Healthy Southwest Salad with USA Rice

This delicious and healthy take on a Southwest Salad is dairy free, gluten free, and packed with nutritious ingredients including U.S.-grown brown rice, beans, corn, avocado, and veggies. Then, drizzled with an easy homemade creamy lime vinaigrette. 

Bowl of Healthy Southwest Salad with colourful vegetables

This blog post is in partnership with USA Rice however all opinions are my own. 

A Healthy Southwest Salad


I have to admit, these days one of the things I miss the most is going for a casual dinner out on a whim. With two kiddos in tow (and the ‘state’ of current events) it takes a lot more planning and work to get out.

Restaurants are also often known for their not-so-healthy menu choices, but in consideration of March being Nutrition Month, I wanted to shine a spotlight on how to create mouth-watering, restaurant-worthy meals at home that are nutritious too!

This healthy Southwest Salad is a twist on a long-time restaurant favourite of mine, made with a nutritious and bountiful combination of ingredients and a super simple homemade dressing that comes together in minutes. 

Close up view of Healthy Southwest Salad

What makes this salad nutritious?


This delicious Southwest Salad is packed with antioxidants from the fresh vegetables, fibre and energizing carbohydrates from the U.S.-grown brown rice, beans, corn, and dates, and healthy omega-rich fats from the avocado. 

The simple homemade dressing is not loaded with refined sugar like many restaurant dressings, instead it’s sweetened with honey, and the salad is “lightly” dressed versus being smothered in dressing. 

Close up view of rice for Healthy Southwest Salad

The Star Ingredient: U.S.-grown brown rice


One of the best features of a restaurant-style salad is that they often contain a plethora of unique ingredients beyond just lettuce and protein. I worked at a restaurant for many years and there were always new salads being added to the menu with unique combinations of vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, and other add-ins. 

U.S.-grown brown rice is a game-changer ingredient in this Southwest salad. And if you’re sceptical, let me guarantee you, rice totally goes great in a salad! Not only does this versatile pantry staple make the salad more filling and add in a great texture, it’s also a very healthy addition. 

Healthy Southwest Salad in a bowl with rice, shrimp, avocado, beans and corn

Rice is a fantastic source of minerals including magnesium, iron, and potassium, as well as vitamins like vitamin B6, which is vital for amino acid utilization in the body. 

It is a naturally gluten-free grain and is a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates for long-lasting energy and fibre for healthy digestive function. 

Storage Tip: U.S.-grown brown rice, unlike white rice, contains oil in the bran layer, so it has a limited shelf life of 6-months. To keep it fresh longer, store it in a cool place such as a refrigerator or freezer!

Healthy Southwest Salad mixed up in a bowl

What is a ‘Southwest Salad’?


A ‘Southwest’ salad is a salad that contains ingredients inspired by the southwesten region of the United States, most notably Arizona and New Mexico. The flavours and ingredients of this region include a blend of Mexican, Native American, and a splash of the American Frontier. 

Think spices including cumin and chili powder, herbs like cilantro, and fresh produce including tomatoes, peppers, corn, onion, and lime. Rice, beans, and other starchy carbohydrates are also very common. 

There are many variations for Southwest salads but you will find flavours like those above sprinkled through them all in some way or form. 

Overhead view of ingredients for Healthy Southwest Salad

The Salad Ingredients:


For my healthy take on a Southwest salad, I’ve included an array of common fridge and pantry ingredients that blend together to create an incredible flavour and texture in every bite! 

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • U.S.-grown brown rice 
  • Spring mix lettuce –romaine lettuce or mixed greens also work
  • Cilantro
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Corn (I used frozen, thawed) -grilled corn works great too!
  • Black beans (canned work great) -pinto beans can be used
  • Green onion
  • Avocado
  • Pitted dates (trust me on this one!) 
  • Tortilla strips (I made my homemade air fryer tortilla chips, corn tortillas cut into strips, but you can use any store-bought variety as well) 


Creamy Lime Vinaigrette Ingredients: 


The easy homemade salad dressing for this tasty salad is a simple mixture of the more common fridge and pantry ingredients but adds an explosion of flavor to the salad. 

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Taco seasoning 

I love how the rice in the salad soaks up the southwest salad dressing and becomes even more delicious. It’s like a burst of flavor with every bite of rice! 


Healthy Southwest Salad drizzled with creamy lime dressing


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Cook your shrimp if you are using it and then set it aside. The shrimp should take about 5 minutes to pan sear.
  2. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar or a Tupperware container and close the lid. Shake well to combine for about 30-60 seconds. then allow the dressing to rest and chill in the fridge until needed.
  3. Divide your salad ingredients between the two bowls, starting with lettuce and cilantro.
  4. Then add the toppings of rice, beans, corn, green onion, tomatoes, and avocado along with the chopped dates and tortilla chips.
  5. Now add your cooked shrimp (or other protein) over the top of the salad.
  6. Remove your dressing from the fridge and shake it well one more time to redistribute any ingredients that may have settled.
  7. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.
  8. Enjoy!


Close up view of shrimp for Healthy Southwest Salad

What is Southwest dressing made of? 


Just like the ingredients in the salad, Southwest dressing can vary from recipe to recipe, but often contains the common Southwest flavours like lime, cumin, chili powder, coriander, and garlic. 


Optional Protein in a Southwest Salad


For this salad, I decided to add in pan-seared shrimp that I tossed with olive oil and taco seasoning then cooked in a pan for a few minutes until done. I love that the shrimp brings in additional protein along with the beans but adding an animal protein is totally up to you! 

You can keep this salad completely plant-based (with the exception of the eggs in the mayonnaise for the dressing), or add in grilled chicken breast for a southwest chicken salad, or use salmon, sliced steak, or shrimp for a lean protein like I did. 


Have you ever tried making a restaurant-style Southwest salad at home? Tell me about it in the comments and be sure to pin the photo below to save this recipe for later. 

Bowl of Healthy Southwest Salad with colourful vegetables

Healthy Southwest Salad

Yield: Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

This delicious and healthy Southwest Salad is gluten free and dairy free and packed with corn, beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, and avocado with a creamy lime vinaigrette dressing!



  • 3/4 cup cooked U.S.-grown brown rice*
  • 3 cups greens lettuce or chopped romaine
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup black beans (canned, rinsed and drained)
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels (thawed from frozen is best)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced or diced
  • 4 large, pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 large handful tortilla chips/strips*
  • 2 lime wedges

Creamy Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning

Optional Protein

  • -10 large, deveined shrimp, tossed in olive oil and 1 teaspoon of taco seasoning, then pan-seared until pink and fully cooked (or swap for another protein of your choice).


    1. Cook the shrimp (or other protein) if using, then set aside. The shrimp take approximately 5-minutes to pan-sear.
    2. In a small jar or tupperware container add in the vinaigrette ingredients, close the lid, and shake vigorously for 30-60 seconds, then set in the fridge to chill.
    3. Divide the salad ingredients among two bowls starting with the lettuce and cilantro, then topping with the rice, beans, corn, green onion, tomatoes, avocado, chopped dates, and tortilla chips.
    4. Top with the cooked shrimp (or protein of choice), if using.
    5. Remove the dressing from the fridge and shake one more time, then drizzle over the salads and enjoy!


*1 cup of dry short-grain brown rice will yield approx 3 cups of cooked rice. Because you only need ¾ cup cooked brown rice for this recipe, you can store the rest for another use. Cool the cooked rice and store covered in a shallow container in the fridge for 3-5 days. For more rice cooking tips, go here!

*If you have an air fryer, try my homemade healthy air fryer tortilla chips! Store-bought is also completely fine.


Pin me!

Healthy Southwest Salad pin 1


Don’t forget to visit for more rice recipe ideas and easy how-to videos! Rice is such a great, versatile, healthy grain, you can find hundreds of ways to enjoy this ingredient at home! 



Check out some more salad recipes that you will love!

Author: Christal Sczebel

Christal is the creator of Nutrition in the Kitch. She's a Certified Nutritional Consultant, twice published author, gluten and dairy free recipe developer, food photographer, speaker, wife, and mama. Christal loves good food, all things wellness, and loves to travel. Her wellness philosophy is centred around balance and sustainable health, life's way too short for boring diets and restriction!

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