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This Easy Rice Salad Recipe delivers a punch of Santa Fe flavor and vibrant color to your plate!

Taste the fresh flavor of ripened tomatoes, green onions, sweet corn, and crunchy orange peppers with the heartiness of back beans. Tossed with nutty brown rice and my Santa Fe dressing, it is a meal in itself.

Santa Fe rice salad in a bowl with slices of avocado.

Spring is here and it’s the time of year I crave all kinds of salads — and not just the green, leafy kind. Chilled Santa Fe Rice Salad is an ideal side dish idea for taco night and is even filling enough for a light workday lunch.

Personally, I love to pair this Mexican rice salad with Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas or as a starter before serving my cheesy and hearty Chicken Black Bean Enchiladas.

Want to kick it up a step further? Add delightful toppings like guacamole, sharp cheddar cheese, black olives, or diced avocado.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Easy Rice Salad

  • Brown Rice — The nutty taste of brown rice is best, but you can use wild rice or white.
  • Back Beans — This addition makes the dish hearty and filling. If you want a lighter version, you can leave it out altogether. You can also use kidney beans.
  • Grape Tomatoes Of course, you may dice up a whole tomato if you prefer.
  • Fresh Corn — Corn is so good freshly cut off the cob. But, if you cannot find ears of corn, you can use the frozen corn kernels — not canned corn, though. It would be too mushy.
  • Orange Bell Pepper — Substitute red or green if you need to, but I love to add the color orange as well as the sweetness of this pepper.
  • Green Onions — Use chives, shallots, leeks, or even red onion instead.
  • A Lime — Fresh limes are great because you can squeeze the juice and zest the peel. But you can use lime juice if you need to.
ingredients for Santa Fe rice salad in a bowl ready to be tossed together.
  • Olive Oil — This provides additional flavor to the rice salad. You can use canola, but it just does not taste as good in this recipe. Or, try mayonnaise for a creamy dressing rather than a vinaigrette.
  • Honey — If you realize you are out of honey while making this recipe, try whipping up a little simple syrup.
  • Dijon Mustard — Jar empty? Try any mustard, like stone-ground, spicy brown, or yellow mustard.
  • Avocado — Not everyone likes avocado, so you can slice it and add it to the side.
  • Cilantro — You can also leave this out, as I know some people have an aversion to cilantro. Or just add sprigs so they can remove it.

How to make this brown rice salad recipe?

Chilled Santa Fe Rice Salad is a great side dish idea for taco night and is even filling enough for a light workday lunch. Here is all you need to do to make this recipe.

tossing the ingredients together for Santa Fe Rice Salad in a large white bowl.

STEP 1 | Prep the ingredients

First, chop, dice, and slice the veggies. Then place the cooked cold rice, drained black beans, corn kernels, bell peppers, tomatoes, and green onions in a large salad bowl.

Aren’t they just so deliciously colorful and summery looking?

Now gently toss all those fresh and vibrant ingredients until just mixed together.

whisking together the vinaigrette for Santa Fe rice salad.

STEP 2 | Make the dressing

Making the vinaigrette dressing is easier than you might think. Just juice the lime right into a small bowl and add the olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, and garlic, then whisk it all together.

Add some salt once you have tasted the dressing for yourself.

adding lime zest to ingredients in a salad bowl.

STEP 3 | Zest and dress

Now take the lime and zest it right into the brown rice salad. Pour the homemade dressing into the large bowl and gently toss to cover.

STEP 4 | Cover and Chill

Chill the salad in a covered bowl for a minimum of 30 minutes and then it is ready to serve. This allows the ingredients to absorb some of the delicious dressing and the flavors to incorporate.

Now you can garnish the dish as you serve it with avocado and cilantro. Simply gorgeous!

tips

  • Rinse well. Be sure to rinse the black beans well and allow them to strain in a colander while you are prepping the veggies.
  • Cooked rice. For a time-saver, make the rice the day before and give it the day to chill. You don’t want warm rice here.
  • Add cheese. If you have some cheese in the fridge, why not toss that in too?
  • Over mixing. Try not to over mix this Sante Fe Salad. You do not want to crush the rice or the black beans.
  • Picky family members? Try making the rice and beans in the large bowl and turning the rest into a “salad bar” with separate bowls of each vegetable and a carafe of the dressing.
Santa Fe rice salad in a bowl with salad tongs.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best way to get the corn off the cob?

Take the ear of corn and stand it on one end. Using a sharp knife, slice downward to remove the golden corn kernels.

Can I make this rice salad recipe the night before?

Yes, you sure can. Just be sure to set aside the avocado and the cilantro until serving.

Is this a spicy Mexican salad?

The way it is, it is not spicy. However, you can add spicy peppers like jalapenos or a dash of cayenne to turn up the heat.

Can I use white corn instead?

It is your choice! Either white or yellow will work for my Mexican rice salad.

a wooden fork nestled in a bowl of Santa Fe rice salad.

More refreshingly hearty salads

For more scrumptious and refreshing salads, try any of the following recipes.

Behind the recipe: Chilled Santa Fe Rice Salad

Cold rice salads are so flexible — you can make them with almost anything you have in your kitchen fridge. There are so many nationalities that boast amazing rice salads, not only the Mexican rice salad version here. For example, you can find Italian, Japanese, or Indian recipes for hearty rice salads.

Try this Mexican version of rice salad and it may just become your favorite!

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

Santa Fe rice salad in a bowl with slices of avocado.

Santa Fe Rice Salad

This Easy Rice Salad Recipe delivers a punch of Santa Fe flavor and vibrant color to your plate!
4 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Chill Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 285 kcal

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice chilled
  • 3/4 cup black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes diced
  • 1 ear fresh corn steamed and cut from the cob
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper diced
  • 3 green onions sliced
  • 1 medium lime (juice and zest) ~ 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 small avocado diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro optional

Instructions
 

  • In a large salad bowl, gently toss together the cooked rice, beans, corn, bell pepper, tomato, and green onions. Save the avocado to add after chilling.
  • Juice and zest the lime. Add the juice to a small bowl along with the olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, and garlic, whisking until well combined. Taste and season with salt to your preference.
  • Add the lime zest to the bowl with the salad ingredients and pour the vinaigrette all over, tossing gently.
  • Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. Just before serving, gently stir in diced avocado and chopped cilantro, if desired.

Notes

Recipe adapted from The Fresh Market Cookbook
  • Rinse well. Be sure to rinse the black beans well and allow them to strain in a colander while you are prepping the veggies.
  • Cooked rice. For a time-saver, make the rice the day before and give it the day to chill. You don’t want warm rice here.
  • Add cheese. If you have some cheese in the fridge, why not toss that in too?
  • Over mixing. Try not to over mix this Sante Fe Salad. You do not want to crush the rice or the black beans.
  • Picky family members? Try making the rice and beans in the large bowl and turning the rest into a “salad bar” with separate bowls of each vegetable and a carafe of the dressing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingsCalories: 285kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 5gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 115mgPotassium: 467mgFiber: 7gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 972IUVitamin C: 38mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
Keyword avocado, black beans, rice salad
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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