We love pasta and that includes pasta salads. They are a quick and easy go-to quick or dinner side as well as the perfect summer potluck or BBQ side. Inspired by one of our favorite pasta salads from a local specialty market this southwest pasta salad is a little spicy and extra creamy.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
This southwest pasta salad recipe could not be any simpler to prepare and is a great side to chicken or beef.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Pasta: Any short pasta such as Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle, Bowtie, or Orecchiette will work for this pasta salad.
- Roasted Corn: You can grill your own corn but we made it easy with some store-bought roasted corn we found in the freezer section of our local Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find roasted corn you can substitute frozen or canned corn. If using canned corn make sure to drain and rinse it.
- Black Beans: Use canned beans that have been drained and rinsed well. . You can substitute pinto or kidney beans if you are not a fan of black beans.
- Tomatoes: Choose a cherry or grape size tomato and cut them in half or quarters so they are bite-size. In addition to fresh tomatoes, we use sun-dried tomatoes for their intense sweet-tart flavor. Try to find sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil but if that is all you can find, drain and pat off excess oil with a paper towel before chopping.
- Mini Peppers and Jalapenos: We prefer mini dulce peppers over bell peppers but they can be easily substituted. Be careful with your jalapeno peppers sometimes they are hot and sometimes they are not. We always remove the seeds and inner veins (or placenta) just in case.
- Black Olives: For some additional salty flavor we include a few chopped black olives but if you are not a fan of olives you can leave them out.
- Hot Sauce: We used one of our new favorites Guajillo & Red Jalapeno Hot Sauce from Humble House for this recipe. It is a tangy garlic-flavored sauce. It is similar to sriracha but without all the harsh vinegar taste or heat. You can substitute your favorite hot sauce but will need to adjust the quantity based on the brand, type, and personal preference.
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: These are smoked and dried jalapenos that have been rehydrated and canned in a puree of vinegar, garlic, tomato, and spices. Just like raw jalapenos, chipotles can range in heat. They give the sauce a deep smokey flavor that shouldn’t be skipped so regulate the amount based on your personal tastes.
- Cojita Cheese: This is a crumbly salty cheese that can be purchased as a block or pre-grated. The pre-grated is similar to an Italian grated cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano and is great as a topping on enchiladas, elote (Mexican street corn), salads, and so many other dishes. In a pinch, you can substitute some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
How to Make Southwest Pasta Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Add a little grilled chicken to turn this pasta salad into a complete meal.
1. Cook the Pasta: Cook the pasta until it is al dente following the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water then set aside. While the pasta is cooking prepare the creamy dressing.
2. Creamy Chiptole Dressing: In a small bowl blend the mayonnaise, sour cream, hot sauce, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, cumin, and salt using an immersion blender. Blend until smooth then set aside.
3. Prepare the Southwest Pasta Salad: In a large bowl combine the pasta, tomatoes, roasted corn, canned black beans, sundried tomatoes, mini peppers, green onion, black olives, and jalapenos. Toss to combine then add the creamy dressing and toss to coat ingredients evenly. Next add cotija cheese, cilantro, and parsley, and give a final gentle toss to combine
4. Chill and Serve: Chill the pasta salad for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro, parsley, jalapenos, and scallions then serve.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Rinse the pasta after it has been drained to both cool it down and avoid it from being overcooked.
- If you want to tone down some of the heat in the dressing add the adobo sauce but don’t add a whole chipotle pepper.
- Southwest pasta salad is best when served cold. Be sure to chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Prepare the pasta salad and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It should last up to 4-5 days.
Absolutely. Any short pasta will work but look for bronze-cut pasta or bronze-die pasta. Pasta cut with a bronze die will have a rough, porous texture that is great for getting the creamy chipotle dressing to stick.
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Let’s Connect! If you make our Southwest Pasta Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing or any other recipe on Casual Epicure, please don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are considering making our recipes and we love hearing about your cooking experiences. And if you snapped some shots, share them on Instagram, and be sure to tag @casual.epicure so we can feature them in our stories.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this dish, we recommend checking out some of these other salad recipes:
Southwest Pasta Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- Immersion Blender
- Large Bowl
- Medium Saucepan (2.5 Quarts)
- Pasta Strainer
- 1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1.5 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon guajillo and jalapeno hot sauce, see notes
- 1 chipotle peppers in adobo
- ½ teaspoon adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 7 ounces dried short pasta, such as bowtie
- 2 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 3 ounces roasted corn
- 3 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ ounce sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1.5 ounces mini peppers, diced
- 1 green onion, diced
- 1 ounce black olives, drained of juices
- 1 ounce jalapenos seeds removed
- 1 ounce cojita cheese, finely grated
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse well to cool.
- While pasta is cooking create the creamy dressing. Using an immersion blender blend the mayonnaise, sour cream, hot sauce, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, cumin, and salt in a small bowl. Blend until smooth then set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the pasta, tomatoes, roasted corn, canned black beans, sundried tomatoes, mini peppers, green onion, black olives, and jalapenos. Toss to combine then add the creamy dressing and toss to coat ingredients evenly. Add cojita cheese, cilantro, and parsley, and give a final gentle toss to combine
- Chill pasta salad for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro, parsley, and scallions then serve.