If you’re looking for a salad that is going to kill it in terms of flavor, color, crunch, and satisfaction, then you have arrived. This satisfying Southwestern chicken salad I the kind of thing that I love to order out, but I love making at home even more. Mostly because I can have seconds.
There are certain areas of the country where the cooking of the flavors and the dishes captivate people far beyond the confines of their borders. (This, of course, is true for places outside of the U.S. — perhaps we’ve all sampled and enjoyed some Italian cooking, yes?) But within the U.S., I think it’s safe to say that Southwestern food has a fan base far beyond its region.
The lines between Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisines are a little blurry. There are beans and chilis and tomatoes and corn and similar spices in both. When I was a kid and a budding cook, Jane Butel’s books made a big impact on me. She was one of the first people to write extensively about the food and cooking of the Southwest, and that was my intro to this amazing cuisine.
Table of Contents
Chicken Taco Salad: This Southwestern main dish salad is a full-on festival of color and texture and flavor — a joy to look at and a joy to eat.Tweet This
- Radishes – A zesty, crunchy element with a slight kick.
- Black beans – More protein, more texture.
- Cucumber – Crunchy, crisp, fresh.
- Red onion – Slice it as thinly as you can (and use another color onion if that’s what you have!).
- Pepper – Red, orange, or yellow pepper will all work perfectly.
- Fresh lime juice – Lime juice is a staple ingredient in Southwestern cooking. This adds some citrusy zing to the salad (and yes, you can use lemon juice if that’s what you have — fresh makes a big difference).
- Oil and vinegar – The dressing for this salad is simply oil and vinegar, plus salt and pepper, because the seasonings come in when you’re pulling together the different components. Canola or vegetable oil works, as do cider or rice vinegar — it’s up to you! Once everything is combined into one taco bowl, the flavors all meld together and turn a simple dressing into a flavor bomb.
- Ground cumin and chili powder – The seasonings that you use to cook the chicken, chili powder, cumin, and garlic blend into the dressing, coating all of the ingredients with tons of flavor.
- Chicken cutlets – These robustly seasoned cutlets lend loads of flavor to the salad. Cut into bite-sized pieces for the perfect ratio of vegetable to protein.
- Minced garlic
- Romaine hearts – A refreshing and crispy lettuce for the base of this salad.
How to Make Chicken Taco Salad
- Make veggie mix: In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, radishes, cucumbers, red onion, peppers, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
- Mix chicken seasoning: Mix together the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle it over the chicken.
- Cook the chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, swish it around, then add the chicken without crowding (in batches if necessary), and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with lime juice.
- Dress the lettuce.
- Plate and serve: Pile the lettuce into 4 individual shallow bowls. Divide the chicken over the lettuce. Spoon the vegetable mixture in equal amounts over the chicken, then top with avocado and cilantro, if desired, and serve with tortilla chips or Fritos on the side or crumbled on top.
Make-Ahead and Storage
You can cut up all of the salad components and day ahead of time and store them in the fridge. You can also make the chicken a few days ahead and keep that refrigerated. Bring the chicken to room temp before tossing together the salad for the best flavor.
Taco salad is a Tex-Mex-style salad that combines both American and Mexican elements. Sometimes, it’s served in a tortilla shell bowl, but at home, it’s much easier to sprinkle tortilla chips or corn chips on top of the salad.
Southwestern flavors are strong and smoky, inspired by both American and Mexican flavors. Cumin, garlic, chili powder, ground coriander, and fresh cilantro are common herbs and spices used in Southwestern cooking.
What to Serve With Chicken Taco Salad
More Chicken Salad Recipes
- Indonesian Chicken Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Chicken Sate Salad
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
- Chicken Piccata Orzo Salad
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Chicken Taco Salad
- 1 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 8 radishes (thinly sliced)
- ½ cucumber (halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into thin half moons)
- ½ red onion (cut into wedges, then slivered)
- ½ cup thinly sliced red or yellow pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (divided)
- 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (divided)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- 1 ½ pounds thin chicken cutlets
- 1 clove garlic (finely minced)
- 8 cups thinly shredded romaine hearts
- 2 tablespoons cider or rice wine vinegar
- In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, radishes, cucumbers, red onion, peppers, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix together the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle it over the chicken.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, swish it around, then add the chicken without crowding (in batches if necessary), and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the cutlets to a cutting board and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with the remaining tablespoon od lime juice.
- Meanwhile toss the lettuce with the vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Pile the lettuce into 4 individual shallow bowls. Divide the chicken evenly between the bowls, piling it onto the lettuce. Spoon the vegetable mixture in equal amounts over the chicken, then top with avocado and cilantro, if desired, and serve with tortilla chips or Fritos on the side or crumbled on top.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.