Southwest Pasta Salad

This Southwest Pasta Salad is the perfect cold pasta salad for potlucks, parties, or a quick and easy meal. It can be made in advance and Your friends and family will love this pasta salad recipe!

Southwest Pasta Salad Rexipe

Pasta Salad Season

Summer is right around the corner and that means it is almost pasta salad season. We LOVE making and eating pasta salads during the hot summer months because they don’t require much cooking, you only have to cook the pasta, which only takes about 10 minutes. Plus, pasta salads can be made in advance. I always love having one in the fridge for easy lunches and dinners.

I also love having a solid list of killer pasta salads to take to BBQ’s, potlucks, and parties. When we are invited to a BBQ or dinner party, we often get asked to bring a pasta salad. When I bring a pasta salad, I want it to be a GOOD one so everyone will love it. You want your pasta salad to be the one that everyone is raving about and the one that is gone by the end of the dinner.

If you are looking for the BEST pasta salad to make and take to parties this summer, make this Southwest Pasta Salad. Your family and friends will LOVE it!

Pasta Salad in bowl

Quick and Easy Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe comes from my friend Mary’s new cookbook, The Weekday Lunches & Breakfasts Cookbook. You guys are going to love this book because it is filled with super easy recipes that are perfect for busy families, like this easy pasta salad. It is SO good and SO easy to make!

I love the Southwest inspired flavors in this pasta salad:

  • tomatoes
  • black olives
  • corn
  • yellow bell pepper
  • red onion
  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • Cotija cheese

The salad also has a simple lime dressing that pulls all of the flavors together. It is light and refreshing, which makes this salad perfect for summertime.

Tips for Making Southwest Pasta Salad:

  • Use small pasta, Ditalini pasta works best. You can find this cut of pasta at pretty much every grocery store. If you can’t find it you can use elbow macaroni. You want to use small pasta so the pasta is the same size as the other ingredients, making the pasta salad easy to eat. Our boys love the small pasta, it is very kid friendly.
  • Cook the pasta, drain it, and rinse with cold water, and drain again, making sure you shake off all of the water. This is a cold pasta salad.
  • While the pasta is cooking, chop up all of the ingredients and make the dressing.
  • Use fresh sweet corn for best results. If you can’t find good corn, you can use canned corn, just make sure it is drained.
  • You can make this pasta salad in advance, just wait to add the avocado and Cotija cheese. When you are ready to eat and serve, add the avocado and cheese, and stir again. The pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • If you want to bulk up the salad, you can add black beans or chicken.

I have a feeling this Southwest Pasta Salad is going to be a summer staple at your house, I know we are going to make it all summer long! Enjoy!

If you like this pasta salad recipe, you might also like:

And make sure you check out Mary’s cookbook for lots of quick and easy breakfast and lunch recipes! There are so many great easy meal ideas inside!

Best Pasta Salad Recipe

Southwest Pasta Salad

This Southwest Pasta Salad is great for potlucks, parties, BBQ's, and easy meals! It is a summer favorite!
4.86 from 7 votes


For the pasta salad:

  • 8 oz small pasta
  • 1 small red onion diced (about ½ cup)
  • 3 cups grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 yellow bell pepper seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 ear fresh corn kernels removed
  • 1 2.25 oz can sliced olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 large avocado pit removed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Cotija cheese

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice about 4 limes
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse well to cool.
  • While the pasta is cooking, combine the onion, tomatoes, pepper, corn, and olives in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add the cooked pasta to the bowl with the vegetables, and pour the dressing over the pasta and vegetables. Stir until all of the ingredients are well coated. Sprinkle cilantro over the pasta and stir again. Cover with a lid and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Add avocado and cheese right before serving and gently stir.
  • Note-this salad will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If you can't find fresh corn, you can use canned corn niblets, make sure you drain the corn. For vegan, leave out the cheese and for gluten-free use gluten-free pasta.


Calories: 244kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 301mg, Potassium: 308mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 520IU, Vitamin C: 33.6mg, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 0.7mg
Keywords pasta salad

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I'm Maria and my husband is Josh. We share a love of cooking, baking, and entertaining. We enjoy creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly. We love sitting around the table with good food, good conversation, and good friends and family! Our kitchen is always open!
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  1. 5 stars
    I’m so happy you like the cookbook and that you enjoyed the salad! (And I’m loving that you added avocado. I’m going to try that next time for sure!!) Have a great rest of the week!

  2. Love how this makes such a large batch! Perfect for summer BBQs! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    This pasta salad screams summer in such a wonderful way! Love those southwest flavors going on!

  4. It doesn’t say in the recipe if you COOK the corn first. Surely you don’t put raw corn into the salad!

    Please advise if you cook it first!!

    1. Yes, I add raw corn, you don’t have to cook it first. You can if you want to, but it isn’t necessary!

  5. Delicious pasta salad.  I wanted a break from mayo laden pasta salads, and this hit the spot.  My husband, son and I devoured it.  No leftovers so I will be making a new batch very soon.  Thanks for the yummy recipe.  

  6. 5 stars
    This salad was wonderful!! Loved it and will remain a staple for our summer days!! I was weary about the half cup lime juice but it all blended and was Perfecto! Thank you!!

  7. I had been making your older version of southwest pasta salad for years. It was always a crowd favorite!
    This one is good, but I like the dressing from the older version better. Could you possibly reshare that version? Thank you!

  8. 5 stars
    This is so flipping good!! I did add 50% more pasta, (12oz instead of 8oz) and an additional 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika and a smidge more cotija than called for. Insanely delicious and perfect on this 90°F Minnesota summer day!