This Southwestern Pasta Salad is the perfect vegan summer recipe. It’s spicy, creamy, nutritious and only takes 30 minutes to make! This post was sponsored by Sweet Earth Natural Foods. I only work with brands whose products and missions I truly believe in. Thanks for supporting my blog!
Southwestern Pasta Salad
Southwestern food. We all love it, right? If not, we can’t be friends. Obviously kidding. But seriously – who doesn’t love good ole beans, rice, salsa, guac, and spice? And margaritas, if you’re up for a little party. 💃
I’m also a big fan of pasta salad. First off, I’m a big fan of pasta in general. Carb-y goodness drowning in any kind of sauce you can imagine – tomato sauce, avocado pesto, chipotle cashew cream (hint, hint👇), whatever your heart desires. Plus, it’s a “throw-it-in-one-bowl-and-call-it-dinner” type thing. Those are my favorite kinds of meals! I know you love them too.
Good news – I’ve put my two loves together by taking some of my favorite Southwestern-inspired flavors and translating it into my take on a Southwestern Pasta Salad that makes for the perfect vegan summer recipe to bring to your next picnic or cookout. You’re welcome!
Ingredients for Southwestern Pasta Salad
This Southwestern Pasta Salad has got some stellar ingredients, like pasta, vegetables and a delicious cashew cream (more on that later). When you put it all together, you’re left with what might be one of my favorite vegan pasta salad recipes that I’ve ever made – yeah it’s that good. Here’s what you need:
- Pasta. I used chickpeas pasta for more protein, but whole-wheat, gluten-free or regular pasta all work!
- Sweet Earth Natural Foods Benevolent Bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon-y goodness, especially when it’s plant-based.
- Raw cashews. They need to be soaked in water overnight to make our cashew cream, but if you forget you can do a power soak (read more in the next section!)
- Salsa. Pick your fave!
- Non-dairy milk. Any plant-based milk works, just go for unsweetened.
- Garlic. You’ll need 2 fresh cloves, which is about 1 teaspoon minced.
- Spices. We’re using chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
- Black beans. Pinto beans would also work well in this Southwestern Pasta Salad. You can use dried beans, or make a pot of Instant Pot Black Beans!
- Corn. Fresh or frozen both are great, just make sure to defrost if using frozen.
- Bell pepper. If you don’t like bell pepper, sauteed poblano or zucchini would be delicious.
To garnish I added cilantro, and I needed some crunchy goodness so I cooked up some of Sweet Earth Foods’ Benevolent Bacon and HOLY ISH this stuff is the real deal. No lie! It’s super easy to make – just cook it for a couple minutes on each side in a lightly oiled skillet, and bam! Crispy vegan bacon that’s the perfect complement to this Southwestern pasta salad.
I found my Benevolent Bacon at Whole Foods, but you can use their store locator to find some bacon close to you! I also love their savory grounds (remember this butternut squash pizza?).
How to Make Spicy Cashew Cream
I remember when I hated pasta sauce. YES, I said it. I liked my spaghetti plain – plain as in no tomato sauce, but smothered in butter and Parmesan cheese. Let’s just said we had some rather unhealthy options at my grandmother’s house (love you, MawMaw – and all the donuts you gave us).
But thank goodness my past is behind me and I can now appreciate a delicious sauce. And you guys. This chipotle cashew cream sauce that we’re using in our Southwestern Pasta Salad is pretty high up on my list of favorite sauces.
The base of the sauce is a simple cashew cream, but we’re spicing it up with tons of delicious Southwestern-inspired flavors.
You’ll want to start by soaking your cashews the night before you intend to make your pasta salad. But let’s be real, how many of us can ever actually remember to do that? If you forget, simply add your cashews to a small pot, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes.
Once the cashews have been soaked or boiled, throw them in a blender with salsa, non-dairy milk, fresh garlic, chili powder, cumin and paprika and blend it all up. Simple as that!
How to Make Southwestern Pasta Salad
The best thing about this Southwestern pasta salad is that it’s done in 30 minutes (!!!), and I know you guys love easy, healthy recipes that you can make quickly. This one fits the bill!
Once you’ve made your cashew cream, boil up your favorite pasta following the package instructions and strain it under cold water to cool it off. While you’re pasta is boiling, cook your Benevolent Bacon in a skillet with a bit of oil for a few minutes until it starts to get crispy. When it’s finished let it cool, and then crumble it into bacon bits.
Finally, it’s as simple as putting it all together! Add your drained pasta, black beans, veggies and bacon bits to a bowl and mix it all up with that glorious cashew cream. Boom – Southwestern Pasta Salad that belongs on your table all summer long.
A Note on Mindful Eating
Making this Southwestern Pasta Salad made me think back on a time when I wouldn’t let myself eat pasta at all. No pasta, no bread, no rice, scared of fruit. We’re living in a world where diet culture tells us we have to avoid carbs at all costs and it’s hard to tune it out.
I think instead of focusing all our energy worrying about foods we shouldn’t eat, we should focus more on how we can practice mindfulness and really enjoy our food – carbs, too! I think people wouldn’t feel the need to give up pasta or bread or even French fries if we actually sat down with our plate without distraction, and savored every bite. Eating mindfully and tuning into our hunger cues makes it much easier to know when we’re satisfied if we’re not rushing or eating in front of a TV.
It’s easy to rush through our meals when our lives get busy, but sometimes we lose sight of the special moments that come when we take the time to savor each bite of food mindfully and share our time with people that we love. Meal time is something to be experienced rather than rushed through.
I know most of us don’t have 30 minutes per meal to sit down without distractions. Sometimes I don’t. But try to set aside just a couple minutes to try enjoy your food, every bite, and recognize how it makes you feel. And find your pleasure not just in the food, but in the people you’re sharing it with.
All that said, please enjoy this Southwestern Pasta Salad. Maybe with some friends or family outside at a picnic. It’s freaking delicious and in my opinion it tastes even better when shared mindfully with the people you love!
More Vegan Pasta Salad Recipes
If this Southwestern Pasta Salad isn’t quite what you’re craving, I have plenty of other vegan pasta salad recipes on the blog!
- Vegan Pasta Salad with Homemade Dairy-Free Ranch
- Vegan Caesar Pasta Salad with Chickpeas
- Italian Vegan Pasta Salad
- Vegan Avocado Caprese Pasta Salad
- Vegan Curried Pasta Salad
Vegan Southwestern Pasta Salad with Spicy Cashew Cream
This Southwestern Pasta Salad is the perfect vegan summer recipe. It’s spicy, creamy, nutritious and only takes 30 minutes to make!
- 10 ounces whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta
- 5 slices Sweet Earth Natural Foods Benevolent Bacon
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight or at least 4 hours*
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 garlic cloves (1 teaspoon minced)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup corn (defrosted if frozen)
- 1 large bell pepper, diced
- Fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- In a skillet or cast iron pan, lightly grease with oil. Over medium heat, add 5 slices of Benevolent Bacon. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip. Remove from heat. When cool, break into small pieces. Set aside.
- To a blender or food processor, add cashews, salsa, milk, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Blend until smooth; season with salt and pepper, if needed.
- In a large bowl, add pasta, black beans, corn, bell pepper, and bacon pieces. Pour the cashew cream on top; stir to combine until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
*If you didn’t soak your cashews, add them to a small pot, cover with water, and boil for 10 minutes.
**If making ahead of time, keep the bacon pieces on the side until serving so they don’t get soggy.
Thanks to Sweet Earth Natural Foods for sponsoring this post! I love working with brands whose products I really love and would honestly recommend. Thank you for supporting this blog that I love oh-so-much so I can bring you delicious recipes!