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Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Zucchini + Lime Dressing

Looking for a light, filling, healthy salad? A quinoa black bean salad recipe with zucchini and cumin lime dressing is your answer. Fluffy quinoa, hearty black beans, fresh spinach, and sauteed summer vegetables, sprinkled with a zesty dressing are perfect together.

bowl of summer veggie quinoa black bean salad with lime dressing

Try this quinoa and black bean salad recipe next time you need a great side dish for a potluck. It is a healthy salad with whole grains, vegetables, and a spicy dressing to tie it all together.

The best part is that it is easy to make a double batch for a crowd. It is the perfect side dish for barbecues and summer pool parties.

What You Will Love About This Recipe

  • Versatile as a healthy side dish or main course. Serve it with burritos, tacos, or quesadillas as a side dish.

    Or eat it as a main meal. With so many vegetables, it also makes a light but filling summer salad. Add it to your rotation of healthy meals.
  • You get a complete protein without meat. Quinoa and black beans make a complete meal. Quinoa has all the essential amino acids making it a whole protein. Combine it with black beans and a sprinkle of cheese, and you have a vegetarian protein powerhouse.
  • A good recipe for leftover quinoa or black beans. This salad is one of those easy recipes to adapt to what you have on hand.

Ingredients

ingredients for quinoa black bean salad with zucchini and cumin lime dressing
  • Quinoa. White quinoa is readily available in the grocery store. And it is a great color contrast to the black beans and veggies in the salad.

    However, if you prefer tri-colored or red quinoa, use them instead.
  • Black Beans. Seasoned black beans are a great option to add heartiness to the salad. It is easy to open a can of beans. But you may love the flavor you get when you cook black beans from scratch. It is quick and easy in the Instant Pot.

Sauteed Vegetables

chopped veggies to saute for quinoa black bean salad
  • Red onion. Red onions add the most color, but yellow or white onions are excellent substitutes.
  • Garlic. Use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder.
  • Poblano pepper. The poblano pepper is milder than other peppers, but you still need to take care when dicing it. Use food service gloves and be careful not to touch your face. Especially your eyes.

    Cut the top off and then slice the pepper in half. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds out. Cut the pepper into thin matchstick slices and then dice.
  • Red bell pepper. Red or a combination of red and orange bell peppers are a fantastic addition to the black bean quinoa salad recipe. Roasted red peppers are a great option too.

    I don’t recommend green bell peppers in this recipe because they aren’t as sweet as the other peppers.
  • Zucchini. Zucchini or Italian squash is a tasty summer vegetable found in many healthy recipes. No need to peel the zucchini. But cut it into thin rounds before cutting each piece into a half-moon. Then they are the perfect size.

Fresh Ingredients

bowls of quinoa, black beans, and spinach
  • Spinach. You will find spinach in most healthy salads. Slice the spinach leaves in ribbons in this salad rather than leaving them whole.
  • Cherry tomatoes. Grape or cherry tomatoes are attractive in a great salad. However, if you have a larger tomato, cut it into small chunks, and you are set.

Zesty Lime and Cumin Dressing Ingredients

Make a flavorful dressing for the salad. It starts with a base of zesty lime juice, vinegar, and olive oil.

Season it with garlic powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and you have a delicious sauce.

Garnishes

  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped. If you prefer even more cilantro flavor, add ¼ cup to the salad instead of just garnishing with it.
  • Pepitas
  • Cotija, queso fresco, or feta cheese
  • Green onions

How to Make Quinoa Black Bean Salad Recipe

Make the Quinoa

You can cook the quinoa in an Instant Pot or on the stove. Both methods take roughly the same time. The Instant Pot is hands-free, but it is easier to toast the quinoa on the stove.

Most quinoa has been pre-rinsed to remove the bitter saponins. If it has not been pre-rinsed by the manufacturer, rinse the dry quinoa with cold water for a few minutes before cooking it.

Use whichever method you prefer. I’ve included instructions for both.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Pour broth, water, quinoa, and a generous pinch of salt into the Instant Pot inner container. Cook on high pressure for 1 minute.
  • When it is done, let it naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. Then manually release it. Fluff and let the quinoa cool.

Stovetop Instructions

  • Pour the dry quinoa into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the quinoa as it toasts for 5 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is fragrant and toasted, pour in the broth, water, and a generous pinch of salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the temperature to medium-low heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Don’t overcook. You want the quinoa to have a firmer texture in this salad.
  • Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside the cooked quinoa.

Prep the Vegetables

sauteed summer veggies for quinoa black bean salad
  • Cut the spinach into ribbons and slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, mince the garlic and dice the onions, poblano pepper, and red bell pepper. Cut the zucchini into thin half-moons.
  • Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, poblano, and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

    Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, and then add the zucchini. Continue to cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked through.

Compose the Salad

stirring cumin lime dressing into quinoa black bean salad with zucchini and spinach
  • Place the cooled quinoa into a large bowl. Add the cooked vegetables (while still warm), baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, and black beans.

    Mix until just combined and set aside to cool to room temperature. 

Make the Dressing

  • Mix the fresh lime juice, vinegar, and shallots together in a small bowl. Let it rest for about 10 minutes to soften the shallot.
  • Add the spices and honey. Mix until well combined.
  • While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Finish and Garnish

  • Add the dressing (you may not use all of it) to the quinoa black bean salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Garnish with avocado slices, cotija cheese, pepitas, and cilantro.

FAQ

Can you freeze quinoa black bean salad?

Because of the fresh veggies in the salad, it doesn’t freeze very well. The spinach will thaw slimy, and the tomatoes will lose their nice consistency.

However, if you really want to freeze the salad, heat it after it thaws for better taste and texture.

How long does the black bean quinoa salad last?

A quinoa and black bean salad recipe will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. After that, the salad consistency will start to diminish.

Pro Tips

plate of quinoa black bean salad
  • As well as being a delicious main dish, this is a lovely summer side dish. If you have the grill going, grill the veggies instead of sautéing them.

    Grilling adds flavor to the onions, peppers, and zucchini. If you decide to go that route, grill the peppers whole. Then place them in a bowl covered with a dishtowel for about 10-15 minutes. Rinse the peppers under running water to remove the skin before dicing.
  • Measuring honey can be a challenge. Half of what you measure out may stick to the spoon. Save some aggravation by spraying your measuring spoon with a bit of non-stick cooking spray before pouring the honey.

    This tip also works for agave nectar, molasses, or anything similar.

Substitutions

A variety of vegetables can be substituted if you wish.

  • Try a sweet or yellow onion as an alternate to the red onion.
  • Spice the salad up with a jalapeno pepper rather than a milder poblano.
  • Sauté yellow squash instead of zucchini.
  • Use a yellow pepper in place of the red pepper.
  • Instead of spinach, use arugula or baby kale.

Variations

  • Add sliced grilled chicken to the salad in addition to the black beans. Or leave out the black beans and just add chicken.
  • Skip the squash and instead sprinkle in some fresh corn kernels and mango.

Can You Make Quinoa Black Bean Salad Ahead?

Quinoa and black bean salad is a great dish to make 24 hours ahead, especially if you are bringing it to a potluck. Make the salad as usual, but do not stir in the dressing or add the garnishes.

Remove the salad from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. This allows the salad to come closer to room temperature. Stir in the dressing and prepare the garnishes. Garnish right before serving.

How to Store Leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The salad will last three to five days when properly chilled.

I don’t recommend freezing it. The spinach will be slimy when thawed, and the tomatoes won’t have a good consistency either.

What to Serve with Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

  • Eat it with burritos, tacos, or quesadillas.

More Salad Recipes

  • Catalina Taco Salad. Doritos hide salad veggies in plain sight in this main dish taco salad recipe with Catalina dressing. It’s like a sweet, spicy, savory bowl of tacos. It is a quick and easy weeknight meal.
  • Cobb Salad. Ultimate Cobb salad recipe with chicken makes a full meal with greens, protein, vegetables, and a fresh vinaigrette. Cook proteins ahead of time for fast assembly.

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Yield: 8 cups

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Lime Dressing

bowl of summer veggie quinoa black bean salad with lime dressing

Try this quinoa black bean salad recipe with fresh spinach, sauteed veggies (zucchini, peppers, onions), and zesty cumin lime dressing. Garnish with avocados, cotija cheese, and pepitas.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup of water
  • ¾ cup white quinoa
  • 3 ounces of baby spinach, cut into thick strips
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup of red onion, finely diced (about 1 small)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed and diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 generous cup)
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin half moons
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1⅓ cup of homemade black beans)

Lime Dressing

  • 2 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • ½ shallot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or more to taste.
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
  • ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil

Garnishes

  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 3 tablespoon of pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 ounces of Cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup of cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. STIR the dry quinoa for 5 minutes in a saucepan over medium-high heat as it toasts.
  2. POUR in the broth, water, and generous pinch of salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil.
  3. LOWER the temperature to medium-low heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t overcook. You want the quinoa to have a firmer texture in this salad.
  4. REMOVE from the heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
  5. CUT the spinach into ribbons and slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside.
  6. MINCE the garlic and dice the onions, poblano pepper, and red bell pepper. Cut the zucchini into thin half-moons.
  7. HEAT the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, poblano, and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. COOK until the vegetables begin to soften, and then add the zucchini. Continue to cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked through. Set aside.
  9. PLACE the cooled quinoa into a large bowl. Add the cooked vegetables (while still warm), baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, and black beans. Mix until just combined and set aside to cool to room temperature. 
  10. MIX the fresh lime juice, vinegar, and shallots together in a small bowl. Let it rest for about 10 minutes to soften the shallot.
  11. ADD the spices and honey. Mix until well combined.
  12. DRIZZLE in the olive oil while slowly whisking.
  13. ADD the dressing (you may not use all of it) to the quinoa black bean salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  14. GARNISH with avocado slices, cotija cheese, pepitas, and cilantro.

Notes

Try these tips when making the salad.

  • If you have the grill going, grill the veggies. It adds a nice flavor to the salad.
  • Spray your spoon with nonstick spray before measuring honey.

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Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

½ cup

Amount Per Serving Calories 130Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 8mgSodium 187mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 4g

Nutrition information is an estimate only and may vary based on individual ingredients added and cooking methods used.

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