This make ahead Mexican salad with ranch dressing is packed full of delicious, colorful vegetables and can be ready in just 10 minutes! It’s one of my favorite make ahead Mexican side dishes for a potluck or party because it’s unexpected and different, but is also very simple to make. Plus, this easy dish can be used as a side, a dip, or a mouthwatering topping for a burger or tacos.
This Sip Bite Go recipe was featured on Portland’s KGW News.
Make ahead Mexican salad is always a favorite football party appetizer or potluck side dish. If you’re making this to bring to an event, don’t forget to make extra for your own fridge. Leftovers last up to 5 days — though they never make it that long!
Whether you are looking forward to potlucks and barbecues or you’re just craving a refreshing and flavorful snack, this easy Mexican salad recipe is the perfect, versatile side dish. Ready in just 10 minutes, I love to serve this as a side salad, a dip with tortilla chips, or as an extra topping with my weeknight proteins, like chicken or pork.
Ingredients for make ahead Mexican salad
The ingredient list can be modified for your particular tastes.
- For the base of this make ahead Mexican side dish, I recommend using frozen corn, black beans, red pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, carrots, finely diced jalapeño, and a smokey mozzarella cheese.
- For the dressing, I use a store-bought ranch dressing and kick it up a notch with a few additions: chili powder, fresh chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
This salad doubles as a dip, so I like to have our favorite tortilla chips on hand to enjoy it.
How to Make Mexican Salad
Step 1: Prep the corn
The corn gives the salad a sweet bite. Skip the cob and use frozen corn to make this dish fast — simply pull it out of the freezer to thaw in a strainer while you prep the other ingredients.
- If you’re making the salad 1+ hours ahead, you can add frozen corn directly to the salad and it will thaw in the fridge.
- If you’re serving the salad immediately, thaw the frozen corn in the fridge ahead of time (can be done overnight) or cook the corn and let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.
TIP: Want fresh corn? Check out this recipe for sous vide corn on the cob.
Step 2: Choose your cheese
Any Mexican-appropriate cheese will do (cheddar, pepper jack, queso fresco, cojita), but I like using smoked mozzarella. I buy it fresh on the block and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
Step 3: Time for black beans
To prepare the black beans, drain them in a strainer and rinse off the bean juice. If you don’t wash the beans first, the bean juice will take away from the beautiful fiesta colors in this chilled salad.
Step 4: Dice your produce
The rest of the ingredients are diced and can be prepped ahead of time.
TIP: Learn how to cut bell peppers into strips for a quick and easy way to dice peppers.
Step 5: Combine the ingredients
In a large bowl, combine the chopped vegetables (corn, black beans, red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, carrots, jalapeño) and mozzarella cheese.
Step 6: Add ranch dressing
Slowly add in the ranch dressing. A little goes a long way, so start with just three tablespoons, toss to coat, then add additional tablespoons of ranch if needed.
If you varied the quantity of any salad ingredients you may need more or less dressing. The vegetables should be lightly coated in ranch so the colors of the vegetables are still visible. Remember, less is more! I often use Toby’s Ranch Dressing for this make ahead Mexican salad.
Step 7: Final seasonings
Like any great Mexican dish, this salad calls for cilantro. To chop the cilantro, cut the leafy parts off the stems, then loosely dice them.
Next add chili powder, a squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper to finish off your delicious Mexican vegetable dish.
Step 8: Toss and serve
Lightly toss the salad to combine the dressing and ingredients. I always like to save a pinch of cilantro to sprinkle on top. Serve as a dip with chips or enjoy this dish as a salad.
TIP: The vibrant colors of the vegetables should still be visible – less ranch is more. If serving as a dip, you can add chopped avocado right before serving to change this recipe up a bit.
Tasty tips for make ahead Mexican salad
- Corn: If serving immediately, use thawed (or cooked) corn. If making ahead, add the frozen corn directly to the salad. It will thaw in about an hour in the fridge.
- Beans: Keep this salad bright and beautiful by rinsing the black beans before adding them to the salad. Otherwise the bean juice will discolor the salad.
- Make it a dip: Serve it with tortillas.
- Add avocado: Add chopped avocado right before serving.
Storage and Leftovers
This simple make ahead Mexican salad will last in the fridge for up to 5 days. Store in an airtight container and use the leftovers throughout the week to top tacos, burgers, or this delicious sous vide pulled pork.
Add an appetizer
If you’re in the market for an appetizer to serve with this salad, see this bacon wrapped jalapeño appetizer – it’s so tasty – there will be no leftovers if you make them!
Love Mexican food and always end up with leftovers? Check out this article which answers the question “can you freeze refried beans“?
Some kitchen staples for quick pasta salads
- Save time by using a mandoline or food processor to chop pasta salad vegetables.
- Work on your home chef skills with something like my 8″ Shun chef’s knife and one of these bamboo cutting boards or my beautiful Acadia wood cutting board.
- These are my favorite mixing bowls. They come with lids so the salads can be made, stored in the fridge, and served in one bowl. Plus, they’re good looking.
- Beautiful wood serving spoons are always within arms reach in my utensil drawer. I don’t just save them for “special occasions”. Use them to make any weeknight meal feel fancy.
- Mini tongs can be handy for serving sides and salads, too.
Readers also love these easy salads…
- Mexican Pasta Salad with Chili Lime Dressing
- Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- Red Cabbage and Carrot Salad
- Mexican Salad with Ranch Dressing
- Best Caprese Salad Recipe
Let me know when you make this make ahead Mexican salad. Be sure to leave a comment and rate the recipe. It means so much to hear from Sip Bite Go readers and I love seeing photos of your food! Don’t forget to tag me @sipbitego on Instagram so I can see how the recipe turned out. And sign up for the Sip Bite Go newsletter.
Make Ahead Mexican Salad with Ranch Dressing (Sip Bite Go)
- 1 cup corn frozen
- 1 can black beans
- 1 red pepper diced
- 1 red onion diced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 cup carrots diced
- 2 tbsp jalapeño pith and seeds removed, diced
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese smoked flavor, cubed
- 3-5 tbsp ranch dressing
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 3 tbsp cilantro diced
- ½ lime for juice
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Tortilla chips optional for dip
- Prepare the corn. If you’re making the salad at least an hour ahead, you can add frozen corn directly to the salad and it will thaw in the fridge. If you’re serving the salad immediately, thaw the frozen corn in the fridge ahead of time (can be done overnight) or cook the corn and let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Drain the beans and rinse them with water.
- In a large bowl, combine the chopped vegetables (corn, black beans, red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, carrots, jalapeño) and mozzarella cheese.
- Add ranch dressing. Start with 3 tbsp ranch, then toss, and add more as needed. The vegetables should be lightly coated in ranch so the colors of the vegetables are still visible. Less is more.
- Add chili powder, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper. Lightly toss to combine. Serve as a dip with chips or enjoy this dish as a salad.
- See how to cut bell peppers for a quick and easy way to dice the peppers.
- Notes on corn… If serving immediately, use thawed (or cooked) corn. If making ahead, add the frozen corn directly to the salad. It will thaw in about an hour in the fridge.
- Keep this salad bright and beautiful by rinsing the black beans before adding them to the salad. Otherwise the bean juice will discolor the salad.
- Slowly add in the ranch dressing. A little goes a long way. Start with three tablespoons, toss to coat, then add additional tablespoons of ranch if needed. The vibrant colors of the vegetables should still be visible – less ranch is more.
- If serving as a dip, you can add chopped avocado right before serving to change this recipe up a bit.
- This salad will last up to 5 days in the fridge.
- Use leftover Mexican salad to top tacos or burgers. I love this salad on top of sous vide pulled pork.