July 6, 2024

Chipotle Southwest Pasta Salad

Another day, another easy to make crowd pleasing pasta salad.

Need a flavorful summertime side dish? Let me introduce you to this chipotle southwest pasta salad. Packed with all the familiar flavors of a southwest salad—beans, corn, chicken, jalapeños, tomatoes, and chips—this pasta salad combines fresh ingredients with a smoky and sweet chipotle vinaigrette (IYKYK). Whether you just stumbled upon this post or you’ve already tried my Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad, this Southwest-inspired recipe is a must-try. Bursting with flavor, this pasta salad is the perfect side dish for an outdoor grilling gathering, an absolute crowd-pleaser, and might just be one of the best things you place on the table.

chipotle southwest pasta salad in a bowl surrounded by tortilla chips.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR CHIPOTLE SOUTHWEST PASTA SALAD

SOUTHWEST PASTA SALAD

  • Pasta – Player’s choice here, but choose something that makes sense (a.k.a., not a long pasta). In case you were wondering, the pasta in the photos is fratelli, which is not the easiest to come by. Some recommendations to use would be fusilli, shells, or farfalle.
  • Chicken – I like to use grilled chicken in this recipe to add another dimension of flavor. I typically make this dish when I have leftover grilled chicken in the fridge to save time. Thighs are preferred, but 1 cup of any precooked chicken can be used. Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken is also another great option to sub in.
  • Black Beans – Canned, drained, rinsed, and dried.
  • Corn – Fresh corn on the cob is the ideal choice, especially if you are making this in the summer. Not only is it sweeter, but the texture is superior. If fresh corn is not an option, then frozen is a great substitution, followed by canned.
  • Tomatoes – Grape or cherry tomatoes.
  • Jalapeño- Remove the pith and seeds before dicing. Sensitive to heat? Pick a jalapeño without any lines on the outside. This is often an indicator that it is an immature pepper and thus less spicy. Likewise, if you want to bring on the heat, look for a pepper with a lot of lines.
  • Cheddar Cheese – Preferably freshly grated, but if you are looking to save a few minutes, pre-shredded works as well.
  • Tortilla Chips – Completely optional, but this pasta salad is screaming for a salty crunch, and salty tortilla chips fit the bill. Also, not to mention it is fitting for the occasion. There is no specific amount given for the chips; crush as much or as little as you like. Do keep in mind, though, the recipe calls to crush them over the pasta salad right before serving to avoid them from getting soggy.

HONEY CHIPOTLE DRESSING

If you know the chipotle vinaigrette from Chipotle, then you know just how good it is. This dressing is similar but slightly tweaked. It has a bit of heat, but not an unbearable amount, and a ton of bold adobo flavor with a hint of sweetness from the honey.

  • Chipotles in Adobo – Smoky with a kick of heat, chipotles in adobo is a great item to have stocked in your pantry for recipes like this. For those who haven’t used this ingredient before, it’s time to take a stroll down the dedicated Hispanic aisle in the supermarket. They pack a lot into these cans, so be sure to buy a small one. Even then, you’ll have plenty of chipotles remaining. If you are looking for other ways to use these smoky, spicy peppers, check out my SpaghettiO’s or my Miso Chipotle Pasta.
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Oil – You need to use a neutral-flavored oil for this dressing to avoid competing with the smoky flavor of the chipotles. Avocado, canola, and vegetable oils are great options.
the ingredients that go into the southwest pasta salad

TOOLS NEEDED

Blender or Handheld Blender – The chipotle dressing needs to be processed in a blender. Both traditional and handheld (or bullet) blenders work to emulsify the dressing. Keep in mind, a handheld blender might not emulsify the dressing as well as a traditional blender, but it will still get the job done.

HOW TO MAKE CHIPOTLE SOUTHWEST PASTA SALAD

HONEY CHIPOTLE DRESSING

Make the Dressing- The dressing needs to sit for a bit of time before dressing the salad, so make it first. In a blender or handheld blender, add the red wine vinegar, chipotles, honey, and 3 tbsp of water. Process until smooth. If using a traditional blender, drizzle in the oil on low until combined. If using a handheld blender, add the oil and process for about 20-30 seconds.

The recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups of dressing. For some, this might be too much, and for others, it will be just enough. The worst thing you can do for this pasta salad is to underdress it. Don’t toss the extra dressing! Use it over a grain bowl, to top tacos, or even drizzle it over some roasted vegetables. The options are endless- and delicious.

corn on the cob grilling

SOUTHWEST PASTA SALAD

Fire up the Corn –If grilling the corn, preheat the grill to 450°F-500°F. Place the corn in the husk directly on the cleaned grates. Leaving the corn in the husk steams the corn and prevents it from drying out. Grill for approximately 10-12 minutes, rotating it every 3-4 minutes for even cooking. To get char on the outside, remove it from the husk—be careful, it will be blazing hot—and place it directly on the grates in the last few minutes. You know the corn is done when the kernels are tender and not hard. Poke them with a knife if you need to!

Once cooked, remove the corn from the grill and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing the kernels. You have two options when it comes to removing the kernels.

  • Stand the corn up on the base of the cob, and carefully use a knife to cut downwards along the length of the cob. You want to cut deep enough to get the full kernel but not so deep that you start to cut off the tough cob.
  • Use the corn stripper tool I showcase in some of my videos. I use the OXO Corn Prep Peeler. It’s as easy as using a peeler—just be careful, it’s sharp. This method takes just as much time as the knife, so don’t feel like you need to buy it, but it is satisfying.
using a corn stripper to remove the corn kernels.

Cook the Pasta – While the corn is cooking, start cooking the pasta in salty water as per the box instructions. Once al dente, drain the pasta and immediately rinse. I know you probably think I am crazy for suggesting rinsing the pasta. In any other circumstance, rinsing pasta is absolutely sacrilegious; however, for pasta salad, it is necessary.

Rinsing the starch away from the pasta allows the noodles to stand on their own and prevents them from sticking to each other. Not to mention, it cools down the pasta instantly, which means you can move right on to assembling the pasta.

Assemble the Salad – In a large bowl, add the corn kernels, chopped chicken, tomatoes, jalapeño, black beans, and shredded cheese. Add the desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. If needed, add more dressing and salt to taste. Finish the salad by crushing the optional tortilla chips over each serving.

STORING/REHEATING

This pasta salad is best served immediately, but it can be made a few hours earlier, kept undressed (no chips), and stored in an airtight container. When ready to serve, toss with the chipotle dressing. Pre-dressed leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

The salad will still taste great in the following days; however, as the pasta absorbs the dressing, you may want to re-dress it before serving if you have extra on hand.

July 6, 2024

Chipotle Southwest Pasta Salad

Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Packed with all the familiar flavors of a southwest salad—beans, corn, chicken, jalapeños, tomatoes, and chips—this pasta salad combines fresh ingredients with a smoky and sweet chipotle vinaigrette
Course Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword 30 minute meal, Pasta Salad, Summer Recipes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 5 people

Equipment

  • blender or handheld blender

Ingredients

Honey Chipotle Dressing

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo (7oz can)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil canola, vegetable, or avocado

Southwest Pasta Salad

  • 2 ears of corn or 1 cup of loose kernels
  • 1/2 lb pasta
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked / grilled chicken chopped
  • 3/4 cup black beans rinsed, drained, and dried
  • 1 jalapeño seeds and pith removed, chopped
  • 8 oz cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • tortilla chips *optional

Instructions

Honey Chipotle Dressing

  • In a blender add the red wine vinegar, chipotles, honey, and water. Process until smooth.
  • If using a traditional blender, run the blender on low speed while you drizzle in the oil. Blend until combined.
    If using a handheld blender, add the oil and process for 20-30 seconds until combined. Season with salt to taste and store in the fridge until ready to dress the pasta salad.

Southwest Pasta Salad

  • Preheat the grill to 450℉-500℉.
  • Place the corn in the husk directly on the grill grates and cook for 10-12 minutes, rotating every few minutes. For charred corn, remove it from the husk in the last few minutes and place it directly on the grates. When done, the kernels should be tender.
  • Once cooked, remove the corn from the grill and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing the kernels. (see post for options)
  • While the corn is cooking on the grill make the pasta as per packaging instructions in salty water. Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water to remove the starch.
  • In a large bowl, add the corn kernels, chopped chicken, tomatoes, jalapeño, black beans, and shredded cheese. Add the desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. If needed, add more dressing and salt to taste. Finish the salad by crushing the optional tortilla chips into the pasta salad.

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