Southwest Chicken Salad is a healthy, flavorful, and simple-to-make recipe. It’s full of fresh ingredients like lettuce, beans, corn, tomatoes, roasted pepper, avocado, and red onion. Topped with juicy chicken and creamy cilantro lime dressing, this salad will leave you feeling full all day!Jump to Recipe
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick: You can make Southwest chicken salad in less than 30 minutes, making it ideal for busy weeknights when everyone is hungry!
- Healthy: Southwest chicken salad is packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. This hearty meal hits all of your daily nutrition requirements.
- Customizable: You can mix and match ingredients as you see fit! Swap out the chicken for another protein like shrimp or fish, mix and match different veggies, or add a different dressing.
Easy Southwest chicken salad
Southwest chicken salad is a popular recipe that highlights the bold flavors of the Southwestern states. It’s filled with vibrant colors and textures thanks to ingredients like romaine lettuce, red onions, peppers, corn, and cherry tomatoes.
The star of the dish comes in the form of tender chicken breasts generously seasoned with taco spices. Once the salad is assembled, everything is tied together with a creamy, tangy, and zesty cilantro-lime dressing. Serve this salad as a filling lunch or dinner. All you have to do is assemble, drizzle, and eat!
Ingredients & substitutions
- Chicken breasts: Since they’ll be sliced, skinless, boneless chicken breasts are the best option for this salad.
- Taco seasoning: You can use store-bought, but I love to use homemade taco seasoning. You have so much more control over the flavors!
- Olive oil: To cook the chicken. Avocado oil or sunflower oil are options as well.
- Romaine: Romaine is my go-to for this recipe since it’s crispy and flavorful. You can try experimenting with other types of lettuce like green or iceberg.
- Black beans: Provide heartiness that makes the salad even more filling. For convenience, I like to use canned black beans.
- Corn: Add bursts of sweetness in each bite. Canned corn is the easiest choice, but if it’s corn season, try grilling some cobs.
- Cherry tomatoes: For a bright, juicy element. Cherry or grape tomatoes are best, but Roma tomatoes work as well.
- Roasted pepper: Use jarred roasted peppers, or make your own by broiling bell pepper halves, then peeling them. They add beautiful charred notes!
- Avocado: Avocado adds a creamy, rich, and buttery flavor and texture to the salad and dressing.
- Red onion: Imparts a sharp, punchy flavor. If you don’t have red onion on hand, try shallots, white, or yellow onion.
- Jalapeño: Adds a spicy, garden-fresh kick! If you’re a fan of spice, try adding a serrano instead. If you’re sensitive to the heat, omit the peppers altogether.
- Cilantro: What would a Southwest chicken salad be without a healthy dose of cilantro? I add it to both the salad and the dressing for extra herbaceous, lemony notes.
- Greek yogurt: Adds a refreshing and cooling element to the dressing. It should be plain and unsweetened Greek yogurt or sour cream.
- Lime: Make sure it’s freshly squeezed lime juice for the best dressing flavors. If you don’t have lime, you can try replacing it with lemon juice.
- Garlic: Brings a zesty, savory, and pungent element to the dressing.
How to make Southwest chicken salad
- Season the chicken: Cut the chicken breasts at a diagonal. Season the pieces with salt and taco seasoning. Make sure the seasoning is thoroughly coated on the chicken.
- Cook the chicken: Cook the chicken with some olive oil in a large skillet over medium until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. I recommend letting the chicken rest on a plate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients as it helps the juices redistribute.
- Mix the dressing: Add all of the dressing ingredients (except the water) into a mason jar. Blend the mixture with a stick blender until the consistency is smooth. You can add a tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your preferred consistency.
- Assemble the salad: Put the salad together by adding the lettuce at the base followed by all the chopped veggies. Slice the chicken and add it to the salad, then drizzle the top with dressing and enjoy.
For even more flavor, try serving your Southwest chicken salad with toppings like these:
- Tortilla chips or strips
- Cotija cheese crumbles
- Pickled onions
- Fresh or pickled radishes
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Although this recipe calls for chicken breasts, you can easily use steak, shrimp, or tofu as a different protein choice.
Yes, you can make the dressing up to 4-5 days ahead of time. Just keep it in the fridge in an airtight container.
Yes, to make this recipe dairy-free, you can use coconut yogurt in the dressing instead of Greek yogurt.
Storage & reheating
If you have leftover Southwest chicken salad, here’s what to do:
- Fridge: If you can, store everything separately in airtight containers for up to 3-4 days. If it’s already assembled, just try to avoid adding the dressing so it doesn’t turn soggy.
- Freezer: Since there are fresh veggies, freezing this recipe is not ideal. The texture will change too much once it’s thawed.
- Reheating: Reheat the chicken in the microwave or a skillet until warmed through.
- Vegetarian: Instead of chicken, use grilled tofu, tempeh, or portobello mushrooms.
- Spicy: Add extra jalapeños to the salad and add some hot sauce or salsa for a kick.
- BBQ: Rub the chicken with BBQ seasoning and grill it instead of pan frying it. Swap out the dressing for a BBQ ranch or chipotle sauce.
- Choose chicken breasts: The easiest cut of chicken to slice for salad is a chicken breast. To prevent a dry texture, stop cooking the breasts as soon as the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Use a thermometer: For safe and consistently cooked chicken, I always recommend keeping a meat thermometer on hand.
- Let the chicken rest: Giving the chicken breasts a few minutes to rest allows the juices time to redistribute. This results in a perfectly moist and tender texture.
- Blend the dressing: For the smoothest, creamiest consistency and most balanced taste, use a stick blender or a personal blender to combine the sauce.
- Rinse the beans: If you are using canned black beans, rinse them until the water runs clear to remove excess salt and starches.
Looking for more chicken recipes?
If you enjoyed this Southwest chicken salad recipe, be sure to check out some more of my favorites like these:
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs
- Spatchcock Oven Roasted Chicken
- Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Kabobs
- Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Honey Soy Glaze
If you try this Southwest Chicken Salad, let me know what you think! Rate and review this recipe in the comments below. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag me on Instagram @lenaskitchenblog!
Southwest Chicken Salad
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts 2 large breasts
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning store bought or homemade
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 heads romaine chopped
- 15.5 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 8 ounces corn
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
- 12 ounces roasted pepper chopped
- 1 large avocado diced
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 1 medium jalapeño optional
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
Cilantro Lime Avocado Dressing
- 1 cup cilantro packed (stems and leaves)
- ½ small avocado
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or use dairy-free yogurt
- 1 medium lime juiced
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon taco seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- 2 tablespoons water more if needed to thin out dressing
- Cut the chicken breast at a diagonal in half so you get 4 pieces. Season the breast with salt and taco seasoning.
- Heat a large skillet to medium heat, add olive oil and then the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes covered, flip and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Let the chicken rest on a plate to cool down.
- While the chicken cooks, chop all the veggies and drain the beans.
- Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients except the water into a majon jar and blend with a stick blender or add evrythign to a blender and blend until smooth, start with 1 tablespoon of water to make it more runny and add another if needed. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Assemble the salad by adding the lettuce at the base, then add all the chopped veggies. Slice the chicken and add it to the1 salad. Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy.
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