Whether it’s weeknight dinner or brought to a potluck BBQ, this southwestern chopped chicken salad is always a hit. We call it a party of flavor and texture because it’s loaded with crisp corn, fresh avocado, juicy tomatoes, crunchy tortilla chips, and a zesty taco seasoning-spiced Greek yogurt dressing.
Tell Me About This Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad
- Texture: The variety of texture in every single bite makes this salad interesting and satisfying. You’ll enjoy the crunchy romaine lettuce and tortilla chips paired with juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado, and– of course– the silky and thick Greek yogurt dressing.
- Flavor: This salad was inspired by my days working at Chili’s restaurant. There was a dish called the Quesadilla Explosion Salad which was loaded with a lot of the favorites you see here. The flavors of the individual ingredients are obvious, but the dressing is certainly something to spotlight. The homemade jalapeño Greek yogurt dressing includes fresh lime, garlic, a little honey for sweetness, and extra taco seasoning. We pair something similar with our corn fritters.
- Time: Most of the time will be spent chopping up your ingredients and cooking the chicken. We usually grill the chicken, but you can use any cooked chicken or even store-bought rotisserie chicken. If you’re not cooking the chicken right at that moment, set aside about 15-20 minutes to throw the salad together.
Choosing the Right Ingredients
This Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad is for people who get bored with salad. Have fun switching up the add-ins and ingredients and enjoy something different in every bite. Here are additional notes on some of the salad’s ingredients.
- Grilled Chicken or Cooked Ground Beef. You could certainly leave out the protein to make this more of a side salad. (It pairs wonderfully with our jalapeño turkey burgers.) Or feel free to skip the meat and black beans and serve alongside black bean burgers for a complete meatless meal.
- Corn & Black Beans. We find canned corn and canned black beans the easiest. If you have cooked corn on the cob, you could easily shave off kernels and use those.
- Red Onion. It adds color and has a mild flavor, but it’s entirely optional.
- Cilantro. We add a handful of fresh chopped cilantro, but you can leave it out if you’re not a fan. By the way, if you love the cilantro and lime flavors in this dish, you’ll enjoy this cilantro lime chicken too.
- Taco Seasoning. You can use a store-bought seasoning or homemade taco seasoning.
- Romaine Lettuce. We recommend a crisp and crunchy green for this salad.
- Cheese. Cheddar cheese is our go-to with this salad’s other flavors, but you could use any cheese you think would pair nicely.
- Tortilla Chips. Go for the saltiest, crunchiest tortilla chips around. Crush them up and use as your croutons. What a finishing touch!
- Dressing. This salad would be incomplete without the fresh and creamy dressing. We don’t recommend any substitutions in the dressing’s ingredient list. Try it as written; it’s been a massive hit with readers and taste testers!
This is a fantastic make-ahead recipe. Prepare this salad a day in advance and add the tortilla chips just before serving so they don’t go soggy. And to complete the meal, we usually serve this Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad with cornbread.
More Favorite Dinner Recipes
- Zucchini Casserole
- Sausage Stuffed Peppers
- Slow Cooker Chicken Chili & Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Honey Chipotle Salmon
- Maryland Crab Cakes
Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: serves 6
- Category: Salad
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: American
This flavor and texture-packed Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad comes together in minutes and you can get started on it the day before.
- 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 6 cups cubed cooked chicken*
- 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
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we 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 (we use mild)
- salt, to taste and if needed
- 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.)
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together, except for the salt. Taste, then add salt to your preference.
- Spoon dressing over salad, then 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.
- Chicken: For the grilled chicken, we drizzle 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 breasts) with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling until cooked through. This equals about 5-6 cups of cubed chicken. You could also use store-bought rotisserie chicken or just any leftover cooked chicken you have.
- Corn & Black Beans: You can use freshly cooked corn and beans or canned corn and beans. (Drain first. Rinse the beans if desired.) You can use thawed frozen corn as well.
Keywords: southwestern chopped salad, southwestern chicken salad
Reader Comments & Reviews
Not a fan of cilanto, ok to leave it out?
Hi Diane, sure can!
So good!!! Love the dressing
The dressing was light and very flavorful. It really made this version of a SW salad delicious. Thanks Sally!
This was delicious!
Can I make this with pasta instead of lettuce? Suggestions?
Hi Tammy, we haven’t tested this recipe as a pasta salad recipe, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work! Let us know if you give it a try.
Fantastic! I regularly make some of your baking recipes—“Unbelievable Blueberry French Toast Casserole” is AMAZING—but this is the first time I’ve cooked one of your savories. The recipe reminded me of a salad I used to make decades ago. Intrigued, I went ahead sans chicken as I am vegetarian. This is a great salad and the dressing does take it over the top. Because I didn’t use chicken I increased the beans, tomatoes and cheese a bit. I also added a bit of diced red pepper. Wonderful, wonderful, it is now if my folder of favorites. Thank you for all your lovely recipes.
I love this recipe and have made it a hundred times. I’ve omitted certain elements of the salad and made other tweaks based on preference, but the dressing is the star of the show. It comes out perfect every time. This is a great healthy hearty lunch that I can meal prep on Sunday and bring to work for the week
I’ve made this quite a few times over the years since first posted and it’s just so delicious! The dressing is my favorite and love that its greek yogurt based.
So good! Absolutely loved the dressing even though I had to halve the spice so everyone could enjoy it. We served the toppings on the side so everyone could pick and choose them. It was easily made vegetarian for me by just eating the black beans. It paired wonderfully with our homemade cornbread! Thank you Sally!
Can I omit the jalapeño in dressing? I’m not a fan of jalapeños.
Hi Valeri, you can leave it out if desired.
I didn’t have Greek yogurt for the dressing so I used sour cream and it was fantastic!
This was simply delicious as written! Thank you for the great recipes!
Sally is my go-to for sweet recipes so I trusted her with this savory one too! I’m vegan, so made this with vegan substitutes. The flavors were great, we didn’t find it spicy so will increase the Jalapeño next time. Very filling and satisfying! Great salad recipe.
My daughter found this recipe and we love it! Followed as written. Making it again tonight! Thanks so much!
Big hit with our ohana. Next time, I think I’ll add some fresh lime over the top to give it a little bright note. Yum!
Great recipe! I decided to add extra taco seasoning, salt and lime juice to the dressing, as it was a bit too sweet for me. Then, it was perfect and my husband loved it too!
Delicious salad even my boyfriend loves! I changed the dressing a little because I didn’t have apple cider vinegar and it was still amazing! I will use the dressing for other recipes as well. Not including cooking the chicken this is a very quick and easy recipe, taking just 10 minutes.
I love this recipe! Instead of using lettuce, I serve it over rice and it is fantastic!
Delicious! My husband and I made using shredded rotisserie chicken (2 cups and that was plenty). The homemade dressing was the perfect compliment!
This recipe was a huge hit in our house tonight! So delicious!!!!