Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

Fiesta in a bowl! This easy, make ahead chopped chicken salad is full of southwestern flavor and is on the table in minutes! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Here’s what I’m putting on the table this 4th of July weekend! We’re having some friends over tonight and I’m planning out my best party spread: another giant bowl of this southwestern inspired salad, aka inspired by my years working at Chili’s/insert nerd emoji here. We’ll fire up the grill for burgers and there will also be skillet cornbread, plenty of cookies, and another icebox cake. I want to hear everything you’re making, so spill the beans below!

Fiesta in a bowl! This easy, make ahead chopped chicken salad is full of southwestern flavor and is on the table in minutes! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Can I just say something? It’s so refreshing to finally have space in our backyard to entertain. It’s most certainly not an outdoor oasis or one of those dreamy HGTV backyards with hanging porch lights and glistening garden fountains but there’s a place to roast s’mores, a table, and bug spray so really… what else does one need?

Cool backyard space = future project.

For now, let’s focus on the eats. That’s definitely something we can perfect.

Whether you’re hosting a party this weekend or headed to a potluck BBQ, make this easy chopped salad. It’s got everything from fresh corn and avocado to grilled chicken and zesty taco seasoning. Something to please everyone at the party and oh yeah, there’s tortilla chips* too. It’s quite literally a giant fiesta of flavor and texture in 1 bowl.

*The best salad crunch!!

We had something like this at Chili’s called the explosion salad– I think it’s still on the menu, right? I hope you’ve had it before. For this homemade version, I just chopped everything up and used less lettuce. So it’s a “stuff” salad, not a lettuce salad. I know you get me.

Grilled chicken for southwestern chopped chicken salad on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Fiesta in a bowl! This easy, make ahead chopped chicken salad is full of southwestern flavor and is on the table in minutes! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

These are the ingredients you’ll need and some substitutions you can make:

  • Grilled chicken or cooked ground beef.
  • Cilantro if you love it, leave it out if you despise it.
  • Corn– canned if its easiest, chopped off the cob if you’ve got it leftover.
  • Avocado and more avocado.
  • Red onion or no onion.
  • Tomatoes, bonus if they’re fresh from your garden.
  • Taco seasoning or make your own!!
  • Beans, whatever kind you like.
  • Lettuce! I like crunchy romaine for this.
  • Cheddar cheese or whatever cheese.
  • The saltiest, crunchiest tortilla chips around or leave them out but that’s no fun.

You could certainly leave out the chicken to make this more of a side salad, which would be especially perfect if you’ve got a lot of meat happenin’ on the grill. Also: there might be gluten conscious folks at your festivities this weekend, so make sure you’re using corn based (and certified GF) tortilla chips. Sometimes tortilla chips can be made with wheat-based tortillas, so check the bag if it’s a concern.

This dressing. Honey jalapeño greek yogurt dip (with fresh lime juice) making another appearance!

Southwestern chopped chicken salad Greek yogurt salad dressing on sallysbakingaddiction.com

But this time as a salad dressing. And this time, a few slight changes and a hefty dose of taco flavor. The taco seasoning addition really finishes the entire salad off with the necessary fiesta flavor it needs. Tasty without it, bangarang with it.

YUP, bangarang.

The “dressing” is intense with flavor. Also very thick since the base is all Greek yogurt– and not mayonnaise. I figure we can keep our savory food healthier and indulge in 2nd helpings of homemade whipped cream, yes?

Fiesta in a bowl! This easy, make ahead chopped chicken salad is full of southwestern flavor and is on the table in minutes! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

A salad for people who get bored with salad. And also for people who love Chili’s.

Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 6 cups cubed cooked chicken1
  • 1 and 1/2 cups corn
  • 1 and 1/2 cups black beans
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • handful chopped cilantro

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use nonfat)
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 2 heaping teaspoons taco seasoning (I use mild)
  • salt, to taste and if needed

Directions:

  1. Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl. (If you're not serving it right away, add the tortilla chips on last right before serving. They'll stay crunchy that way.)
  2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together, except for the salt. Taste, then add salt to your preference.
  3. Spoon dressing over salad, then give everything a big toss to combine. Serve cold.

Make ahead tip: You can prepare this salad the day before through step 3. The flavors get even better on day 2! Add the tortilla chips right before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  1. For the grilled chicken, I drizzled 3 large chicken boneless skinless breasts with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before grilling. This was about 5-6 cups of cubed chicken. You can also use store-bought rotisserie chicken or just any leftover cooked chicken you have.

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I love serving cookies as dessert because they’re the essential make-ahead recipe. I default to cookies since cookie dough usually has to chill and even if not, cookies are always still just as tasty the next day or day after. Not to mention, everyone LOVES cookies especially ones with sprinkles and/or M&Ms. And cookies travel well! I made these cake batter chocolate chip cookies yesterday. Chilled the dough in the early afternoon, then baked them later on. Dessert for the entire weekend!

Also made these rainbow M&M cookies on Snapchat yesterday! (@sallysbakeblog) 🙂

4th of July Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fiesta in a bowl! This easy, make ahead chopped chicken salad is full of southwestern flavor and is on the table in minutes! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

70 comments

  1. Hi Sally!
    So i made this salad for dinner last night & it was SO delicious!! My husband & I loved it! I used a half block of cheddar & diced it small instead of shredded, & i chopped up the jalapeno & threw it in the salad instead of the dressing.  The crushed tortilla chips was a wonderful touch.  I’m thinking some black olives might be a good addition next time. Yum! Also, recently made your lemon herb salmon with brussel sprouts recipe as well & definitely another winner!! Love love love your blog!! 

  2. Knew when I read the recipe that it was a winner.  Had a six friends in for a birthday party and girls night out.  Had rave reviews and I have to agree. All of the flavors blend perfectly!  Great combination of textures, and so pretty.  This is the most gigantic salad I have ever seen, cut it by one third, but hard as we tried, we just barely ate half.  Went very light in dressing, so expect it to be tasty tomorrow.  It will be a new favorite for main course salads.  Love, love, love it!

  3. hi sally – can’t get greek yogurt here. what can we use as a substitute? light sour cream mixed with some regular plain nonfat yogurt?

  4. Hi Sally! I make all my meals on the weekends to eat throughout the week–love all your make-ahead recipes! If I made this salad on a Sunday do you think it would be okay on Wednesday or even Thursday? It might be stretching it, but what do you think?
    Thanks!

    • I think that if you add a little bit of the dressing to what you are eating that day, it will be fine. The lettuce will be a little wilted by Thursday if you dress it all on Sunday. That’s what I do!

  5. Hi Sally! Need to make this dressing fairy-free. What can I use to substitute the Greek yogurt?

  6. SALLY!! This salad is AMAZING!!! I’m a vegetarian, so I used Morningstar chik’n griller strips instead of chicken. The hubs and I devoured it!!! I can’t wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow too!! You can’t even tell that the dressing is made with yogurt!! Thanks for another delicious recipe!! LOVE your blog!!! ☺️

  7. I detest salad. It never fills me and the feeling of leaves in my mouth is just weird. And yet… this was hands down one of my favorite chicken dishes ever and has been added into the regular schedule.

    I’m leaving in a week for Key West, so decided I should try something on the lighter side calorie-wise (yeah, I know I should have started this plan more than a week in advance…), and holy crap am I glad I did. The flavors worked perfectly here, and that dressing is amazing! I seasoned some chicken breasts with more cajun seasoning and browned them in my cast iron. Wouldn’t change a thing (except excluding the red onions because they’re yucky! lol!)!!

  8. Just wanted to say, I found this salad last night…I was looking for a salad recipe to change up the traditional winter menu.  My husband and I made it tonight and we all loved it!  We used rotisserie chicken to help make it a quicker week night meal.  I just couldn’t believe the combination of the dressing ingredients would give such awesome flavour.  Definitely going in my recipe book!  Thanks. 

  9. Loved! Loved! Loved this salad! So delicious, so fresh and so easy to prepare. My entire family loved  it, even my very picky little boys. The dressing was absolutely yummy and way better and healthier than ranch for  this type of salad. Thank you!

  10. Has anyone tired the salad without chicken? I’m thinking about making this for a potluck tomorrow where there will be a taco bar so I don’t need to add chicken. Let me know how it is without chicken.

    • Never mind. Just read at the top about leaving out the chicken to make it a side dish. Can’t wait to try this salad!

  11. Hi!! Made this last night for a dinner and it was SOOO tasty! I even had my boyfriend asking me to make it again soon! The only change I made was omitting the raw tomatoes and adding some medium salsa to the dressing!!! Thanks for the great dinner inspiration Sally!

  12. Love Chilis Explosion Salads. One of my All time Favorite Salads.

  13. Any idea on how many calories?

    • Hi Kebra! I’m unsure. Calorie counting calculators online can often be inaccurate (different brands/products/etc) and I would hate to publish wrong information on my website. Sometimes I share an estimate, but that’s rare– feel free to calculate at your own discretion!

  14. Just ate this for lunch and it was DELICIOUS! I only used lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, cheese and the dressing. It was perfect! I will add corn next time. 
    Yummmmmy! 

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