Southwest Chicken Salad is an hearty, healthy salad that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you satisfied for hours! Starring seasoned chicken a bright cilantro lime dressing, this southwest salad is packed with incredible flavor and rather easy to make.
This Southwestern Chicken Salad, along with Buffalo Chicken Salad, BBQ Chicken Salad, and Caribbean Chicken Salad, are some of my all-time favorite dinner salads to enjoy when the temperatures rise and I am looking for a meal that is fully of flavor and will keep me satisfied for hours, without leaving me in a food coma.
And if you are looking for a flavor-packed, nutrient-dense, insanely flavorful salad yourself, look no further than this recipe for Southwest Chicken Salad.
Why You Will Love Southwest Chicken Salad
- Copycat Recipe Made Better. This recipe is my version of a restaurant-style Southwest Salad. But this recipe is lighter, tastier, and made with much fresher ingredients.
- Simple Recipe With Bold Flavors. This recipe is not at all complicated to make, but the flavors marry together so perfectly to leave your taste buds thrilled and satisfied.
- Nutrient-Dense. This salad features lean protein, tons of fresh produce, and heart-healthy fat from the avocado, packing in tons of vitamins and minerals.
- Customizable. Just like Taco Salad, you can omit or swap out ingredients to in this Southwest Chicken Salad to make it fit your dietary needs, restrictions, and taste buds.
Ingredients for Southwest Salad
Don't be intimidated by the amount of ingredients in this photo! Most are pantry staples you likely have on hand and will help to create the Cilantro Lime Dressing and season the chicken.
- Chicken: Use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, for a hearty, yet lean, protein.
- Cilantro Lime Dressing: This bright and fresh dressing is absolutely incredible and the perfect topping for this Southwestern Salad.
- Limes: Use both the juice and zest of fresh limes for the maximum flavor.
- Oil: I prefer using extra virgin olive oil for this dressing. Avocado oil is a suitable substitute.
- Cilantro: The star in this dressing is the fresh, herbaceous cilantro.
- Garlic: I love the flavor garlic adds, but feel free to omit if you don't care for garlic.
- Jalapeno: Adding in half of a deseeded jalapeno adds a bit of a kick and complexity to the dressing. If you are sensitive to spice, leave it out.
- Honey: Just a tiny bit of honey helps to balance out and enhance the flavors in this dressing and makes you want to keep coming back for more.
- Greens: I like the crisp, freshness of romaine hearts for this salad, but you can use iceberg or mixed greens for the base of this salad.
- Beans: I love adding in canned, rinsed black beans for additional protein, along with fiber. Feel free to use pinto beans in place of the black beans or omit the beans altogether.
- Corn: Use drained, canned corn or leftover Corn Salsa or grilled corn cut off the cob.
- Avocado: Diced, ripe avocado adds a healthy fats and a rich, creaminess to the salad.
- Cheese: If you are not dairy-free, shredded cheddar or Colby cheese or crumbled feta or queso fresco are all great additions to this Tex-Mex Salad.
- Tortilla Chips: Finishing this salad with tortilla chips is optional, but they do a add a nice crunch factor.
Note from Kristen
One of the many things I love about this salad is that you change up the ingredients based on your preference and dietary needs. Use this recipe as a starting point to create a Southwest Salad that is perfect for YOU!
How to Make Southwest Salad with Chicken
Step One: Prepare Chicken. Season the chicken evenly with the seasoning of your choice. Once seasoned, you can opt to grill, bake or broil the chicken. I have provided directions for all methods in the recipe card.
Step Two: Prepare Cilantro Lime Dressing. This dressing is best prepared in a small blender or food processor to help break down the garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno.
Step Three: Assemble Southwest Salad. Just like most salads, it is best to assemble immediately before serving. You can opt to toss everything together, or assemble as a cobb salad for a stunning presentation.
Recipe Modifications for Southwest Salad
- Vegetarian Option: Make this Southwest Salad meatless, by doubling the beans and omitting the chicken.
- Dairy-Free: Omit the cheese for a Dairy-Free Chicken Salad, that is still filled with insane flavor!
- Swap out the Cilantro Lime Dressing for a Salsa Ranch Dressing. If you don't care for cilantro, or are looking for a creamy dressing, combine ranch dressing and add 1-2 teaspoons of taco seasoning and a a tablespoon or two of salsa for a flavorful Tex-Mex Ranch Dressing.
More Delicious Dinner Salad Recipes
- Taco Salad
- Buffalo Chicken Salad
- BBQ Chicken Salad
- Waldorf Chicken Salad
- Tabbouleh Salad
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
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If you tried this Southwest Chicken Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Southwest Chicken Salad
For the Chicken
- 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
For the Salad
- 2 hearts romaine lettuce chopped
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn defrosted
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 large Haas avocado diced
- 1 cup sweet bell peppers sliced
- ½ cup cheddar cheese grated
- tortilla strips or chips optional
Cilantro Lime Dressing
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice 3-4 limes
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic optional
- ½ cup cilantro leaves stems removed
- ½ jalapeno seeds and ribs removed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon water if needed
For the Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 400℉ degrees F or a grill/grill pan to medium-high heat.
- Trim the chicken of any fat. Brush the chicken with olive oil and season the chicken breasts evenly with taco seasoning on all sides.
- Grill the chicken for 6-7 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches 165℉ Alternatively bake the chicken for 15-18 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165℉ or broil the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, watching closely not to burn.
- Once cooked, allow the chicken to rest on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes before slicing it into bite-sized cubes or strips.
Cilantro Lime Dressing
- To a small blender or food processor, combine the fresh lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, honey, salt, garlic clove, cilantro, and jalapeno. Blend on high speed until everything is broken down and the dressing is smooth. Add water if, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to smooth. Taste and add salt if needed.
For the Southwest Salad
- In a large salad bowl or platter, lay out the chopped romaine. Top with the beans, tomatoes, corn, peppers, cheese, and avocado. Top with chicken and serve with the dressing and tortilla chips on the side. Serve immediately for best results.