Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

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Plate of Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with a bowl of cilantro-lime dressing

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.

Baking sheet filled with freshly roasted sweet potato cubes for 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

Pan of freshly cooked fluffy quinoa
Freshly washed lettuce leaves for making Easy 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.

Blender and bowl of Cilantro Lime Avocado Dressing
Bowl of Cilantro Lime Avocado Dressing surrounded by Mexican Lettuce Cups

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.

Pouring Cilantro Lime Dressing onto vegan Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups

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.

Grabbing a Mexican Quinoa Salad Cup made with sweet potatoes and black beans

Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

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!
Author Minimalist Baker
Bowl of dressing surrounded by Mexican Quinoa Salad Cups
4.87 from 29 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 (salad cups)
Course Appetizer, Entrée
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3-4 Days (dressing only)


For the Salad Cups:

  • 2 small heads 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
  • 2-3 small limes, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive or avocado 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:


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and prep sweet potatoes. Toss in a drizzle of olive oil and 1/4 tsp each cumin, cinnamon and sea salt (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly golden brown.
  • 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 (amount as original recipe is written // use a 1:2 ratio quinoa:water if altering batch size). 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.
  • 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 (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). If your black beans are already salted, omit additional salt. Once bubbly and warm, turn heat to simmer/low.
  • Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients (starting with 2 small or 1 large lime(s) as the original recipe is written) 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.
  • Rinse and dry lettuce (or sub corn or flour tortillas) and choose the pieces that are a good “cup” shape to fill with toppings.
  • 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.
  • Serve with dressing and any additional desired toppings, such as cilantro, salsa, chips or sliced jalapeno.


*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.
*Note: this is not a traditional Mexican dish, but is inspired by ingredients and flavors common in Mexican cuisine, such as black beans, cumin, avocado, lime, and salsa.
*You will have leftover dressing.

Nutrition (1 of 12 servings)

Serving: 1 salad cups Calories: 282 Carbohydrates: 28 g Protein: 6.8 g Fat: 18 g Saturated Fat: 2.8 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 200 mg Fiber: 8.6 g Sugar: 5 g

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    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Jane, yes, we used canned beans. We cooked them in the juices, but you can drain slightly!

  1. Milah says

    Hi there ! I’m really looking forward to trying this and wondering if you leave the skin on the sweet potato?
    Thank you!

  2. Jess says

    Another delicious meal! I added organic roasted chicken breast bites to my cups and also spicy salsa…amazing, filling and so healthy! Thanks for another great recipe! So good!

  3. Maryann says

    Would it be possible to get an exact measurement for the lime juice in the cilantro lime dressing. States 2-3 limes. I used 3 small and it’s definitely too “limey”.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Maryann, we don’t have an exact measurement, unfortunately. But typically 1 small lime yields ~2 Tbsp. Hope that helps!

  4. Rachel says

    I love this Dana! I’ve made it several times but I’ve got to ditch the oil Drs orders :(
    What do you think about subbing a little cashew cream and water and maybe a little water? Maybe just 1 Tbs oil ? Ugh.

  5. Katie says

    I’ve made this recipe many times. My 1.5 yo loves to eat the sweet potatoes as-is, so we always make extra. Serving these tomorrow at an Independence Day party. So full of my favorite flavors! Well done. ?

  6. Mezz says

    Hi I’m a chef working at a university in Australia..
    I cook for a diverse and selective students
    I followed the recipe and converted it for 250 hungry students ..
    It was the talk of the day ..
    The dressing is delicious..made a few changes but nothing exciting enough to talk about ..
    Thanks minimalist baker for your inspirational recipe s

      • Em says

        I was extremely pleased with this recipe. I only had romaine lettuce and it worked great. I definitely suggest adding salsa.

        For the dressing, I skipped the cilantro and used two limes and it came out perfect.

  7. Valerie says

    I love this recipe and keep coming back to it. It makes a nice light dinner and I always take leftovers for lunch the next day; I usually double the recipe to get a few meals out of it for my husband and I. I made it using your East 1 Pot Black Beans from Scratch recipe, as it’s so good as well. Thank you for this yummy recipe!

  8. lacey says

    I MADE THIS OIL FREE! was amazing, i added one whole avocado instead of half, and replaced the oil in the same amount with water instead. wonderful dressing, i also didnt add oil to the sweet potatoes, and only added salt to the dressing. more WFPB vegan. thanks wonderful recipe!!! will make again forsure ;)

  9. Lacey says

    Can this recipe be made oil free? if so how would I do this? I was thinking of adding a whole avocado and then for the oil portion use water?

  10. ELLEN PUGLISI says

    Hi Dana, I made the Cilantro lime avocado dressing and I think the measurements are off for the amount of limes. I used juice from 2 limes and a whole avocado and the lime flavor was overwhelming……so I added another avocado and it turned out delicious. Love it and will make it again. I used Agave for the sweetener and it was good as well. Thanks for your recipes, I am enjoying them ! Ellen P.

  11. kristin says

    This was perfect! Im new to eating “meat free” and this was easy and delicious! I consider myself proficient in the kitchen so this was fun to make! I added yellow squash as well, as it was sitting on the counter begging to be eaten :) Thanks-

  12. Maria says

    Hello, I would like to make this delicious sounding recipe but I’m wondering about the serving size. It says it is for 12 servings. I adjusted the servings to 2 to make this for my husband and I, which made the measurements very small, e.g. .08 avocado and .17 sweet potato. This doesn’t seem nearly enough food for two. Any advice is welcome, thanks!


    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Maria! It is 12 servings when made as an appetizer. I’d recommend cutting the recipe in half for two people eating it as a meal. Hope this helps!

      • Maria says

        Thanks for your quick and helpful response! One more question regarding the nutrition per serving. In the posted recipe it is 282 calories and 18 g of fat for 1/12 (1 serving), meaning the whole dish is 3384 calories and 216 g of fat.

        If I was to halve the recipe to serve two people as entrees (now 1692 cal total), that would mean each of those two servings would have 846 calories and 54 g of fat. I was wondering if those numbers were correct because it doesn’t seem to be such a high calorie recipe

  13. Nicola Vila says

    I have made these 3 different times for company in the last month. Easily and delicious recipe (like all your other recipes I have tried)! The sauce is the best part!! I used collard green leaves to make them more of a wrap, since the lettuce cups were kind of messy the first time around. Thank you for sharing!!

  14. Hadi says

    Absolutely loved this dish!!! Words really cannot justify how good this dish is. Full of flavor and extremely easy to make!

  15. Teresa says

    Delicious! Used brown rice and leftover roasted sweet potatoes. I want to put that dressing on EVERYTHING! So good!

  16. Anna Marie Mywaart says

    Just made your 1 Pot Lentil Chili (seriously AMAZING!!) and am now starting this recipe. Vegan feast tonight! One question – do I drain the black beans? Some brands have quite a bit of fluid.
    Thanks for all your marvelous recipes!

  17. Kristen Tenney says

    What an amazing delicious, refreshing, and filling recipe! I doubled the dressing and only used half the oil. Still yummy. Also, I didn’t make cups but just put all ingredients over a bed of romaine lettuce. I made extra sweet potatoes and quinoa which made for easy leftovers! So good!!!!!!!

  18. Diane says

    I don’t usually use oil in dressings. Anything I can sub for the oil in the dressing without too much compromise to the flavor?

  19. FAN (-_-) says

    These sound amazing. I´m looking for another party to serve this recipe. It´s an excellent way to share with my friends, i don´t know anything about them. I’m very excited to try more recipes from this blog.

  20. Zorana says

    Bless your blog. I’m drooling over so many recipes and can’t wait to try them. And I’m not even vegan, but this is a-happening ;-) Thanks for sharing so many of them freely here!

  21. Katie says

    I made this last night along with the Portabello & Butternut squash wraps. I have made quinoa several times but never really enjoyed it that much. I don’t know if it was a different brand of quinoa, or the fact that I rinsed and toasted it like the recipe indicates, but this was awesome! I was lazy and was tired of eating salad so I just mixed the quinoa, black beans, kernels from a fresh ear of corn, raw onions, cilantro all together and was in heaven~!!! it was delicious. Since I made the Portabello & Butternut squash wraps also I didn’t want to duplicate the squash ingredient. So I used my squash in the other recipe. The Avocado Dressing is the bomb!!! Loved it. OH! and the red sauce from the Portobello and Butternut Squash wraps is so good I was just eating it with a spoon! Delightful din din!

  22. Sher says

    Just tried this tonight (after looking for a creamy cilantro avocado dressing…shoulda known you would have my back, Dana). It was fantastic… Not a cinnamon fan but went with it and was delighted how the flavored came together. Did crush some tortilla chips on top of each lettuce wrap for a nice fortified crunch. Great recipe.

  23. Karen says

    This was wonderful as a salad on a bed of arugula. Used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes as that is what I had on hand. Definitely going into our regular rotation. Dressing will be lovely on lots of salads, Tex mex. tacos, etc. ?

  24. Erica Lanier says

    Hi Dana! I recently tried the cilantro lime dressing in this recipe and it is DELISH! I am writing blog about my journey towards an eventually vegan lifestyle. I was hoping I could link to this recipe as something I tried. Let me know if this is okay with you. If not, I respect that! (I couldn’t find where to email you directly, or privately…)

  25. lindsey says

    these sound amazing! any idea how long this dressing lasts? i would like to try to make it ahead of time but wasn’t sure if the avocado in it would brown.

  26. Alexandra K. says

    Dana, this recipe was SO good! I substituted rice for quinoa due to the over-abundance of it in my pantry and I don’t think it a difference. The taste of the cinnamon sweet potatoes and black beans mixed with the cilantro-lime dressing was wonderful. YUM! I might have been a little too over-ambitious with the romaine cups… I filled them over-capacity to the point that they were a little messy to eat. Next time I’ll just make more, smaller cups :). Thank you for sharing this, I love your blog!

  27. Jerm says

    This was our second dinner from your blog in the past week. 5 stars. But let me preach about dis dressing doe! Oh my damn… We’ve been searching for any and all excuses to smear that goop on every edible in our house. Carrot chips? Yup. Pizza? Fo sho… Straight up on a spoon? You know it girl! All this to say, that dressing is pro!

  28. Liz says

    I made this tonight. I can’t wait until breakfast when I will eat some more of it. My lettuce cups weren’t cooperating, so I just made it into a salad. Awesome recipe!!

  29. Shannon says

    I made these for Meatless Monday lunch at my work (with just a small variation using brown rice instead of quinoa) and they were such a hit! Especially that dressing…mmm!

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

  33. Christy 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. EatFreeRecipes says

    I am so excited to give these a try later this week! That cilantro lime dressing looks to die for!
    Looking forward to coming back after and reporting thumbs up all around :)

  37. 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

  38. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker 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!

  41. erin 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. :)

  42. 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!!

  43. 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!

  44. Rasa @ The Vixen Life 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!

  45. 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!

  46. Andrea 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!!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

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

  47. Trish 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.

  48. laurasmess 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

  49. Iosune | Minimal Eats 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 :)

  50. Christina @ but i'm hungry says

    Can’t wait to try this… anything in a lettuce cup is a big hit around here. Go figure! The flavors sound heavenly!

  51. Meredith @ Unexpectedly Magnificent says

    Ooh, this dressing sounds amazeballs! I will definitely be making it in the future. :)

  52. Alex says

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