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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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) 🙂

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


  1. I love a good southwestern salad. There’s soo many different flavors and texture that work well together in one dish. I can’t wait to give your version a try!

  2. yes! love that you used greek yogurt as your base for the dressing. if i’m eating salad, i want it to be healthy (ish), and not just a mayo dump!

  3. The most amazing salad you have ever posted. My ? Is do you grill your chicken outside on a gas bbq or do you grill it over an indoor stove top grill?

  4. I’m not a massive fan of chicken (I think I ate so much of it last year that now I’m just bored of its taste hahah) but this salad does sound so good and it seems pretty healthy as well! x

    Ariadna || RAWR BOWS

    1. I hear you. I plan to try it again with ground turkey. Maybe even cook the ground turkey with a little taco seasoning too.

  5. Aw you used to work at Chili’s?? So cute!! I definitely remember this salad, but this looks way better than theirs. 😉 For our 4th of July party we’re having chicken, chicken sausage, baked beans, three-bean salad, a giant green salad, and I think a pasta salad too? How many more salads can I name…haha and an ice cream pie and cheesecake bars for dessert of course! 🙂 So happy you’re entertaining in your new yard!

  6. I loved that salad at Chilis back in the day! Headed to my mom’s (a couple hours by plane) on the 4th, so I won’t be cooking this year. But I did get to help plan the menu and BBQ ribs, baked beans and potato salad are on the menu. I only get to eat my mom’s cooking and spend time with my family a couple times a year, so it’s always a treat!

  7. This looks yummy! Shrimp would be a great substiute for chicken as well! This is one I could eat by all by myself…just one big bowl, me and a fork…lol!

  8. I can see me doubling this recipe so that we could have leftovers the next day. So many pretty colors and flavors!

  9. “Place to roast s’mores” = WINNING! Doesn’t matter what the rest of the yard looks like!

  10. YUM! All of the Chili’s in Oregon disappeared about 10 years ago and I still miss them. I don’t remember this salad but your version looks wonderful (as do all of your recipes!) so I will definitely be trying it. Have a great 4th!

  11. Love everything in this salad Sally! Don’t think I can make it for a BBQ because I’ll want to hoard it all for me. Anyways, I’m Canadian and so Canada Day is today so I’m going to a party to celebrate tonight, not Monday. I’m not bringing much, but I did pick out some red and white m&ms to throw into a batch of your brown butter blondies! Can’t wait to try those over a triad of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream 🙂

  12. This salad looks so yummy! I love salads with stuff. So I’ve never tried yogurt dressing. Do you find all the seasonings hide the distinctive tang Greek yogurt has? I’d love to try this, but my husband is very picky about yogurt!

    1. There is so much flavor in the dressing, especially with all that taco seasoning, you can’t taste the yogurt at all. It’s more of a creamy base than flavor 🙂

  13. This looks fabulous! Thank you for the taco seasoning recipe link. I’ve been looking for a good homemade taco seasoning recipe. I will try this on next!

  14. Sally!  We made this for dinner last night and it was amazing!  I’ve already made the bacon strawberry salad a few times this summer, too!  We’re loving the salad recipes!

  15. We made this for dinner tonight and it was so delicious! Great flavors! It was a perfect summer meal to enjoy sitting on our back deck. Thanks for yet another yummy savory recipe. 🙂

  16. We made this for dinner tonigjt using leftover chicken. Everyone, picky eaters included, loved it! Thanks for posting this 

  17. I just moved to a place with a deck and a grill….most likely going to make this for my son’s birthday party! i think i might try this with roasted peppers too…. thanks for the recipe! Happy 4th!

  18. I love salads like this! I made this and cheated and used Hidden Valley Greek yogurt ranch dressing. My son doesn’t eat salads, so i have to always sell it as something else, so I put it in a tortilla and he loved it. It is so funny, but hey if it works why not!

  19. I’ve made this for dinner two nights in a row!  Two self-proclaimed salad dressing haters loved the dressing, and I love knowing that it’s so healthy with the Greek yogurt .  I cooked up diced chicken with extra taco seasoning and it was perfect.  Thanks for a great recipe! 

  20. Just finished eating this delisious salad. Thank you, Sally! For my husband I served it as a burrito. Just placed a salad with warmed up chicken inside a tortilla. Yummy!

  21. “Bangarang” might be my favorite way to describe really good food. I have no doubt this salad is exactly that!! And I love that the original was called the “explosion salad.” That’s just amazing. Hope you had a fun 4th, Sally!!

  22. I can’t have the spice from the jalapeños. Is the dressing going to send me to the ER?

    P. S. Your photography is fantastic!

  23. I made this salad this week and my husband FLIPPED OUT over the dressing. You weren’t kidding when you said that it was very flavorful! We love it and will definitely be reaching for it for salads in the future. Thank you!

  24. Thank you for this recipe!!  I can’t wait to try it.  That salad at Chilis is my favorite and I’m excited to make it at home!!!  Love your blog and all of your beautiful pictures!!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally