Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

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.

Mexican chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

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

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Red Onion. It adds color and has a mild flavor, but it’s entirely optional.
  4. 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.
  5. Taco Seasoning. You can use a store-bought seasoning or try making your own.
  6. Romaine Lettuce. We recommend a crisp and crunchy green for this salad.
  7. Cheese. Cheddar cheese is our go-to with this salad’s other flavors, but you could use any cheese you think would pair nicely.
  8. Tortilla Chips. Go for the saltiest, crunchiest tortilla chips around. Crush them up and use as your croutons. What a finishing touch!
  9. 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!

dressing for southwestern chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

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

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.


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southwestern chopped chicken salad in a glass bowl

Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 6
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This flavor and texture-packed Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad comes together in minutes and you can get started on it the day before.


Ingredients

  • 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

Dressing

  • 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

Instructions

  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 toss to combine. Serve cold.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

47 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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. 🙂

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

  4. 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! 

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. Austria Azaceta says:

    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!! 

  8. 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!

  9. 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!)!!

  10. 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. 

  11. 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!

  12. Sammi Harasymchuk says:

    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!

  13. 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! 

  14. OH, MY, GOSH Mrs.Sally! Lol

    I absolutely LOVE the way you choose to word your recipes! ❤

    Rather than having a recipe with no options or alternatives, yours is exactly that, full of options!!

    Most people will take a good recipe and tailor it to their liking, then think that they’ve done something outstanding… You, on the other hand, leave the option for customization right there on the table and I genuinely LOVE that!

    Thank you so much!

  15. Oh em gee this salad is good!!!
    I went with scallions instead of red onion, added butter lettuce, and added kidney beans along with the black beans. I wasn’t crazy about the dressing, but when added to the salad it was SO GOOD! Thank you Sally for so many azing recipes.

  16. Just had this Salad for dinner tonight and my husband and I agreed it’s one of the best salads we’ve had! We followed it exactly and it was perfect

  17. Budget friendly,
    Filling,
    Nutritious,
    Delicious,
    A crowd pleaser,
    Easy to make,
    Family friendly,
    Healthy,
    Totally amazing,
    What more can I say?

  18. Hi Sally. My husband would LOVE this salad. Trying to portion the ingredients for 1-2 people is just too difficult. I’m assuming I could just portion out enough for him as if I were making his regular salads? Any suggestions would be helpful. Hope you are doing well and that Noelle is growing and having fun.

    1. Hi Gina! I suggest using all of these ingredients, but scaled down, to make a smaller portion. You can use more/less of any ingredient based on his taste. Or make the recipe as written and potion into 6 servings for the week.

  19. currently eating this salad…it’s amazing! thank you for the recipe!!!

  20. If serving this salad as a one-dish lunch, what would you suggest to accompany it?

    1. Nancy, I love serving this salad with homemade cornbread, jalapeño cornbread muffins, or even chips and salsa.

  21. This salad is so easy and so yummy that I am making it for the second time in two weeks. Thank you so much!

  22. I made this salad tonight and it was so delicious!! My husband and I loved it! The only thing I did different was saute the chicken in grapeseed oil. Thank you very much!

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

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

  30. 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.

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