salad greens. It was delicious!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that, Claire! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. Delicious! I chopped some cherry tomatoes and cucumber from the garden and added about 1 tsp cumin and honey to dressing. I keep sneaking bites and it’s only 10 AM 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear that, Erin! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that, Lauren! It’s a good one for sure!