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

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!

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

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.

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.
  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) 🙂

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. 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!! 

    1. Yes to black olives!! I’m definitely adding those when I make this again. Thanks for reporting back, as always!

  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!

    1. It does make a ton! I’m happy it was a hit. Thanks for coming back and letting me know!

  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?

    1. Hi Sarah– that’s what I would do. A mix of sour cream and plain yogurt. Or you can use all plain 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?

    1. 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?

    1. Cyndy Satterfield says:

      Try using soft tofu as a sub for the yogurt. It should pick up all the flavors for you.

  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!!! ☺️

    1. Thank you so much, Kala! Glad you both like the recipe!

  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.

    1. 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. 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!

    1. I love that addition to the dressing! I’m absolutely going to try it soon.

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

  13. Any idea on how many calories?

    1. 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. 

  15. Can i get the calorie info?

    1. Hi Heather! 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!

  16. Hi Sally, This salad looks very delicious. I am thinking of trying it as a “jar salad” making it easier to prep for the work week. Are there any items you recommend I avoid in that case?

    1. I would maybe add the avocados the day you’ll eat the salad– other than that, it’s great!

  17. Hi Sally.  I can’t wait to make this!  I will be making it for a few people who are sensitive to spicy heat.  How spicy is the dressing using fresh jalapeños?  I know they can handle green Tabasco sauce.  Do you think that would work as a substitution?  Thanks!

    1. I’m not a huge fan of SUPER spicy and I love this dressing as is. You can add a little jalapeño and taste OR go for the Tabasco sauce– whichever you prefer.

  18. I don’t have Greek yogurt. Would mayo work for the dressing? I also have sour cream. I know… not as healthy… but can’t get to a store today 

    1. I would use a mix of sour cream and mayo!

  19. valerie lester says:

    Hi Sally,this is my first time ‘blogging’ but I just had to let you and the rest of your fans know; me,myself, Im a texture type of gal…I especially like the various flavors of the southwest salad,but the textures are extremely yummy too! But you know what kicks it up a notch??? Kale! Yes,good ole kale. It adds such a crunch to the salad that romaine by itself cant touch. I usually just chop it fine and add(to your liking)to the lettuce and i mix all ingredients right before serving (seem to stay crispier that way). Some people may slightly saute, but I love it fresh,hence the ‘fine’ chop.P.S. Dont tell the kids, but kale is loaded with vitamins

  20. 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!

    1. I’m glad you appreciate that about some of my recipes! It’s defiantly true that not everyone has the exact same tastes 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. Budget friendly,
    A crowd pleaser,
    Easy to make,
    Family friendly,
    Totally amazing,
    What more can I say?

  24. 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.

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

  26. Do you think you could omit the oil in dressing? Food allergies and watching calories. Looks delicious!

    1. Hi Judy! Yes you can, but the dressing will be very thick without it. You can add a little water to thin if you’d like.

  27. 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.

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

  29. Melissa Brown says:

    My family loves this recipe. I’m trying to print but the print button just brings me back to the top. Can you help, please? Thank you!

    1. Hi Melissa! There was a coding glitch yesterday, sorry about that. The print button is working again.

  30. 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!

    1. Do you have problems with the salad getting soggy the next day? After making this last night there was a lot leftover so I had it for lunch. Everything was pretty soggy. Just wondering if you had any tips. Thanks!

      1. I always make salads the night before for lunches, and they keep well as long as you keep the dressing separate.

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