Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad

A beautiful rainbow colored pasta salad packed with fiber, flavor, and texture. This Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad is packed with nutrition and is a great meal for summer. It’s loaded with vegetables, beans, and topped with a spicy, creamy lime dressing. 

Pasta salads and quinoa salads (like my Mango Bean Quinoa Salad) are my go-to meals of choice in the summer months. When the weather is hot and steamy, I try and keep my cooking to a minimum. A refreshing salad with minimal cooking involved not only tastes great, but helps keep the house cool.

As with most of my salads, this Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad is packed with colors, flavors, and texture. I love to include a rainbow of vegetables in my meals to maximize the number of phytonutrients in my meals. Phytonutrients are what give plant-based foods their colors, and they have a number of health promoting factors as well. We really try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables everyday to get the wide variety of phytonutrients found in the plant kingdom. It’s estimate that their could be up to 10,000! different kinds of phytonutrients in plants. It’s impossible to bottle that all up into a pill, so that’s why we should prioritize getting nutrients from whole fruits and vegetables and not just popping a pill. Thanks to all those veggies and beans, this Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad is packed with fiber too!

The Cilantro Lime dressing on this salad is incredibly delicious! It can be customized to your own spice level by using a more mild chili. I love it spicy, and use habaneros when I make this recipe. From my experience making this sauce, I usually hiccup like crazy when eating the sauce straight- it’s so spicy! However, it milds out a lot once added to the bowl with the veggies and pasta. 

A few notes before you get started:

PASTA: Legume pasta is my pasta of choice- green Ientil pasta, especially has been my go-to of choice. Tolerant lentil noodles, as well as some of the Whole Foods brand of legume-based pasta, have been reliable legume pasta brands in all of my cooking. I am not sponsored by them or make any money from them. I just have tried many other bean/ legume pastas and have found that Tolerant lentil pasta and the Whole Foods legume pasta hold their shape best in prepared dishes (some brands completely disintegrate once a sauce is added).  Feel free to use whole wheat pasta here too.

VEGGIES: With most salad recipes, you can customize the veggie selection to your liking and make it your own! Feel free to use what I have here or come up with your own combination. That’s the great thing about cooking, you really can make things your own.

BEANS: The first few tests of this recipe, I used black beans and those tasted great! I was out one day, so used pinto and kidney beans instead. They were great substitutes! So feel free to use any kind of bean in this recipe.

WHITE MISO PASTE: I use miso for salty flavor- it’s a technique I have carried over from my day job. If miso isn’t an option for you, you can omit and use a pinch of iodized salt, if needed. 

HABANEROS (or other chiles): For a more mild spice, use jalapeños in place of the habaneros. Like the heat more intense, use an even spicier chili of choice. If not everyone in your household likes the heat, you could try leaving the chilis on the side and add to the dish as needed or use as a garnish. Full disclaimer is that I haven’t actually tried the dressing with any other chili (or no chilis at all).  The sauce will be very spicy on it’s own– it makes me hiccup! However,  it milds out a lot once added to the bowl with the veggies and pasta. 

Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

Salad:

1 (8oz) package whole grain or legume-based pasta

1-2 orange or yellow bell peppers, diced

1-1½ cups diced cherry tomatoes 

2 cups shredded purple cabbage

3 cups finely chopped kale 

1½ cup cooked corn 

1-2 (15-oz) can of black beans (or cooked beans of choice), drained and rinsed

Avocado (optional)

Cilantro (optional)

Dressing:

⅓ cup tahini

1¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro (1 bunch of cilantro, include stems)

½ cup lime juice (about 4-5 limes)

2 tablespoons of water

2 teaspoons lime zest (from about 2 limes)

2 tablespoon white miso paste

⅓ cup seeded and chopped habaneros (about 3 large) or other chiles of choice

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 cloves) 

½ teaspoon Black pepper, or to taste 

Method:

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Set aside in a large mixing or serving bowl.
  2. Wash and prep the vegetables. Chop the bell peppers and tomatoes as small or as large as desired. Shred the cabbage and the kale. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the pasta.
  3. If using frozen corn, thaw the corn. Drain and rinse the beans. Add the corn and beans to the bowl with the pasta and vegetables.
  4. Prepare the dressing ingredients. Carefully remove the seeds from the habaneros or chile of choice. In a high speed blender, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour over the pasta salad and toss to coat. 
  5. Store the pasta salad covered in the fridge. Enjoy right away or let the salad to sit for several hours to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with more cilantro and avocado, if desired. Enjoy!

Makes enough for 4-6 people