Quinoa Salad with Corn and Black Beans | Healthy Recipes and Snacks

[ 5 ] February 3, 2009 |

This Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipe Uses Southwest Staples Like Corn and Black Beans to Make A High Protein, High Energy Meal in Under 30 Minutes.

Quinoa is one of those grains that seems to have endless possibilities, especially for people who are trying to eat healthy and stay in shape.

High in all nine essential amino acids, a great source of fiber and complex carbs, and much faster to cook then other grains like rice or wheat, after you start cooking with quinoa, it’s easy to understand why it’s earned a reputation as the “ancient super-grain.” 

While quinoa is a great alternative to brown rice for healthy side-dishes and pilafs, it really shines when you use it as an substitute for rice, couscous or Bulgar wheat in traditional grain-based salads.  

Quinoa Salad Goes Southwest

As a grain (technically a seed) that’s native to South America, quinoa has a particular affinity for herbs, spices and ingredients commonly used in Mexican, South American and Latin American cooking — things like cumin, chilies, and beans.  The grain works so well as a salad base because it soaks up the subtle flavors in dressings and vinaigrettes. And because it’s light and fluffy, quinoa-based salads are rarely heavy.

This recipe takes two staples of American Southwest cooking — black beans and corn — and pairs it with cumin-infused, spicy lime vinaigrette.

While I whipped up this up specifically as a vinegrette for quinoa salad, it’s also great on green salads and can be used as a marinade for chicken, lean beef or pork and even shrimp and fish. So consider this a two-fer recipe: you get a great quinoa salad, and a vinaigrette recipe as a bonus.

High In Protein, Heart Healthy and Loaded With Vitamins, Minerals & Antioxidants

The addition of black beans and corn to this recipe boosts both its soluble and insoluble fiber, making it an ideal heart-healthy meal.

The combination of black beans, corn, red onion and grape tomatoes literally let’s you eat from the rainbow in a single salad, getting the antioxidant benefits of all of these different colored foods. It’s also very high in vitamins and minerals, including nearly one-quarter of your RDA of Vitamin B-6, Folate and Iron. It’s also very high in niacin, riboflavin and phosphorus.

The vinaigrette for the quinoa salad isn’t too shabby either — herbs and spices like cumin, Epazote, Mexican Oregano and chili powder are some of the most concentrated forms of antioxidants and phytochemicals on the planet, and the inclusion of some olive oil with the fresh lime juice provides additional heart-healthy fats in the form of MUFAs.

Give It A High-Protein Boost with Chicken Breast or Keep It Vegetarian

The base recipe is vegetarian, but if you can use my optional protein booster and add shredded, cooked chicken breast to the quinoa salad as well, if you like. I also like adding a little low-fat feta cheese, which mimics the traditional Mexican queso fresco.

Both of these ingredients are optional. The quinoa salad with corn and black beans is already a balanced protein, thanks to the quinoa and inclusion of beans and corn.

The salad can be made with white, red, black or yellow quinoa, depending on what’s available to you. The salad in the pictures was made with red quinoa, which adds a unique color to the dish.

This particular recipe will make a very large amount of quinoa salad. This is generally good, because the salad gets better as it sits, so the leftovers make ideal lunches or quick suppers. Also, because of the nutritional density and relatively low-calorie content, portion sizes are fairly large — typically two cups of prepared salad.

If you want to reduce the amount of salad, simply half the ingredients. 

However, still make a full batch of vinaigrette, but only use half of it on the salad. Store the remaining vinaigrette in a sealed container in the fridge. Since this salad has a tendency to absorb the dressing overnight, you may want to add additional vinaigrette the next day or use it for green salads later in the week.

Quinoa Salad with Corn and Black Beans


1 1/2 dry quinoa
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed
1 cup grape tomatoes sliced in half
2 oz low-fat feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Optional Protein Booster: 2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken breast

Vinaigrette for Quinoa Salad

2 TBS olive, walnut or avocado oil
3 TBS lime juice (the juice of about two limes) or 3 packets True Lime crystallized lime (reconstituted in 3 TBS water)
2 TBS water
1 fresh garlic clove, minced or 1 tsp jarred minced garlic
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp Epazote (Optional)
1 tsp dried Mexican or Greek oregano
1 tsp chili powder, Ancho Chili Powder or Chipotle Powder
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste


  1. Place quinoa and 3 cups water in 1 1/2 quart saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed (about 15 minute.) Remove from heat, let cool and fluff with a a fork.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette by combining the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until well combined.
  3. In a very large bowl, combine the cooled quinoa grain with the remaining ingredients (red onion, black beans, corn, tomatoes and chicken breast and feta cheese, if using).
  4. Pour vinaigrette over the salad, and mix until well combined.
  5. Serve as an entree or as a side salad with a main course.
  6. Chill leftovers for quick lunches and dinners later in the week.

Quinoa Salad Nutrition Facts

Eight servings (2 cups per serving) – Includes chicken breast and feta

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 387
Total Fat: 9.0 g
Saturated Fat: 1.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3.0 g
Cholesterol: 36.7 mg
Sodium: 146.4 mg
Potassium: 469.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 51.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.4 g
Sugars: 4.2 g
Protein: 26.6 g

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamin A 8.3 %
Vitamin B-12 3.7 %
Vitamin B-6 22.3 %
Vitamin C 13.3 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 3.0 %
Calcium 6.7 %
Copper 8.3 %
Folate 20.4 %
Iron 28.8 %
Magnesium 16.1 %
Manganese 17.6 %
Niacin 37.2 %
Pantothenic Acid 7.1 %
Phosphorus 45.6 %
Riboflavin 60.1 %
Selenium 16.4 %
Thiamin 13.1 %
Zinc 8.3 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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Category: Healthy Recipes & Snacks

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Comments (5)

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  1. Chef D (1 comments) says:

    can you sub the sea salt?

  2. nik@ seed bank (1 comments) says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I’m always looking for something new and healthy to try out. And being that I’m a busy mother (well, what mother isn’t busy?) I’m also looking to see if they are easy and quick to make since I get off work at dinner time and need something quick, delicious, filling, and healthy to make for the family. This recipe is perfect since it allows for 8 servings.

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