Southwest Chicken Salad – This Chicken Taco Salad is fresh, fast & flavorful. With bright colors, bold flavors, and an amazing Southwest Ranch Dressing, it’s one of my favorite warm weather dinners! (Gluten free, paleo-friendly)
When the temperatures go up, my motivation to spend a lot of time cooking goes WAY down. (Anyone else?) Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE cooking, but I don’t want to heat up my house with a ton of long cooking or roasting time. Basically, at our house, summer time = lots of salads time. I love the fresh, light feel and love that there are ENDLESS combinations of proteins + veggies + dressings to keep things interesting.
Southwest Chicken Salad is exactly the kind of low-cook (or no-cook!) recipe I love. It’s fast, fresh, and flavorful. There’s protein, plenty of vibrant colors, and big, bold flavors, so it’s more or less an all-in-one meal. (Paired with a little fresh watermelon on the side!)
Plus, I love Tex-Mex, and this chicken taco salad’s got all those yummy southwest flavors going on that I crave. Aaaaaand, I usually use leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken so it’s even easier. (Ain’t no shame in that rotisserie game!) Have I convinced you to try it yet?
What’s In My Southwest Chicken Salad
I love that with a big salad like this, the exact amounts and ingredients are SUPER flexible. Love something? Add more of it! Don’t love something? Add less or skip it! Here’s what’s in mine:
- ROMAINE LETTUCE. Honestly, whatever you favorite lettuce is would work GREAT. Romaine has a nice, vibrant color and plenty of crunch, so I like how it works here.
- CHICKEN. I love using up leftover cooked chicken for Southwest Chicken Salad–baked, poached, grilled, rotisserie…whatever you’ve got! (Also: If you prefer eating plant-based, you could totally skip it.)
- BLACK BEANS. I just love ’em. They’re delicious here. Color, flavor… it all works!
- CORN. Grilled, steamed, cut from the cobb… whatever you love!
- TOMATOES. I’m a sucker for tomatoes. I especially love the multicolor ones because they’re SO pretty!
- GREEN ONION. I love that these are more mild than raw diced onions, and the color is gorgeous!
- CILANTRO. Fresh, vibrant, and the perfect way to tie in the southwest/Tex-Mex flavors. If you don’t care for cilantro, feel free to skip it!
- AVOCADO. They’re my love language. I can’t help it! I’d put them on everything, if I could!
- SOMETHING CRUNCHY. My FAVORITE is to make some crispy homemade tortilla strips. I’ll walk you through how I make them in the recipe card (it only takes a few minutes). You can also use store-bought tortilla strips, tortilla chips, or some pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Just a little something to add a satisfying crunch!
- SOUTHWEST RANCH DRESSING. I’m a sucker for a good salad dressing and this one is such a yummy blend of creamy and savory. The chili powder and seasonings are great with the veggie blend. The combination is just right!
Notes on This Southwest Chicken Salad
PALEO? TRY THIS! Instead of black beans and corn, try using bell peppers and jicama. Then, in place of the tortilla strips, you can used crushed grain free tortilla chips or pepitas/pumpkin seeds instead. Also: be sure to use paleo-approved mayo for your dressing. Easy-peasy.
PACK IT FOR MEAL PREP. You can totally make Southwest Chicken Salad ahead of time. To make a mason jar salad, layer ingredients in this order into your mason jar: dressing, chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, green onion, cilantro. Then, pack the crunchy stuff separate. Or, toss together the salad ingredients in meal prep containers, and keep the dressing and tortilla strips separate until it’s time to serve. These little containers work great for packing dressings!
OTHER YUMMY VEGGIES TO TRY. Want to mix things up? I love adding diced bell peppers (or roasted bell peppers), diced jicama, or even a little cucumber to my salad. Sophie loves adding sliced black olives to hers. Add what sounds good!
MIX IT UP & TRY A DIFFERENT DRESSING! I love this Southwest Ranch, but there are LOTS of yummy ways to top your Southwest Chicken Salad. A few of my faves are:
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SOUTHWEST CHICKEN SALAD. This big-time chicken taco salad is pretty well-balanced on its own, but you can fill the meal out with a bit of fresh fruit on the side. Watermelon is fantastic in the summer!
Love a Good Salad? I bet you’d like…
Southwest Chicken Salad
This Chicken Taco Salad is fresh, fast & flavorful. It’s one of my favorite warm weather dinners! (Gluten free, paleo friendly)
- For the Chopped Salad:
- 6 cups romaine lettuce
- 8 oz diced chicken
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cup sliced green onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- Tortilla strips*, tortilla chips, or pepitas
- For the Southwest Ranch Dressing:
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I like avocado oil mayo)
- Juice from 1 lime (1–2 Tbsp)
- 1–2 Tbsp water1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp dried dill (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
Assemble the salad:
In a large bowl, combine lettuce, chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, green onion, and cilantro.
Drizzle with salad dressing and serve with tortilla strips, chips, or pepitas.
Make the Dressing:
In a small bowl or jar, whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, 1 Tbsp water, chili powder, dill, pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chipotle chili powder.
Whisk until it’s totally smooth. Dressing will keep in the fridge about 1 week.
To make homemade tortilla strips, brush or spray 4 corn tortillas with olive oil. Slice into 1/2″ strips and arrange on a baking sheet so they’re not touching. (More air circulation will give crispier strips). Broil 3-5 minutes per side, or until they’re golden and browning.
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