It’s a milestone day: the first pasta salad recipe of the summer! This creamy Mexican Pasta Salad marks the start of the sacred season of picnics and potlucks, back porch barbecues, and days at the lake. My goal is to be as occupied as possible not being occupied—and to eat lots of yummy food while I do it.
Over the weekend, Ben and I were lucky enough to host five of our best friends from college, along with two of their little girls.
Since no guest in our house is permitted to be hungry, I had a few of the larger meals planned and stocked the refrigerator with some anytime, make-ahead staples (such as this Mexican Pasta Salad), and my friends brought the rest.
Whenever mealtime hit, we’d pull everything off of the refrigerator shelves, pile our plates high with a delicious hodgepodge of different dishes, and take them outside to our backyard to feast.
It felt like attending a three-day potluck party, with sunny weather, your best friends, and no smartphones in sight.
These first weeks of summer are some of my favorites. The days grow longer, and the season still has the illusion of being endless. I spend less time prepping meals and more time enjoying them.
Our mealtimes become less regimented too. On weekends, we often spend the entire day at Ben’s parents’ lake house, where the noontime meal is a spread of chips, dip, and cheese.
“Lunch” doesn’t start until 3 p.m., when we all realize that lying in the sun on a pontoon boat for the past three hours has made us all starving (and Chicken Pasta Salad will hit the spot).
About This Mexican Pasta Salad
This moment—the late-afternoon summer meal, the impromptu gathering with friends, the “I need to eat but I don’t want to cook”—is where Mexican pasta salad shines.
A mix of Mexican-inspired ingredients such as black beans, corn, and avocado, along with hearty whole wheat pasta and a light and creamy Greek yogurt paprika dressing, this Southwestern pasta salad boasts simple prep and complex flavor, with wide crowd appeal.
For maximum ease, I used canned black beans and corn.
While this Mexican pasta salad recipe might be my first pasta salad of the summer, it certainly won’t be my last or the last time I make it.
If the next three months are as promising as I’m daring myself to believe, you and I have many lazy afternoons to spend working up an appetite.
Whether you potluck, picnic, or simply want to pass more of your time outside of your kitchen than inside of it, let this Mexican pasta salad (or just this Mexican Salad) be one of your summertime staples too.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Make the dressing and cook the pasta up to 1 day in advance. Toss together up to 4 hours before serving.
- To Store. Place leftover salad in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
More Easy Salad Recipes
- Black Bean Corn Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Creamy Arugula Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Tomato
- Caprese Pasta Salad
Mexican Pasta Salad
FOR THE PASTA SALAD:
- 8 ounces whole wheat pasta bow tie, elbow, or similar
- 1 (15-ounce) can corn
- 1 (15-ounce) can reduced sodium black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 large avocados peeled, pitted, and diced
- 3 whole green onions thinly sliced
- 1 large jalapeno cored, seeded, and diced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest of 2 limes plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco or similar hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Rinse with cool water, drain, and place in a large serving bowl. Add the corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes, avocados, green onions, jalapeno, and cilantro.
- To make the dressing, in a small bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the Greek yogurt, olive oil, lime zest and juice, hot sauce, salt, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Taste and add additional salt or spices as desired. Pour over the pasta mixture. Toss to coat, then sprinkle the feta over the top. If time allows, chill for 2 hours prior to serving or enjoy immediately.
- Make the dressing and cook the pasta up to 1 day in advance. Toss together up to 4 hours before serving.
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