Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

Mexican chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

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. 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!

southwestern chopped chicken salad in a white bowl with a fork

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.

chopped chicken in a glass measuring cup

overhead image of all ingredients for southwestern chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl before mixing

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!

dressing for southwestern chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

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.

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?

overhead image of southwestern chopped chicken salad in a white bowl with a fork

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

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southwestern chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: serves 6
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American


This flavor-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 (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


  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.


  1. Chicken: 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.
  2. Corn & Black Beans: You can use freshly cooked corn and beans as well as 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

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) 🙂

cake batter chocolate chip cookies with 4th of July sprinkles


  1. Had my eye on this salad for a while, but hesitated to make it, because I prepare meals for one. Since I meal prep, I decided to try separating the ingredients out, then putting them together the night before with the dressing on the side. I prepared the recipe as written, and got four nice sized salads out of it for a week. This was so delicious! Definitely not just a lettuce salad. I seasoned my chicken breasts with some Goya Adobo and some taco seasoning, let that sit in the fridge for a few hours, then sauteed in a pan after bringing to room temperature for about 25 minutes. I was skeptical of the dressing when I first made it, and was a little underwhelmed the first day, but the second day, the flavors really came together! It was cool thanks to the yogurt with a little heat from the jalapenos, a touch of sweetness from the honey, with some brightness from the lime. Very well-balanced, and much better than the bottled stuff! I will be adding this to my rotation for lunches. As Sally said in her blog post, this is a “stuff” salad that kept me full until dinner time! Will be great in the summer, too! Thanks, Sally!

    1. I’m so glad you decided to give it a try! I agree that this recipe is great for meal prep!

  2. I’ve been thinking about southwestern salad recipes and wondering how i should make them. I’m definitely going to try this one:) it looks really good.

  3. Could I substitute something for the taco seasoning in the dressing?

    1. You can make a DIY taco seasoning (there are tons of recipes for this if you Google it!) or play around with the spices to your liking!

  4. Made this for dinner and my husband & I loved it! We had more than enough for the 2 of us, so I set some aside without adding the dressing (which is delicious & tucked away in its own container). It’ll be lunch tomorrow!

    I know how good your dessert recipes are and this one is right up there with them. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I made this for my ceramics group today & everyone loved it & asked for the recipe. This will be a summer staple for me, it is so delicious & feels healthy. I was a bit reluctant about the dressing (because of the taco seasoning) but because it’s a Sally’s recipe, I went with it. I didn’t have jalapeños so I substituted Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning which added just enough heat. I have loved every one of Sally’s recipes that I’ve tried so far although until now, they’ve all been sweets

  6. I’m not a huge chicken salad fan and I like Greek yogurt even less, BUT…I took my chances AND even used the Greek Yogurt that the recipe called for. Out of this world DELICIOUS!!!
    I did make a two changes: 1) I used seasoned tortilla strips from the salad topping section to top when serving. 3) I used bagged cole slaw mix, instead of romaine lettuce, so that leftovers would hold up well.

    Finally a little tid-bit…Don’t cheat and use a pre-made dressing like I considered doing. Trust me, the few extra minutes that it took to make the dressing were worth it.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. I loved reading your feedback, Lisa! Thrilled you tried something new and enjoyed this salad!

  7. Sally, somehow every recipe I look for I end up stumbling on your blog and I have to say everything I have made from your recipes have been amazing! This salad was delicious and I will definitely be making it again. Your crispy buffalo chicken fingers have also become a go to at home, it is healthy and delicious! Next on my list is your cinnamon role recipe!

  8. Fantastic! The dressing is delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  9. I watched Hook this weekend. BANGERANG! Can’t wait to make this salad, my tummy is rumbling looking at the pics.

  10. For the corn do you drain the canned corn or cook it first?. Can thawed frozen corn work too?

    1. No need to cook it– yes, drain the can. You can use thawed frozen corn.

  11. This recipe was a huge hit in our house tonight! So delicious!!!!

  12. Delicious! My husband and I made using shredded rotisserie chicken (2 cups and that was plenty). The homemade dressing was the perfect compliment!

  13. I love this recipe! Instead of using lettuce, I serve it over rice and it is fantastic!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. Mary L Kessinger says:

    My daughter found this recipe and we love it! Followed as written. Making it again tonight! Thanks so much!

  18. 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.

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