Home > Salads > Quinoa Corn Salad Quinoa Corn Salad January 8, 2020 | 12 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. A nutritious Mexican-inspired Quinoa Corn Salad with fresh avocado, crisp corn, black beans, cilantro, and green onions. This salad is dressed in our favorite chipotle-lime vinaigrette. The dressing packs a punch, so if you’d like to try this salad with a less spicy dressing, I’d recommend the dressing on this Mexican chopped salad instead! Quinoa Corn Salad This salad was inspired by a craving for this popular Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad. I decided that since I might not be the only one trying to eat more veggies this month I should create a more nutritious version of that salad. While this salad ended up pretty different from the Mexican pasta salad, it has similar ingredients — corn, black beans, cotija cheese, fresh lime, lots of cilantro, and green onions. And while this salad is insanely tasty, the real star here is the chipotle vinaigrette — it’s spicy, tangy, and downright addictive! Chipotle Vinaigrette This dressing is one of our absolute favorites and a total show stopper in this Quinoa Corn Salad. It’s a mix of red wine vinegar, honey, oil, herbs, garlic, lime juice, and chipotle pepper. Below are a few notes about this dressing: For the chipotle pepper in the dressing, we use chipotle chilies in adobo (1 pepper and the accompanying sauce). You can find canned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce in the Latin aisle of most grocery stores. See the quick tip below on storing leftovers! Taste and adjust the dressing to personal preference. The chipotle is important to balance the dressing (so it isn’t too sweet), but add it slowly and taste as you go, so you don’t end up with an overly spicy dressing. Remember the dressing will taste spicier straight out of the blender but does simmer down when you add in all the veggies and quinoa. While this dressing can be made ahead of time (and leftovers stored), note that flavors intensify and it becomes spicier as it sits. If the dressing ends up too spicy, try adding some more honey to sweeten and counteract the heat. If you’re concerned about the spiciness of the dressing, use the sauce from the can instead of the actual pepper; it has the same great flavor, but much less heat. QUICK TIP There’s nothing worse than using only one or two peppers (like in this recipe) and not being able to use the rest of the can before it goes bad. Luckily, canned chipotle peppers freeze beautifully! Here’s how to freeze leftover chipotles: Spread a sheet of parchment paper onto a large pan. Spoon out peppers with sauce, 1/2 inch apart, on to the pan. Place the pan in the freezer until peppers and sauce are frozen solid, about 1 hour. Once frozen, the peppers and sauce will easily peel off the tray. Add all the frozen peppers to a freezer-safe plastic bag, seal while pressing out any air, and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. To thaw, take as many peppers as needed out of the bag and let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or until thawed through (or pop individual peppers in the microwave for 10-15 seconds). Let’s talk quinoa We eat quinoa salads a lot at my home. My number one tip is to prepare the quinoa ahead of time. With cooked and cooled quinoa ready to throw in the salad, the prep time goes quickly. Waiting for quinoa to fully cook, steam, and cool is easy enough, but time-consuming. That said, if you’re making the quinoa at the same time you’re making this quinoa corn salad, here’s how to speed up the process for quinoa cooling: Spread the cooked and fluffed quinoa on a sheet pan in one even layer. Place the sheet pan in the fridge (or freezer) for 10-15 minutes or until cooled to room temperature. A few other quinoa tips: Make sure to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin which can make it taste bitter. Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to a minute. Want to skip this step? Some quinoa comes pre-rinsed; check the package to see if that is mentioned. Allow time for the quinoa to steam. Once the liquid is absorbed, don’t rush to cool the quinoa, instead, let it stand (covered) for at least 10 minutes. Letting the quinoa stand allows the quinoa to fully “pop” and ensures it doesn’t end up watery or mushy. If the quinoa has cooked through, but there is still liquid in the pot, make sure to drain off that liquid to avoid soft or mushy quinoa. Alternatively, if the quinoa has not cooked through (the grains haven’t visibly popped), but the liquid has absorbed, add a few more tablespoons of liquid. Two options for the corn There is nothing that compares to good, sweet, fresh corn on the cob! If you have access to it, that makes the perfect addition to Quinoa Corn Salad. That said, frozen (and thawed) or canned (and thoroughly drained) corn also works well. When preparing the corn for this salad there are two options: Add the raw corn to the salad. Simply cut the corn from the cob, thaw the frozen corn, or drain the canned corn and toss it in the salad. My family loves the crunch of uncooked corn kernels in this salad– plus, it’s easy! Char the corn. If you’d like the corn roasted or charred, cook it on a grill pan or grill or in a nonstick skillet. Here are more instructions: To char canned corn, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon butter or oil and then the well-drained corn in one even layer. Let it sit, stirring occasionally until you get a nice browning on the outside of the corn (I don’t stir often so it browns!). Remove the corn from the heat and set aside allowing it to cool completely. To grill corn on the cob, preheat a grill (or grill pan) to medium-high heat, around 400 degrees F. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on each corn cob and rub that oil onto all the sides. Very lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the corn. Place the corn on grill grates (nothing needs to go down first; don’t wrap in foil) and close the grill. Cook (temps remaining at 400F) for about 3 minutes per side, undisturbed. Turn the corn and continue cooking for about 12 minutes in total. When all sides are browned, remove from the grill onto a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut the corn from the cobs. Quinoa Corn Salad Variation Tips Add some meat. This salad is vegetarian by default, but feel free to grill some chicken to serve on the side or to chop up and put on top of the salad. It isn’t necessary to add meat to the salad; it’s actually loaded with protein even without meat, thanks to the quinoa and black beans! You’ll be amazed just how satiating Quinoa Corn Salad is. For a chili-lime spiced chicken addition, try the marinade on these chicken tacos. Change up the herbs. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro or green onions, you can replace one with the other to only have one herb in the salad. Chopped parsley also makes a good alternate herb. Add other toppings. I kept this salad pretty simple, toppings-wise, but there are many great options to top this salad with– try roasted pumpkin seeds, tortilla strips, roasted red peppers, sweet bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Quinoa Corn Salad Storage Unfortunately, this salad doesn’t sit very well with the dressing and avocado mixed into it. If you aren’t planning to eat the entire salad at one sitting, toss and add dressing to only what you’ll be eating at this time. If you keep the dressing separate, this salad can store in the fridge for up to 3 days (with the exception of the avocado). The avocado browns and takes on an odd texture, so I add half the avocado one day and place the other half in a plastic bag (squeeze some lemon or olive oil on the exposed side) in the fridge until I’m ready to prepare another serving. Here’s how I store this salad to eat throughout the week: Prepare the salad as the recipe indicates, but leave out the avocado and cheese, and don’t add the dressing. Divide the salad evenly into four containers, leaving space for the dressing and cheese. Add the cheese and dressing to small containers or snack-sized bags and then add the sealed cheese and dressing packets to the meal prepping containers. Seal the containers and store them in the fridge until ready to eat. For the avocado: On the first day you’ll be enjoying the salad, halve the avocado. Chop 1/4th of the avocado and add it to the salad. Take the remaining avocado and squeeze lime juice over it all and refrigerate it in an airtight plastic bag. Add 1/4 of the avocado each day, slicing off the top layer if it’s browned. To enjoy a portion of Quinoa Corn Salad each day: Add the avocado, pour the dressing over everything, sprinkle on the cheese, toss to combine, and enjoy! More Nutritious Salad Recipes Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with a balsamic vinaigrette Thai Quinoa Salad with a peanut dressing Garbanzo Bean Salad with an Italian-inspired vinaigrette Caprese Quinoa Salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil Avocado Tuna Salad with an avocado-based dressing FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Quinoa Corn Salad 5 from 5 votes - Review this recipe A nutritious Mexican-inspired Quinoa Corn Salad with fresh avocado, crisp corn, black beans, cilantro, and green onions. This salad is dressed in our favorite chipotle-lime vinaigrette. SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Quinoa Corn Salad 5 from 5 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe A nutritious Mexican-inspired Quinoa Corn Salad with fresh avocado, crisp corn, black beans, cilantro, and green onions. This salad is dressed in our favorite chipotle-lime vinaigrette. Course Main Course, Salad, Vegetarian Cuisine Mexican, Vegetarian Keyword Quinoa Corn Salad Prep Time 25 minutes Total Time 25 minutes Servings 4 -6 servings (4 meal prep servings) Calories 463kcal Author Chelsea Cost $6.21 Ingredients1/2 cup (95g) uncooked regular quinoa rinsed before cooking2-3 large ears (1-3/4 cups; 248g) sweet yellow corn Note 13 cups (81g) coarsely chopped baby spinach1 can (15.25 oz, 432g) canned black beans, drained and rinsed1/4 cup (12g) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro1/2 cup (33g) thinly sliced green onions (~3 full onions)1 large ripe avocado, pit removed and diced2-3 fresh limes, optionalOptional: Cotija cheeseDressing3 tablespoons (45g) red wine vinegar2 tablespoons (45g) honey1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (84g) vegetable oil1/2 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspoon dried oregano1 clove coarsely chopped garlicFine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper1 heaping tablespoon (19g) of 1 large chipotle pepper (with surrounding adobo sauce)1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice InstructionsQUINOA: Combine the quinoa and water with salt to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt) in a small pot. Follow package directions to cook the quinoa. Cook until all of the liquid is absorbed and quinoa has "popped", about 15-25 minutes (depending on heat, pot size, etc). Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes to steam. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl; refrigerate to chill through. (To get it cold faster, spread it on a lined sheet pan and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.) Quinoa can be prepared 3-4 days in advance -- this salad comes together so quickly if the quinoa was prepped in advance!CORN: Two options here, see note 1. Easiest option: Cut the corn off the cob (no need to cook it-- it's delicious and crunchy raw!) or thoroughly drain a can of corn and use that without charring it.DRESSING: Add all the dressing ingredients to a small blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I add about 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, but add to your preference.) Blend until smooth. Store dressing in a sealed Mason jar in the fridge until ready to use. (The heat from the chipotle pepper will intensify as this dressing sits.)SALAD PREP: Remove stems and coarsely chop the baby spinach, drain and rinse the black beans, coarsely chop the cilantro, thinly slice the green onions, chop the avocado (squeeze a wedge of fresh lime over the avocado to keep it from browning).ASSEMBLY: In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the cooked and completely cooled quinoa. Add in the cooled corn, black beans, cilantro, green onions, and avocado. Remove the dressing from the fridge, shake to re-combine, and then pour over the salad (*read storage note below) to desired preference -- you may not need all the dressing on the salad. We usually use about 3/4 of the dressing, but if you like a very generously dressed salad you may like to use all of it! Leftover dressing stores nicely for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Using two large salad spoons, toss the salad and then sprinkle with cotija cheese. Serve salad on plates with fresh lime wedges if desired.*STORAGE: If you aren't planning to finish this salad all in one day, I'd recommend keeping the dressing separate from the salad and only dressing what you'll be eating. Also, only add avocado to what you'll be eating that day. Video Recipe NotesNote 1: Use either 2-3 ears of corn or 1 can of well-drained corn. Either add the corn into the salad raw or char/grill corn. To char canned corn: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon butter or oil and then the well-drained corn in one even layer. Let it sit, stirring occasionally until you get a nice browning on the outside of the corn (I don't stir often so it gets nicely browned!). Remove the corn from the heat and set aside allowing it to cool completely. To grill corn on the cob: Preheat a grill to medium-high heat, around 400 degrees F. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on each corn cob and rub that oil onto all the sides. Very lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the corn. Place corn on grill grates (nothing needs to go down first; don't wrap in foil) and close grill. Cook (temps remaining at 400F) for about 3 minutes per side undisturbed. Using tongs, turn and continue cooking, for about 12 minutes total. When all sides are browned, remove from the grill onto a plate. Nutrition FactsCalories: 463kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Sodium: 163mg | Potassium: 1559mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 18005IU | Vitamin C: 66mg | Calcium: 231mg | Iron: 7mg We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed. DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.