Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Easy Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups! Lettuce cups, cilantro-lime quinoa, black beans, roasted sweet potatoes and a simple creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing! #vegan #glutenfree

A few weeks back John and I went to my sister’s house for dinner. We can all agree on Mexican food, so taco salads it was.

Salsa and sour cream are obvious toppings for traditional taco salads, but for something dairy-free I went with a creamy cilantro-lime dressing that I made up on the spot. It was so good I was inspired to make this recipe and douse it in the stuff. Green gold, I call it.

If you’re in the market for a satisfying vegan and gluten free appetizer or entree, this is the recipe for you.

Mexican Roasted Sweet Potatoes

The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes and is made with some seriously healthy eats:

Spiced, Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Black Beans
Dark Leafy Lettuce
& Olive Oil

How to Cook QuinoaEasy Mexican Salad Cups!

While your sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooking, whip up your dressing!

It requires just 6 ingredients and is SO creamy and flavorful. Avocado provides plenty of healthy fat, fiber and a little protein, and makes the texture super creamy. Flavor comes from sea salt, lime juice, cumin, agave and cilantro. Olive oil adds more healthy fat and a velvety finish.

This stuff is so dang good, and it makes about 1 cup worth! So keep leftovers in a jar for other salads and Mexican dishes throughout the week.

Cilantro Lime Avocado Dressing! #vegan #glutenfreeMexican Quinoa Salad Cups! Filled with black beans, cilantro-lime quiona and roasted Mexican sweet potatoes. SO good and SO easy! #vegan #healthy #glutenfree #plantbased

Next comes assembly! Simply arrange your lettuce on a plate and top with quinoa, black beans, roasted sweet potatoes and a bit of the cilantro-lime dressing.

Easy Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups! So healthy, simple and SATISFYING! #vegan #glutenfree

John and I split these for lunch and polished the plate!

They’re so light, flavorful and healthy, yet entirely satisfying. If you have vegan or vegetarian friends, they’ll definitely love you for making these. But I think they’re filling enough to please even hearty meat eaters.

If you give them a shot, let me know! Take a photo and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram. I’d love to see! Cheers.

Mexican Quinoa, Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad Cups! Hello healthy, simple plant based dinner! #vegan #glutenfree

4.7 from 12 reviews
Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
30-minute Mexican quinoa salad cups loaded with fiber, protein and healthy fats from quinoa, black beans, sweet potatoes and a creamy, vegan cilantro-lime dressing!
Recipe type: Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine: Mexican, Vegan, Gluten Free
Serves: 4-6
  • For the Salad Cups:
  • 2 heads small, artisan lettuce (any variety that will form cups/wraps nicely – or sub corn tortillas)
  • 1 15-ounce can unsalted black beans (Note: If your beans are salted, omit additional sea salt)
  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed, rinsed and cubed
  • ~1/2 tsp each Cumin, Cinnamon and Sea Salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup dry white or red quinoa, rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
  • Olive Oil
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/2 small ripe avocado
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 small limes, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive or grape seed oil
  • 1/4 tsp each Sea Salt and Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp sweetener of choice (such as cane sugar or honey if not vegan)
  • Water to thin
  • Other Topping Options:
  • Hot Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Jalapeño slices
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prep sweet potatoes. Toss in a drizzle of olive oil and 1/4 tsp each cumin, cinnamon and sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly golden brown.
  2. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat to toast. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes and then add 1 1/2 cups water and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until tender and the water is fully absorbed. Turn off heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate saucepan, bring black beans to a simmer over medium heat and season with 1/4 tsp each sea salt, cumin and cinnamon. If your black beans are already salted, omit additional salt. Once bubbly and warm, turn heat to simmer/low.
  4. Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients besides water to a blender and blending. Add water to thin and scrape down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more lime, salt, cumin or sweetener as desired. Transfer to serving dish. You will have leftovers, which store well in a covered container in the fridge for up to several days.
  5. Rinse and dry lettuce (or sub corn or flour tortillas) and choose the pieces that are a good “cup” shape to fill with toppings.
  6. Arrange on a serving plate and top with quinoa, black beans and sweet potatoes. You might have leftover toppings depending on how many salad cups you prepare. Leftovers keep well.
  7. Serve with dressing and any additional desired toppings, such as cilantro, salsa, chips or sliced jalapeno.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 2 of 12 total salad cups.
*You will have leftover dressing.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 of 12 cups Calories: 282 Fat: 18g Saturated fat: 2.8g Carbohydrates: 28g Sugar: 5g Sodium: 200mg Fiber: 8.6g Protein: 6.8g


danaHi, I'm Dana! I am a food stylist, photographer, and author of the Food Photography School and the 31 Meals Cookbook.

Find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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Talk About It

(or jump to leave a comment & review)
  1. says

    These look so delicious! I make something similar, a vegan buritto bowl, but serving them in little cups would be the perfect appetizer!

  2. says

    Amazing colors!!! I’ve tried quinoa recently and I need recipes, so thanks Dana! I’ll try the dressing with other salad recipes too, but I think I’m gonna remove the olive oil for a lighter version :)

  3. says

    I’m actually cooking vegan Mexican tonight for some girlfriends… I’ve made some chilli beans and other bits and pieces, I am going to add your dressing to the mix for burrito bowls! Yum! Thanks so much – it looks absolutely perfect Dana! x

  4. says

    You guys, this sounds like the perfect dinner. Every dinner. I could eat this forever. SO trying this! And your photos are just phenomenal, as always.

  5. says

    Made this for dinner last night, and the hubs and I loved it!! We just made it into a big salad instead of lettuce cups, and it may just have to go into our weekly rotation. Yum!!!

    • Dana Shultz says

      Lovely! So glad you both enjoyed it so much. A big salad is a much more practical application. Thanks for sharing, Andrea!

  6. Marcia says

    Good morning Dana & John, I am relatively new to your blog/website and wanted to tell you how much I look forward to your messages and recipes, thank you! Today is yet another beautiful example of eating the rainbow full of eye appeal (gorgeous pictures BTW) which lead me to want to make this for dinner tonight. I will swap out the regular black beans for black soybeans which are low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar but high in fiber, better for those with Diabetes. The rest will be as listed. Not only is this a feast for the eye, but it’s fun! Best finger food since olives!! Thank you for inspiring others to eat healthy. You two make a fantastic creative team!

  7. says

    Yum! That dressing looks amazing. I just created a Mexican hash recipe and that dressing sounds like it would be perfect on a poached egg with the hash. Almost like a Mexican hollandaise!

  8. Melanie says

    This was excellent! I grilled some corn, sliced it off the cob, and added it to the salad (since I love black beans and corn together), and it was delicious. My particular boyfriend who is normally skeptical when I make vegan dinners even loved it and went back for a second helping. Thank you for posting!

  9. Jayme says

    Hi! I turned this into a salad because I had salad mix, versus actual lettuce leaves. I never use leftover avocado, so I used a whole avocado and left out the oil in the dressing. It was all so good, so delicious, thanks!!

  10. says

    I’m making your recipe in a couple days, so thought I’d reread it to see what I needed.
    Found your nickname for the salsa is the same as mine…Green Gold! My version of a favorite Austin restaurant’s salsa might just knock yer socks off in the heat dept., but it sure is good.
    These days I take most of the seeds out of the peppers, so more folks can eat it without their heads exploding. :)

  11. Brooke says

    Hi Dana,

    First of all, I have to tell you that I am LOVING all of your recipes so far! I made the chocolate chip oatmeal banana pancakes again this morning. My kids think I’m a genius. Your carrot cake pancakes are also delicious!

    This past weekend I made your peanut butter cup pie, and OH MY WORD…it was sooooo good.

    I have a quick question regarding this one. Can you think of a good substitute for avocado? I’m allergic. :-/

    Thanks so much!

    • Dana Shultz says

      So glad you and your family have been enjoying the recipes! And that your kids think you’re a genius. Score. For this particular dressing, I would sub silken tofu or soaked cashews (drained). Hope that helps!

  12. Erika says

    I’m a big fan of sweet potato and black beans with cumin…but I made this and would suggest some adjustments: first of all, way more spices (like cumin, but also try coriander and even a little curry powder), but less cinnamon and add minced garlic to the beans at least. Also, I’d make sure you’re clear on what “juice of 3-4 small limes” means – I used a hand-juicer tool instead of squeezing by hand and the sauce ended up being REEEEALLY limey, I think more than was intended. Otherwise great idea!

  13. Claude McIntyre says

    Just found your website and this recipe yesterday. I made this last night for our guest who is vegan. It was amazing! Everyone went back for seconds. I added more veggies to the plate, tomatoes, onions, etc., it was outstanding. My boyfriend wanted the cold leftovers in his lunch – um, but there weren’t any leftovers. I will definitely be back for more recipes!

  14. Anya says

    This recipe was great! I made it as a starter for a dinner party and it went down a storm, with guests asking for the recipe. I’m a real avocado fiend so used an extra one in the dip which made it super creamy. Thanks guys x

  15. Maria says

    Thank you for posting this recipe, it is exactly what I was looking for! I’ve been trying to recreate the lime cilantro dressing from Calexico, a restaurant in NYC. Beautiful blog, also! I’m very excited to try more.

  16. Shae says

    this was seriously so yummy! The cumin/cinnamon combo is perfect! I have an avocado allergy so I skipped the dip and just used some Siracha and salsa. TO DIE FOR! I will be making this again.

  17. says

    Made this tonight as a salad instead of the cups. It is amazing. The dressing is similar to that yummy green sauce you get with Peruvian Chicken, but way easier and a lot healthier.

  18. Kimberly says

    I didn’t make the salad, but I made the dressing for a salad I made when I had some friends over. I used agave nectar instead of honey. It was a hit with the crowd!

  19. erika says

    I searched for a non-dairy cilantro dressing and found yours. It’s so good- I drink it when no one’s looking. Thank you!

  20. Leslie says

    I have been enjoying your recipes. I have even tried eating a few of them! So good!

    I would like to purchase your recipe collection. Would it be possible for you to make it available on kindle readers? I am traveling in my RV with my husband, cell phone and kindle. Most of your recipes are perfect for RVers. A lot of us leave laptops at home.

    Thanks, and I will continue looking for new ideas from you.

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