This festive Tex-Mex Pasta Salad with homemade Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette is a summer side dish MUST.
One of my favorite summer side dishes has always been a cold pasta salad. Not so much the mayo-laden ones, but the pasta salads showered in Italian dressing. They feel light on a hot day, despite the abundance of carbs. Easy assembly is also a plus, as is the creative freedom over what ingredients to include.
I never really tire of the classic Italian versions, but when I want to mix it up, this Tex-Mex Pasta Salad offers a delicious alternative. Plus, fresh veggies and a homemade Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette make this a refreshing, healthy salad.
I’m open-minded when it comes to making pasta salad, but I absolutely insist that there is only one correct pasta to use – tri-colored rotini pasta. If you’re not using tri-colored rotini pasta, are you even living your best summer? It’s festive AF, and I think we all deserve a little festivity on our plates.
I’m the accompaniment QUEEN. Dinner featuring tacos inevitably turns into a taco bar, featuring goodies like sliced black olives, diced onion, and crumbly cheese. This Tex-Mex Pasta Salad has all of those, plus sweet peppers, jalapenos, and cherry tomatoes.
For the best results, prepare Tex-Mex Pasta Salad a few hours before serving; it gives the pasta time to soak up that delicious homemade vinaigrette. You can also prep the ingredients and the Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette a day or two in advance if necessary. No need to be trying to furiously chop vegetables and cook pasta when you should be making sure to remember to pack sunscreen before you hit your next picnic.
Here’s how you make Tex-Mex Pasta Salad, in all of it’s festive, tri-colored glory.
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If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette is also fantastic on Corny Quinoa Salad. This fantastic vinaigrette was adapted from the one used in Quinoa, Black Bean, and Mango Salad from the cookbook The Best Mexican Recipes: Kitchen-Tested Recipes Put the Real Flavors of Mexico Within Reach (which is a fantastic cookbook! This is an affiliate link so I’ll get a ‘lil $$ if you purchase said fantastic cookbook).
Tex-Mex Pasta Salad
- 1 12 ounce box tri-color rotini pasta
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
- 6 sweet mini peppers I used 3 red and 3 yellow
- 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered I used NatureSweet Glorys
- 1 jalapeno, finely diced
- feta cheese (garnish)
Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette
- 10 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 jalapenos, seeded
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions. I like to cook my pasta to slightly al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Don't forget to salt the water!
- Rinse pasta under cold running water when it's finished cooking. Let drain.
- Prepare the vinaigrette by adding all ingredients except the extra virgin olive oil to a blender. Blend for 20 seconds.
- With the blender still running, drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Blend an additional 5-10 seconds once all of the oil has been added.
- Add the pasta, red onion, sweet peppers, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and jalapeno to a large bowl.
- Pour 80% of the Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette over the pasta. Fold gently until well combined. Reserve the other 20% of the vinaigrette.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let the flavors meld.
- Before serving, add the remaining vinaigrette and stir. Serve topped with feta cheese (optional).