Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad

It’s National Picnic Month – Time to Celebrate with this Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad.

plate of Mexican Pasta Salad served with cole slaw and asparagus
  • Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad dressed with Salsa. Make it as hot – or not – as you wish!
  • Make Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad for your next picnic or potluck.
  • Salad can be prepared gluten-free, and it’s an easy way to add healthy beans to your diet.

When I was four, my Nana dragged me and a basket of goodies to the corner rest area. There we munched our bologna and mustard sandwiches while sitting under the big oak tree. It was a beautiful summer day, so quiet and peaceful we could hear the insects buzzing and the leaves rustling on the breeze. Nana probably just wanted to get out of the too-warm house, but I can still see that day in my mind, and have loved picnics ever since.

I gave up bologna sandwiches long ago (and shudder to think that I ever ate them!), but picnics are still a big part of my summers. I even own TWO picnic baskets. The best picnics include sliced cucumbers, fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, hummus and crackers, and an easy-to-prepare salad like this Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad.

Perfect Picnic Salad

This salad has been a long-time family favorite, and was adapted from an old Weight-Watchers recipe. Use any shape pasta you have on hand, although I like it best when made with large salad elbows. But I can’t always get those, so small elbows, shells, and rotini work well too.

Sometimes, as in the above photo, I use gluten-free pasta so my daughter-in-law can have some too. Usually I make the salad with my favorite medium salsa, but mild salsa works too. Hot salsa might be too much for a pasta salad, although you could use half hot and half medium if your guests love spicier food.

The recipe makes several servings, probably 8-10. Leftovers stay fresh in the refrigerator for days. It can be prepared gluten free and is vegetarian. It works equally well as a side dish or as the main offering. And best of all, it goes together quickly.

Spicy Mexican Pasta Salad

This flexible salad is vegetarian, easy to prepare, and can be made gluten free. It's the perfect salad for a picnic or potluck.
Course Salad
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 9 servings


  • 1 cup uncooked
    macaroni elbows or other pasta

  • 1 (15 ounce) can
    kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/2 cup sliced
    black olives

  • 1 cup frozen
    corn kernels, thawed

  • 2 cups prepared
    red salsa

  • 2 Tablespoons red
    wine vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons chili

  • 1 cup crumbled
    queso fresco cheese or shredded Monterey Jack cheese


  • Prepare
    pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until
    pasta is cooled.

  • In a large
    bowl, combine cooked pasta, kidney beans, olives, and corn.

  • In a small
    bowl, stir together salsa, vinegar, and chili powder.

  • Add salsa
    mixture to pasta mixture and gently stir to combine.

  • Fold cheese
    into salad mixture.

  • Salad may be
    eaten at once, but is best if refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at SeedToPantry.com. Find her professional food writing info at PenandProvisions.com.

July 9, 2019

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