A big bowl of pasta with chunky vibrant vegetables and a spicy and zesty dressing make up this easy Mexican Pasta Salad. Mexican and Italian food are two of our favourites and we have combined them in this delicious dish that is perfect for a picnic or BBQ side.
We love a pasta salad, as it's an easy side that you can just load everything in to a bowl and mix it up - and it's easy to adapt too. Creamy avocado, sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers and protein packed beans all mixed together in a creamy and spicy dressing. All of your favourite Mexican flavours in a pasta salad. Serve this up at a BBQ and the bowl will be empty within seconds.
Why you will love it
- A delicious BBQ or picnic side
- Loads of different textures
- Easy to adapt with different vegetables
- Loaded with vegetables
- Leftovers store well in the fridge
- Vegan option
- Pasta - You can use any pasta shape you like, which makes this a great cupboard raid meal. We went with fusilli, as we find the swirl of it means that the creamy dressing clings to it really well. But don't buy anything especially, use whatever you have. Small shapes work best. If you want to make this gluten free, make sure to use your favourite gluten free pasta.
- Sweetcorn - We used canned again, but you could also use frozen or slice the corn straight off a cooked cob.
- Black beans - This is what adds the protein to the pasta salad and makes it really filling. We used canned black beans, which are a staple in our cupboards, however you could cook your own. You could use any bean really, like cannellini, haricot or chickpea, but we find that black beans are really creamy and they add the Mexican vibe of this dish.
- Bell peppers - These add lots of crunch to the dish, as without them the dish can be a bit soft. You can use any colour peppers you have and either finely dice, chop in to large chunks or even slice. We love the texture that they add.
- Avocado - What is a Mexican dish without avocado? Chunks of avocado add loads of creaminess to this pasta salad.
- Jalapeno - This gives the dish an extra kick of spice. We like to add them sliced, however you could chop them up really finely if you wanted them to mix in to the dish more. If you like things spicy, then keep in the seeds. But take them out if you want it milder.
- Cheese - You don't have to add cheese, but we find it finishes the dish off nicely. We used feta, however to keep it Mexican use Cotija, which is like a Mexican feta.
- Greek yogurt - This makes the dressing really creamy, but it is much lighter than using mayo which you would traditionally find in a pasta salad. You could make it really low in at by using a fat free yoghurt, but it wouldn't have the same flavour.
- Creme fraiche - Whilst you could use just yoghurt for the creamy dressing, we found that adding a little creme fraiche really adds to the creaminess and adds a little richness, without making it too heavy. You could add a little mayo instead too.
- Chipotle - This is where pretty much all the spice comes from in this dish. We used chipotle paste that you can buy in a jar in the supermarket. The amount we have used in this recipe gives a nice kick of heat, but not too much. Adjust to suit your own tastes. You could use a chipotle sauce instead if that is all you can find.
- Honey - We added just a little bit of honey to the dressing, as we find that the sweetness balances really well with the spiciness from the chipotle.
- Cumin and paprika - this adds lots of extra Mexican flavour without adding extra calories. Lime - this makes the dressing really tangy and zesty. We used lime juice and zest, for some extra lime flavour. It really lightens the whole dressing up. You could use lemon instead, or even use a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar instead.
- Coriander (cilantro) - This adds so much freshness to the dish and really intensifies that Mexican flavour. I know not everyone is a fan, so you could leave it out. I would recommend using some fresh herbs though, so chives, dill or parsley would work too.
- Oil and water - These loosen the dressing up a little.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Put the pasta in to a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain, cool with cold water and set aside.
Two: Put the yogurt, creme fraiche, lime juice, honey, salt, pepper, oil and water into a bowl and whisk until mixed.
Three: Put the pasta and the remaining ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
Four: Add the cooked pasta and the dressing and mix well. Crumble over more of the feta and serve.
What vegetables to add
The great thing about this pasta salad is that it is so easy to adapt. We think it's a great fridge dump/cupboard raid meal, as you can add pretty much anything to it. Use the vegetables we have added as a guide and then get creative.
You could also add finely diced red onion or shallots and some chopped cherry tomatoes and cucumber, which would add some extra texture. Cooked courgette (zucchini) and carrot would well too. If you wanted to give this dish a green veggie boost, then finely chop some spinach and mix it though.
Pasta salad dressing
What really makes a pasta salad is the dressing in my opinion, the same with any salad. It really brings everything together and makes all the chunky veg cling to the pasta. This dressing is epic, and I don't use that word lightly.
It is creamy, spicy, zesty and herby. What more could you possibly want from a dressing? Make sure you make extra and keep it in the fridge for other salads.
We have blended up a mixture of Greek yoghurt, a little creme fraiche, chipotles, lime juice and zest and a whole load of fresh coriander (cilantro). You know that amazing southwest sauce from Subway that you want to put on everything? This is kind of like that.
If you wanted a lighter dressing, then you could leave our the creme fraiche and yoghurt and just have an olive oil and lime based dressing.
If you don't want to make the dressing (it's so easy, and seriously worth making), then you could always mix in a really smooth salsa instead.
As far as pasta salads go, this is a pretty healthy one. It is packed with vegetables and we have lightened up the dressing by using Greek yoghurt instead of mayo.
Yes, to make this vegan, then swap the Greek yoghurt for a plant based version, or use have an oil/citrus based dressing.
Yes, you can make this salad in advance, which makes it handy for a BBQ or picnic, as it will save you some time when your guests arrive. You can make the dressing and cook the pasta the day before, and then mix everything together just before serving.
You could mix everything together an hour or so before serving, however try to only do the avocado at the last minute, so it stays nice and fresh.
This stores in the fridge really well, so make extra and then you can have it for lunch the next day. Store any leftovers in an air tight container and it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. It won't taste the same as fresh, as the dressing can start to make everything a little soggy, so try to eat it as soon as possible.
• If you want to add some extra protein to this, and make it more of a whole meal rather than a BBQ side, then add some leftover chicken or grilled salmon.
• You could swap the chipotle baed dressing for an Italian one if you prefer.
More Mexican recipes
Mexican Pasta Salad
- 150 g (5.25 oz) Pasta
- 160 g (1 cups) Sweetcorn
- 120 g (0.75 cups) Black beans
- 45 g (0.33 cups) Pickled jalapenos - chopped
- 1 Lime - (juice only)
- 3 tablespoon Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoon Creme fraiche
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Chipotle paste
- 2 tablespoon Honey
- 0.5 teaspoon Cumin
- 0.5 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 Green bell pepper - diced
- 1 Red bell pepper - diced
- 15 g (1 cups) Fresh coriander (cilantro) - finely chopped
- 100 g (0.66 cups) Feta - crumbled
- 1 Avocado - diced
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Water
- Put 150 g Pasta into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain, cool with cold water and set aside.
- Put 3 tablespoon Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoon Creme fraiche, juice of 1 Lime, 2 tablespoon Honey, 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper, 1 tablespoon Olive oil and 1 tablespoon Water into a bowl and whisk until mixed.
- Put the cooked pasta, 160 g Sweetcorn, 120 g Black beans, 45 g Pickled jalapenos, 1 teaspoon Chipotle paste, 0.5 teaspoon Cumin, 0.5 teaspoon Paprika, 1 Green bell pepper, 1 Red bell pepper, 15 g Fresh coriander (cilantro), 100 g Feta and 1 Avocado into a bowl and mix well.
- Add the dressing and mix well. Crumble over more of the feta and serve.
- If you want to add some extra protein to this, and make it more of a whole meal rather than a BBQ side, then add some leftover chicken or grilled salmon. Leftovers from our Slow Cooker Whole Chicken work well in this.
- You could swap the chipotle baed dressing for an Italian one if you prefer.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.