This brown rice and quinoa salad is SO delicious and perfect served as a full meal or colorful side salad. Filled with nutrient dense whole grains, sweet mango, black beans, red pepper, corn and spices. 100% vegan, dairy-free and made without oil.
You will LOVE this simple plant-based Southwestern salad! It highlights quinoa and brown rice for a fiber packed and high-in-protein vegan salad recipe, but also is filled with colorful mango, red pepper, corn, cilantro and black beans. There are tons of crunchy produce that balances out the nice chewy bite you get from the grains.
The light yogurt-lime dressing is easy and brings all the ingredients together without turning the salad too heavy. It is made without oil (and dairy-free, of course), but is very tasty and full of spices to boost the flavor of the salad. A simple touch of chili and cumin powder is all you need to get a whole lot of amazing flavor!
Of course you can swap any veggies you like, this recipe is so versatile! But the selection of these specific fresh ingredients works so well together and really makes this simple salad truly amazing.
It also keeps fairly well, which makes this recipe perfect to meal-prep ahead and pack a few lunches to-go. Filling enough to serve as a full meal (oh hello, high-protein quinoa), or pair with burgers, sandwiches, grilled tofu, etc, for a beautiful vibrant side salad.
Hope you enjoy! 💚
Ingredients you'll need and substitutions
- Quinoa and brown rice: I cooked my own grains as I like to batch prep them each week. But, keep reading for more tips on what kind of grain to use. Of course, you can use other whole grains such as black rice, farro or even couscous if you prefer!
- Mango: look for a large ripe mango. It adds a huge amount of flavor to this salad, so try not to omit or swap for anything else!
- Red pepper: green pepper should work too, although red pepper is sweeter and better for salads, I think.
- Black beans: kidney beans or even chickpeas could work too. I used canned black beans for convenience.
- Green onion: or red onion. I think regular yellow onion would be too pungent for this fresh salad.
- Corn: I used frozen corn that I quickly thawed using the microwave, but if you can, use the kernels from fresh corn on the cob whenever they are in season for even better flavor.
- Cilantro: perfect to match the other Southwestern flavors from this recipe, but swap for fresh parsley if that's all you have.
- Jalapeño: for some heat, can be omitted or swapped for a small green pepper.
Feel free to use other veggies such as sliced cherry tomatoes, roasted zucchini, diced cucumber or leafy greens, especially baby spinach.
For the dressing
- Vegan plain yogurt: make sure it is unsweetened and unflavored. Coconut, almond or soy yogurt will all work out well, so just use your favorite. You will only need ⅓ cup, so if you don't want to be left with a larger container, then you can simply buy a small container like this one from Kite Hill. In a pinch, you can also use vegan mayo.
- Lime juice: I used just a little less than the juice from 2 limes (you will need 3 tablespoons). Freshly squeezed juice is so much better than store bought!
- Sweetener: liquid sweetener such as maple syrup or agave nectar will work best.
- Garlic: just a small clove for added flavor.
- Spices: chili powder, cumin powder and dried oregano. They add great flavor to the salad, but feel free to play around with the spices to fit your taste. Smoked paprika, chipotle pepper powder or even Cajun spices would be amazing too.
How to make it
Cook the grains (+ pro tip! 💡)
You can cook the grains ahead of time and let them chill in the fridge covered until ready to use. Chilled cooked grains also absorb better on the flavors from the dressing.
Quinoa cooks pretty quickly, which you can do while chopping the produce. As for the brown rice, it takes about 40 minutes to cook on the stove, so you might want to plan ahead accordingly. I like to cook brown rice in larger batches using my instant pot: it is fuss-free and perfect every time.
As a side note, there are tons of short cuts you can use to speed up the cooking process such as:
- Frozen cooked brown rice. Simply thaw just before using. I like this frozen brown rice from the brand 365, but choose any kind offered by your grocery store.
- Microwavable brown rice (check out the one from Grain Trust). Simply steam for a few minutes using the microwave, ready in 3 minutes.
- Cooked brown rice and quinoa mix. Already cooked grain mix from Seed of Change would really speed up your recipe!
Make the dressing
Simply combine the yogurt, lime juice, water, garlic, spices and sweetener. I like to use a mason jar so I can just shake it to mix up the ingredients and it stores easily if I want to make it ahead, but you can also simply whisk in a bowl.
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, pour the dressing over and gently stir. Taste and add more salt, cumin or chili powder to taste.
Serve right away or chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving for the flavor to intensify. Enjoy!
Watch how to make it
- Chop all the veggies about the same size. I like to also dice them on the smaller side for a more uniform distribution of the different ingredients and to get a little bit of everything in each bite.
- I recommend to rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water using a fine mesh colander before cooking it as it will help remove some of its natural bitterness.
- Use a large bowl to have plenty of room to stir the ingredients.
Again, this brown rice and quinoa salad makes for a great full meal as it is rich in nutrients and will keep you full for a while.
If serving as a side salad, then try pairing with chickpea burgers, balsamic tofu sandwiches or baked tofu bites.
Feel free to crumble some vegan feta cheese over the salad, it will add more flavor, but also make this salad even more filling.
A good way to eat any leftovers would be to enjoy as a burrito by filling a large tortilla wrap alongside avocado slices and hot sauce or chipotle mayo.
Keep leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Longer than that and the vegetables will lose their crunchy consistency.
It makes for a big amount of salad, which is perfect to feed a crowd or to bring to pot lucks. But, if you are worried to be left with too much, then simply cut the recipe in half.
Yes! Brown rice and quinoa are fully gluten-free. If necessary, just make sure they are handled somewhere free of contaminations.
You can eat it both ways! If you cook the grains ahead, then your salad will be fully cold, which works well. But, I also like to stir in the grains while still slightly warm to make this salad closer to a room temperature. Just go with what you prefer!
Combining quinoa, brown rice and black beans makes this recipe fairly rich in plant-based protein. Per cup, cooked quinoa (a complete vegan protein) provides 8 grams of protein, brown rice brings 5 grams and black beans 16 grams. If you eat let's say ¼ of this recipe, then you should get over 10 grams of protein *ONLY* from the grains and beans. If you try to elevate your consumption of protein, then feel free to add some edamame, roasted tofu or simply double the amount of black beans!
More healthy salads you might like
- Mango cucumber salad
- Vegan water feta salad
- Thai carrot cucumber ribbon salad
- Red lentil pasta salad
- Tuscan bean salad
- Rainbow salad bowl with orange dressing
- Kale apple crunch salad
- Bean and corn salad
- Vegan Waldorf salad
- Vegan couscous salad
- Cucumber beetroot salad
I hope you like this vegan Southwestern salad as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
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Brown Rice and Quinoa Salad (Southwestern Style)
- 1 ½ cup cooked brown rice
- 1 ½ cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup frozen thawed corn - or use the kernels from cooked corn on the cob
- 15 oz black beans - rinsed and drained
- 1 red bell pepper - diced
- 3 green onions - sliced
- 1 large mango - diced
- 1 handful fresh cilantro - chopped
- 1 jalapeño, seeded or not - finely diced, optional (to add some heat)
For the yogurt lime dressing
- ⅓ cup vegan plain yogurt - unsweetened
- 3 tbsp lime juice (about 2 small limes)
- 1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1 small clove of garlic - crushed
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt - or more, to taste
- 3 tbsp water
- If not already done, start by cooking the brown rice and quinoa following the packaging instructions. I recommend to use already cooked grains from the store, if possible, to speed up the recipe. See blog post for more tips!
- Make the vinaigrette by combining all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar or a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Set aside.
- Transfer the cooked grains to a large mixing bowl and add the mango, red pepper, green onion, black beans, corn, cilantro and jalapeño (if using).
- Then, pour the dressing over and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt or other spices if needed. You can enjoy right away or chill for a few hours before serving. Top with sliced avocado, lime wedges and more cilantro. Enjoy!
- Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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