I love a good, healthy salad recipe that I can prep for lunches for the week and this Mexican salad recipe really fits the bill. It is packed with nutrition and therefore I would classify it as a nourish bowl or Buddha bowl. Both are well-balanced and nutrient dense bowl meals that include veggies, legumes, seeds, and healthy fats. You can even add an animal protein source or a whole grain depending on your dietary preferences.
Why I love this Mexican Salad
- Perfect for meal prep: You can make this Mexican salad ahead of time and keep in one large container or divide into smaller containers for a quick grab-and-go meal. Note to store the dressing separately to maintain the freshness of the salad ingredients.
- Nutrient dense: This Mexican salad bowl contains legumes (black beans), veggies (greens, peppers, sweet potatoes, onions), seeds(pepitas) and a healthy fat (avocado). All of these plant foods contain phytonutrients that provide an array of health benefits. Further these foods contain fiber which helps to balance blood sugar, feeds healthy gut bacteria and provides satiety.
- Big on texture: This salad provides a texture party with each bite. There is crunch from the pepitas and peppers, creaminess from the potatoes and avocado and a firm bite from the beans and corn. Take the texture up a notch by adding tortilla strip for an extra salty crunch.
- The dressing!: I’m a sucker for a good homemade dressing. Once you start making your own you can’t go back to store bought. This one adds creaminess and tang from the yogurt which pairs perfectly with the ingredients in this salad. Lime and cilantro is the perfect combination for that fusion of Mexican ingredients and flavors.
Ingredients for prepping your Mexican salad bowl
Sweet potatoes- These may be my favorite addition to the bowl. They offer a smoky depth of flavor from being roasted with smoked paprika and cumin. Yum!
Salad greens- This salad is so versatile. Choose whichever greens you like. You can opt for a medley of dark, leafy greens for a nutrient punch or chopped romaine for added crunch.
Bell pepper- Any color bell pepper will work in this salad. I used red here but will typically use whatever I have on hand.
Onion- Red onion is my favorite in this recipe. Green onions would work well too. If you really want to level up your salad I suggest using my recipe for pink pickled onions.
Corn- I use frozen corn that has been thawed in this recipe. You could also use canned that has been drained. In the summer months I highly recommend using in-season corn on the cob. For maximum flavor char or grill the corn before cutting it off of the cob and serving it in this salad.
Black beans- What is a Mexican salad bowl without black beans? I use canned that have been thoroughly rinsed and drained.
Pepitas- A fancy name for pumpkin seeds, these offer the best crunch as a topping.
Avocado- Another Mexican salad bowl must have. If making this salad ahead as meal prep, I would leave out the avocado and top the salad with fresh avocado right before serving. If you are planning to have leftovers I would also recommend serving the avocado on the side as it will not stay fresh in the stored salad.
For the dressing
Fresh cilantro- This fresh herb packs such a flavor punch. You don’t have to be meticulous about a few stems getting in the mix. They will blend up in the food processor and still add flavor.
Chipotle pepper in adobo- This is one of those magical ingredients that really brings the flavor. It adds a hint of smokiness to the dressing. Find chipotle peppers in adobo in the international section of the grocery store along with other Mexican ingredients.
Rice vinegar- I like using rice vinegar in this dressing since it is on the milder side.
Honey- Honey adds a hint of sweetness to balance the yogurt and lime juice. If you want to keep it vegan, sub agave or maple syrup.
Lime juice- Fresh squeezed lime juice is my first choice but you can use bottled as well.
Garlic- Fresh garlic is best.
Yogurt- The yogurt adds tang and creaminess to this dressing. I opt for Forager cashew yogurt to keep it plant based. You could also use a plain Greek yogurt or sub sour cream.
How to make the Mexican salad bowl
First make the dressing ahead of time by adding all of the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Store in a glass jar until ready to use.
Secondly roast the sweet potatoes. This step can also be done ahead of time so that the sweet potatoes have time to cool. (I like to roast more potatoes than the recipe calls for to have them on hand as a side dish.) Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil and toss with the seasonings to coat. Roast for 20-25 minutes in a 400 degree oven until easily pierced with a fork.
It is a perfect time to assemble the salad while the sweet potatoes are roasting.
First add the greens to a large serving bowl.
Next add the toppings- black beans, corn, peppers and onions. Add the sweet potatoes once they have cooled.
Garnish with toppings- pepitas and avocado. Additional, optional toppings include tortilla strips and cheese.
Serve the salads and offer the vinaigrette on the side. I like to keep the dressing on the side, that way if there are leftovers the undressed salad will stay fresh.
Mexican Salad Bowl Add-ins and Variations
Add a protein- Even though the black beans provide plant based protein, you may opt to add-in grilled chicken or grilled shrimp or your favorite taco meat.
Add a grain- Add brown rice or quinoa to make the bowl even more hearty.
Add or swap out roasted veggies- Roasted cauliflower or zucchini are great choices for this salad.
Add olives- Add olives to the list of optional toppings as they pair well with the other salad ingredients.
How to store leftovers
The salad keeps as long as the dressing has not been added, otherwise it will become soggy. Store leftover, undressed salad in an airtight container for up to three days. Store leftover dressing in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Mexican Salad with Creamy Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- 1 large sweet potato cubed
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/3 cup black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 cup corn
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1/2 small red onion sliced thin
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- Optional topping: avocado
- 6 cups salad greens loosely packed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the cubed sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle the smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Toss to coat all of the cubed pieces and spread out in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile place the salad greens in a large bowl.
- Add the black beans, corn, red pepper and onion. Add the sweet potatoes once cooled.
- Top with the pepitas and any other desired toppings. Serve with a side of the creamy cilantro lime vinaigrette.
Creamy Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- 1/2 c cilantro leaves
- 1 tsp chipotle pepper in adobo
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 Tbsp lime juice fresh squeezed
- 1 small garlic clove
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 c plain Forager cashew yogurt
- Place all ingredients in a food processor.
- Blend until smooth and creamy.