There’s something truly delicious about the fusion of creaminess and zesty flavors in this Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad. It’s a personal favorite in our house that we like to make all year round. It includes some of my favorite fresh veggies to work with – fresh cilantro, refreshing cucumbers and crunchy red onion. All these fresh ingredients are tossed with the best creamy cilantro lime dressing ever.
Not only is this Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad incredibly tasty, but it’s also loaded with healthy ingredients. You’ll be surprised at just how much flavor is packed into it! It’s also incredibly versatile. You can switch up the veggies and seasonings multiple ways.
My favorite part of this recipe, though, is the creamy, homemade cilantro lime dressing. It’s made using a base of Greek yogurt and tangy mayo, combined with fresh lime juice, zest and a couple seasonings, like chipotle chili pepper powder. These ingredients work so well together, and make the best, most flavorful dressing for this pasta salad.
For the Dressing:
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is a great base for this dressing and it’s also a great way to add protein to this dish. Make sure it’s plain, and not a flavored one, to avoid unnecessary sugar.
- ½ cup mayo
- 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro – It’s best to finely chop the cilantro. It’s fine to leave the stems on as they add that much more flavor. Note: You need a 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro for the whole recipe, split in half. 2 tablespoons are added to the dressing, and 2 tablespoons to the pasta salad.
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½-1 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper seasoning – How much of this you use is completely based on your personal spice preferences. If you’re sensitive to spice and want to keep this mild, only add ½ teaspoon of this. However, if you’re like me and prefer a little spice, add a full teaspoon.
- juice and zest from one lime – Both of these ingredients are very important, as they add A LOT of flavor to the pasta salad. Especially don’t skip the zest! When writing up this recipe, I tried making it once without the zest and noticed a big difference in the flavor.
- 1 teaspoon salt – The amount of salt to add is also up to your personal preference. Start with a whole teaspoon and then taste the dish at the end. If needed, you can add more salt at that point.
- 1 lb rotini pasta noodles – I prefer rotini, but any short noodle will do, such as penne, bow tie, rigatoni, orecchiette, elbow or ziti.
- 1 large cucumber – Peel the cucumber and then cut it lengthwise. Using a spoon, gently scoop out the seeds and chop the rest into small pieces.
- ½ red onion – Finely diced.
- 1 cup corn, fresh or canned – I used canned, to save time. However, you can also use fresh or frozen. Just be sure the corn is fully cooked before adding it to the pasta salad.
- 1 cup cheese, queso fresco, Cotija or finely grated Parmesan – All three of these cheeses compliment this pasta really well. If you want a more mild flavored cheese, I would opt for the queso fresco. If you like cheeses with a more strong flavor, you should use either Cotija or Parmesan.
- 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro – Finely chopped.
- 1-2 avocados – I love adding avocado to this pasta salad. However, if you choose to add some, don’t add them until right before serving to avoid them turning brown. If you aren’t going to finish the pasta salad in one setting, add the avocado to each individual serving. If you’re serving this at a party or large gathering and you think it will be finished quickly, you can add it to the pasta right before serving, squeeze some extra lime on top and gently toss.
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.
While you wait for the water to boil, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Don’t forget to add the lime juice and zest! Both of these really make this dressing stand out. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until you’re ready for it.
Next, prep the veggies. Finely chop the cilantro and red onion. Peel the cucumber and cut it lengthwise. Easily remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon. Chop the remaining cucumber into small pieces.
When the water is boiling, cook pasta according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain and run under cool water.
In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, corn, cucumber, onion, cilantro and cheese. Pour the dressing over the top and mix well. Place it in the refrigerator and cool for about 3-4 hours, or prepare the day before serving.
If adding avocado, don’t add it until right before serving to avoid them turning brown.
Corn – If possible, this dish is best with fresh corn. I love when corn is in season and I can roast or grill some for this recipe. However, if you can’t find fresh corn, canned or frozen work fine too. Just be sure that if you use fresh or frozen, that you fully cook the corn before adding it to the pasta salad.
Spice level – This recipe adds a kick to the dressing with the addition of chipotle chili pepper seasoning. It’s my favorite ingredient because of how much flavor it adds. However, a little goes a long way. It can get spicy really quick. That’s why I suggest starting with ½ teaspoon and then slowly adding more to your spice preference. I like mine pretty spicy and use a full teaspoon.
Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad
This refreshing Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad recipe combines tangy lime, fresh cilantro, and zesty flavors to create a delicious pasta salad that's quick, easy, and bursting with flavor and fresh veggies.
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup mayo
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro finely chopped
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½-1 tsp chipotle chili pepper seasoning (**see note below)
- juice and zest from one lime (don't forget the zest! It adds a lot of flavor)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb rotini pasta noodles any short noodle will do
- 1 large cucumber peeled and finely chopped
- ½ red onion finely diced
- 1 cup corn fresh or canned
- 1-2 avocados
- 1 cup cheese queso fresco, Cotija or finely grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro finely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Place the bowl in the fridge until you're ready for it.
Prep the veggies for the pasta salad. Finely chop the cilantro and red onion. Peel the cucumber and cut it lengthwise. Easily remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon. Chop cucumber into small pieces.
When water is boiling, cook pasta according to package. Once cooked, drain and run under cool water.
In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, corn, cucumber, onion, cilantro and cheese. Pour dressing over the top and mix well. Place in the refrigerator and cool for about 3-4 hours, or prepare the day before serving.
**If adding avocado, don't add it until right before serving to avoid them turning brown.
** If you’re sensitive to spice and want to keep this mild, only use a 1/2 teaspoon of the chipotle chili powder. For a slightly more spicy pasta salad, add 1 full teaspoon. I like it a little spicy, so I add one whole teaspoon to my dressing.