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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with “Mole” Vinaigrette

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad is light, refreshing, sweet, and spicy. Ready in just 20 minutes, it’s a great salad for meal prep or or for a light dinner. Super healthy, packed with protein, totally tasty, gluten free, and vegan friendly!

southwestern quinoa salad in a white bowl

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring! You can easily make delicious, healthy recipes that are super satisfying, hearty and tasty. That’s what I love about this Southwestern Quinoa and Black Bean Salad. It has a little bit of everything in it, and when the ingredients are combined, it gives you an explosion of flavors. 

Latest Recipe Video!

Quinoa adds great texture, a healthy dose of whole grains, and a balance of essential amino acids to any meal – so it’s a great option to add to salads! This is a protein packed dish with bright Mexican inspired flavors: quinoa, pumpkin seeds, jalapeno pepper, black beans, and mixed greens tossed with a spicy mole inspired vinaigrette.

It’s the perfect salad for just about any meal, and is the best way to get your veggies for the day all in one bowl!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Packed with Fresh Ingredients
  • Great as a main dish, side or grab-and-go lunch
  • An easy vegan recipe
  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Has beautiful vibrant colors!
  • Quinoa is a complete protein! So it’s a great vegetarian option for protein.
  • Easy to customize
southwestern quinoa salad in a white bowl

How to Make Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Recipe Ingredients and Notes

This delicious quinoa salad is so easy to make, you can find all of the ingredients you need at your local grocery store!

For the salad dressing

  • Orange Rind: Brightens up the flavors of this dressing.
  • Unsweetened cocoa, Ground cumin powder, Ground cinnamon: Spices that give the dressing its mole flavor.
  • Fresh orange juice or lime juice and red wine vinegar: For acidity in this dressing.
  • Adobo sauce (from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce): Gives the dressing a smoky, spicy flavor. If you can’t find this ingredient, you can also use smoked paprika or chili powder.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: To emulsify the dressing and for some healthy fats.

For the salad

  • Quinoa: I used white quinoa, but you can use any kind of quinoa you like! A mixture of white, back and red quinoa would probably taste great as well.
  • Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
  • Fresh Cilantro: Omit if you are not a cilantro fan! You can replace this with fresh parsley too.
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper: Add it to taste, don’t skimp on this as it gives the salad great flavor!
  • Green Onions or Red Onion: For a slight spicy crunch.
  • Jalapeno pepper: You can also use a green bell pepper or red bell pepper as a substitute.
  • Black Beans: I used a can of black beans, but you can use any kind of bean you like. Kidney beans or pinto beans would work especially well as a substitute.
  • Baby Spinach: For added greens!

Tools and Equipment You’ll Need

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl; gradually add oil, stirring well with a whisk.

mole dressing in a bowl

Step 2: Cook quinoa according to package directions on the stove top. Let cool. Combine cooked quinoa and next 6 ingredients (through beans) in a large salad bowl.

salad ingredients in a bowl

Step 3: Add vinaigrette; toss to coat.

quinoa tossed in a bowl

Step 4: Add spinach or mixed greens; toss to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld together.

spinach and quinoa tossed in a bowl

What Makes This Southwestern Quinoa Salad Healthy?

  • High in Protein: Each serving of this delicious meal has 12 grams of plant protein and 9 grams of heart healthy fiber.
  • Vitamins and Nutrients: In addition to lots of protein and fiber, this salad is also filled with Vitamin B6, Folate, Manganese, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin C, and so much more!
  • Low Calorie: This satisfying salad is so filling, but it’s only about 280 calories for a giant serving!

Recipe FAQs

WILL KIDS ENJOY THIS Healthy Southwestern QUINOA SALAD?

Depending on the foods your kids are accustomed to eating, this salad may or may not be kid-friendly. If your kids like raw veggies, they will probably devour this salad. If your kids are partial to cooked veggies, I recommend warming this salad slightly to soften the veggies for them before tossing it with the dressing. I also recommend (for all kids) reducing the adobo sauce and jalapeno or omitting it so it’s not too spicy for them!

Should I serve QUINOA Salad HOT OR COLD?

This salad is intended to be eaten cold like most salads. You will need to cook the quinoa ahead of time, and it should be at room temperature before preparing the salad. However, you can also heat the entire salad in a medium pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes before tossing it with the dressing if you want it to be a warmer side dish instead of a salad!

southwestern quinoa salad in a white bowl

Recipe Variations

  • Try mixing in other ingredients! Some chickpeas, avocado, sweet corn kernels, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, parsley, or your favorite greens would all go well in this salad. It’s a super versatile recipe that can adapt to your tastes!
  • Add some nuts! Try chopped almonds, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, or walnuts. You can also switch out the pumpkin seeds for sunflower seeds!
  • Add some cheese! Try crumbled goat cheese, feta, or queso fresco on this vibrant salad.
  • Switch up the dressing: Instead of a mole inspired dressing, try a lime dressing, or simply toss the quinoa salad with olive oil, salt and pepper before serving.

How to Store and Keep

Keep this vegan southwest quinoa salad in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. The longer the salad sits, the more time the seasonings and flavors of the dressing have to marry together. If you plan to meal prep and store this for later, I recommend storing the dressing separately, the quinoa mixture separately and the spinach separately, and tossing the salad right before serving.

Top Tips for Making This Healthy Quinoa Salad

  • Feel free to change up the ingredients with your favorite add-ins (see recipe variations above)
  • Use canned black beans to cut down on prep time!
  • You can also cook your quinoa in the instant pot to save time. To cook in the instant pot: put 1 cup of dry quinoa with 1.5 cups of water. Pressure cook on high for 1 minute, natural release for 10 minutes. Open lid and the quinoa should be ready to go!
southwestern quinoa salad in a white bowl

Check Out These Other Delicious Salads and Quick Meals!

If you have tried this Southwestern Quinoa Salad recipe or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

southwestern quinoa salad in a white bowl
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with “Mole” Vinaigrette

Southwestern Quinoa Salad is light, refreshing, sweet, and spicy. Ready in just 20 minutes, it's a great recipe for meal prep or or for a light dinner. Super healthy, packed with protein, totally tasty, gluten free, and vegan friendly!
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 278kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

For The Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • ¾ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For The Salad

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa at room temperature. Reduce to 1 cup for a lower-carb option.
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds roasted and salted
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup green onions or red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 Fresno chile or jalapeño pepper diced
  • 2 15oz cans black beans rinsed and drained. To make this low carb, use tofu or tempeh instead of beans, or use half the amount of beans.
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves or mixed greens

Instructions

  • Combine first 7 salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl; gradually add oil, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Combine quinoa and next 6 ingredients (through beans) in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Add spinach or mixed greens; toss to combine.

Video

https://youtu.be/zlnHtDYhzik

Notes

Recipe Variations
  • Try adding in different ingredients: Chickpeas, avocado, sweet corn kernels, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, parsley, or your favorite greens would all go well in this salad.  
  • Add nuts: Try chopped almonds, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, or walnuts.  
  • Add cheese: Try crumbled goat cheese, feta, or queso fresco.
  • Switch up the dressing: Instead of a mole inspired dressing, try a lime dressing, or simply toss the quinoa salad with olive oil, salt and pepper before serving.
Top Tips for Making This Healthy Quinoa Salad
  • Use canned black beans to cut down on the prep time!
  • Feel free to change up the ingredients with your favorite add-ins (see recipe variations above)
  • You can also cook your quinoa in the instant pot to save time. To cook in the instant pot: put 1 cup of dry quinoa with 1.5 cups of water. Pressure cook on high for 1 minute, natural release for 10 minutes. Open lid and the quinoa should be ready to go!
  • Store this salad in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for 3-4 days. 
Slightly adapted from CookingLight

Nutrition

Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1062mg | Potassium: 603mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 2g

Posted In…

Salads ·

Salads are the perfect way to incorporate fresh seasonal produce into your meals. Whether you favor fruits or veggies, they are so easy to customize to your family’s tastes.

Try my superfood salad with a healthy “ranch” dressing for a kid-friendly meal, or add pasta for a more filling (but still guilt-free) option.

16 responses to “Southwestern Quinoa Salad with “Mole” Vinaigrette”

  1. We have recently discovered quinoa and started to include it in our menu. What a great quinoa salad recipe it is! I made it, and it turned out perfect!5 stars

  2. The combination of flavors is delicious! The dressing turned out amazing and can’t wait to use it on another salad. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

  3. I love adding quinoa to my salads and this was no exception! Light enough for a side dish but also hearty enough for the main course; delicious!5 stars

  4. Oooh such wonderful flavors in this quinoa salad! I love all that color and how everything comes together in just 20 minutes.5 stars

  5. Never heard of “Mole” Vinaigrette before until I’ve stumbled your blog. This looks amazing and I will definitely try this with my family but we’re not fan of black beans, do you have any alternative recommendations? Thank you!

    • Hi Kim! Yes! This vinaigrette is totally reminicent of mole but works so great on this salad. You can use any bean instead of black beans – pinto, navy, kidney, etc. would all work – and lentils would work too (any lentil that holds up after cooking and doesn’t become mushy). Hope that helps!

      • Thank you so much for replying! I’ll try those. Also I’ve been reading and checking your blog posts and I think you will be fit for our brand to do a collaboration. Email me at kim@amritahealthfoods.com if you are interested 🙂 Thanks again!

      • Ok great! And that sounds good – I’ll send you an email later today or tomorrow! Thanks Kim!

  6. This looks so simple and delicious! It’s like an original, healthier take on spicy beans… I love the idea!

    • Thank you so much Aaron! It totally is a healthier take on spicy beans – that’s a great way to describe it!

  7. What a great selection of recipes for quinoa. I personally love quinoa, but never know how to get very creative with it. What are some other recipes you have tried?

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