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Southwest Chicken Salad

Southwest chicken salad is a hearty “main dish” kind of salad with bold flavors. Chicken breasts are marinated in cilantro lime goodness, then seared until golden and added to a bed of romaine lettuce along with sweet corn, black beans, and grape tomatoes. A generous drizzle of creamy avocado dressing ties it all together.

Southwest chicken salad in a white bowl next to a small bowl of avocado dressing.

As you can tell, Southwestern flavors have a special place in my heart. Which is probably why I always find myself making chicken fajitas or stuffed peppers. The blend of earthy and bold flavors turns the simplest meals into an exciting one.

And this southwest chicken salad is just that. Crisp greens get topped with juicy spiced chicken, sweet corn, hearty black beans, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocado dressing. Let’s just say this will have your taste buds craving for more. So don’t forget to make extra chicken!

Southwest Chicken Salad Ingredients

With a few pantry staples and fresh ingredients, this recipe comes together easily. Here’s what’s in it:

  • Cilantro Lime Chicken: I typically use bone-in, skin on chicken thighs to make cilantro lime chicken. But since we’re tossing this into a salad, chicken breasts will be much easier and save you a little cooking time.
  • Romaine Lettuce: You could use any lettuce in this recipe, but romaine has that lovely crisp texture.
  • Sweet Corn: I’m using canned corn that’s been rinsed and drained. But you could use grilled corn on the cob for extra smoky flavor.
  • Black Beans: Beans provide that hearty, filling fiber to help make this a dinner salad.
  • Grape Tomatoes: I love grape tomatoes as they’re easy to cut in half, but you could use cherry tomatoes or Roma tomatoes as well.
  • Red Onion: I think onion is a necessity in a salad, for that punch of savory flavor.
  • Avocado Dressing: You’ll want to generously drizzle the avocado dressing all over this salad. See more tips on this dressing below.

The ingredients to make southwestern chicken salad all in individual bowls.

The Best Creamy Avocado Dressing

While I love adding avocado slices to my salads, a drizzle of this creamy avocado dressing creates the same flavor – but better. Think of it as my all time favorite guacamole recipe, but in a liquid form that makes it easy to pour onto salads or macro bowls.

When your chicken is almost done marinating, quickly blend together the ingredients in a food processor. Then set aside for later. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Liquids: olive oil, water, lime juice
  • Aromatics: garlic + cilantro, basil, or parsley will work
  • Seasonings: a pinch of salt and pepper

Sliced cilantro lime chicken and southwest salad ingredients in two bowls.

How To Make A Southwest Chicken Salad

Now that your chicken is ready to go, let’s get cooking and assembling.

  • Sear or Grill. Heat up the rest of the oil in a large skillet and cook the chicken fillets for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
  • Assemble. This salad starts with a layer of chopped romaine lettuce for that crisp texture. Then complemented with layers of grape tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Classic southwestern ingredients.
  • Drizzle. Tie it all together with a drizzle of the avocado dressing.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

Customize Your Salad

  • Make it vegan. Substitute the chicken with one can of chickpeas and simply toss it together with the rest of the ingredients. Or make a batch of roasted sweet potatoes for a warm and filling option.
  • Switch up the dressing. If you want to add avocado slices instead of using the dressing, you can lightly drizzle citrus lime vinaigrette, lime crema, or chipotle sauce instead. It’ll add a fresh and bright punch to this salad.

Two southwest chicken salads drizzled with avocado dressing.

Meal Prep And Storage Tips

To Meal Prep: Make the cilantro lime chicken and pre-cut into strips. Store the chicken, chopped lettuce, and avocado dressing into their own containers. Then toss together the corn, beans, and red onion together in another container.

To Store: All the ingredients can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge.

To Reheat: Simply reheat the chicken in the microwave for a 1-2 minutes, then assemble the rest of the salad as is.

More Hearty Dinner Salads

For the days when you’re craving a salad that’s hearty enough for a dinner meal, these recipes won’t disappoint.

5 from 6 votes

Southwest Chicken Salad

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Marinade: 6 hrs
Total Time: 6 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
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Southwest chicken salad is a hearty "main dish" kind of salad. It's simple to make, filled with bold flavors, hearty enough to fill you up, and also makes for delicious meal prep.

Ingredients

For The Chicken & Marinade

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, approximately 6 ounces each
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • 2 limes , juiced and zested
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For The Salad

  • 4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup red onion , thinly sliced

Avocado Dressing

  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water, or more for thinner consistency
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, basil or parsley leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together two tablespoons of olive oil, with the lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. You can also pulse in a food processor until it's combined.
  • Combine the marinade and chicken fillets in a shallow dish or plastic bag. Marinate the chicken for 2-6 hours in the fridge.
  • When the chicken is done marinating, make the avocado dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side, until they're golden brown and have reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Let the cooked chicken rest for a couple of minutes. Then slice into strips.
  • In a large salad bowl, layer the chopped lettuce with beans, corn, tomatoes and chicken strips. Then drizzle the avocado dressing on top.

Lisa's Tips

To Meal Prep: Make the cilantro lime chicken and pre-cut into strips. Store the chicken, chopped lettuce, and avocado dressing into their own containers. Then toss together the corn, beans, and red onion together in another container.
To Store: All the ingredients can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge.
To Reheat: Simply reheat the chicken in the microwave for a 1-2 minutes, then assemble the rest of the salad as is.
I also love this mini food processor for making the marinade and dressing. It's the perfect size for smaller quantities!

Nutrition

Calories: 518kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 72mg, Sodium: 441mg, Potassium: 1063mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 4539IU, Vitamin C: 33mg, Calcium: 71mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Southwest chicken salad, Southwestern chicken salad
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14 comments on “Southwest Chicken Salad”

  1. A hit for us. Tastes summery! I used a whole can of beans and a whole can of corn for convenience. 

  2. I made this salad for lunch today and it was out of this world delicious! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

  3. The avocado dressing really puts this salad over the top! Love all the flavor combinations. It’s definitely a salad I’d happily pay for out, so it’s even better that I can make it at home ;)

  4. I love EVERYTHING about this salad – and the dressing is so delicious. I can’t wait to make this again. It’s a winner in my house!

  5. This is the perfect lunch option for a hot summer day like today! It looks delicious.

  6. I love southwest chicken salad and your avocado dressing really makes this dish! Delicious!

  7. My daughter is dying -pancreatic cancer- and you are a God send– my mind just doesn’t seem to stay focused lately and the way you have constructed your website– meal preparation isn’t another major hurdle I have to deal with everyday. I just go to your site and find something nutritious ,pretty to look at and most of all easy to make . my family has no idea the stress i am experiencing at this time– they all just want a meal on the table. Thank you for what you do.

    • Hi Juanita- I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. I can’t even imagine the pain you’ve been going through – but I’m glad my recipes can help in any way possible during these difficult times.