With blackened grilled chicken, delicious crisp lettuce, diced peppers, avocado and a few hard boiled eggs this Southwest salad won’t leave you hungry. Top it off with a creamy avocado style dressing for a delicious summertime meal.
Not all salads deserve to be a full meal, but this recipe goes far beyond side dish status and should definitely be a lunch or dinner time star. It’s light and refreshing, yet has a nice kick and pop of classic Southwest flavors like ancho chiles, garlic, and a little bit of cilantro lime for some brightness and acidity.
I love to serve this recipe for friends or my family on a busy weeknight or for a late summertime luncheon. It’s also the perfect salad for meal prep or to be prepared ahead of time when needed (each of the components can be made and stored separately and mixed when ready to serve).
While salads are obviously a pretty basic and don’t take much know how, I will share some helpful tips and techniques for whipping up the best juicy grilled chicken, how to keep your salad fresh and lively, and even how to make a delicious homemade creamy cilantro and avocado salad dressing. Read through as needed or jump to the recipe below to dive in!
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Plastic Bag
- Meat Thermometer
- Blender (for dressing)
Need to know more about this recipe? Use my culinary notes below to help guide you through. Enjoy!
Southwest chicken dry rub and marinade:
A huge contributor to this salads flavor is from grilling the chicken breasts along with layering the right combination of seasoning. Grilling chicken is not too complicated, but I do have some really helpful tips on grilling chicken in this guide so you can have juicy, mouthwatering chicken off the grill every time.
Here is what you’ll need for this Southwest inspired grilled chicken-
- Ancho Chili powder (can sub with regular chili powder)
- Garlic Powder
- Salt and Pepper
- Lime Juice
- Olive Oil
Place your chicken breasts in a plastic bag. Add the spices, lime juice, and olive oil to the bag and close it, removing the air. Massage the rub and liquids into the chicken and allow it to marinade as long as possible. It’s still great if you only let it sit for 15-20 minutes while you prep the rest of the salad.
Homemade Fiesta Salsa:
I love to make a chunkier, marinated fiesta style salsa to put over the base of my romaine lettuce for this recipe. In a large mixing bowl, you will need:
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Sliced Red and Yellow Sweet Peppers
- Sliced Jalapeno (seeds optional)
- Grilled or frozen corn
- Diced Red Onion
- Fresh Cilantro
- Lime Juice
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
I prep this while the chicken marinates. It seems like a lot to cut up, but it goes fairly quick. Let the salsa hang out and mix everything occasionally so the flavors meld. Set it aside.
Cooking and Assembly Instructions:
Once everything is prepped, preheat your grill for medium-high heat. I like to cook chicken around 400-450 F. so it doesn’t burn the outside before the inside can fully cook. Make sure you start with clean and oiled grill grates as well.
To a preheated grill, sear your chicken and flip it as needed. I cooked my chicken roughly 6-8 minutes and reduced the heat towards the end. Use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part for doneness. It should read 165 F. internally before you pull it off the grill.
Let the chicken rest a but while you assemble the salad. To a large platter or bowl, place your romaine lettuce pieces (or preferred lettuce) down onto the surface. Slice your chicken on a slight bias and into thin pieces for serving. Add it to the lettuce.
To the top of the salad, add your homemade fiesta salsa mixture and sprinkle it across as desired. Add slices of avocado and some halved hard boiled eggs (gives it a cobb salad like feel and adds some extra protein). On occasion, I’ll sprinkle cotija or pepper jack cheese over the top too.
Top it with this incredibly refreshing quick and easy avocado dressing recipe (homemade dressing ingredients linked and ways to reduce saturated fats too).
Helpful tips for serving and storing:
- Tear your lettuce (do not chop it) if you plan on waiting to eat it. This will cause it to get soggy and wilt.
- Allow the chicken breasts to rest 10 minutes before slicing. This keeps the chicken juicier and allows it to redistribute.
- You can prep the salsa and the grilled Southwest chicken ahead of time and use when desired.
- Never pre-assemble a salad fully for meal prep. Keep each of the components separated and add them when assembling to eat.
- Always season the salad with salt and pepper. I sometimes like to add a little lime juice too.
- Want a little crunch? Instead of croutons, try tortilla chips too!
Southwest Chicken Salad
- 6 cups Romaine Lettuce
- 4 Chicken Breasts
- 2 Avocados
- 3 Hard Boiled Eggs halved
- 1/2 cup Red Onion diced
- 1/2 cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Sweet Peppers red or yellow bell
- 1 Jalapeno sliced thin
- 1/2 cup Corn fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro
- 4 tbsp. Olive oil divided
- 2 Limes juiced and divided
- 1 tbsp. Ancho Chili Powder or regular chile powder
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper
- 1 tsp. Cumin
- Avocado Dressing
- Place the chicken breasts into a plastic bag. Add the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. Pour in 2 tbsp. of the olive oil and juice from one of the limes. Seal the bag and remove the air. Massage and toss the chicken inside the bag so it’s fully coated. While you can let this rest while you prep the remainder of your salad, the chicken does taste even better if you marinade a minimum of 2 hours.
- Prep the salsa/veggie base for your salad. In a bowl combine the red onion, tomatoes, peppers, jalapeno, corn, and cilantro. Sprinkle the remaining olive oil and juice of the last lime into the bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and fold until mixed. Set it aside.
- Make your quick and easy avocado dressing. Ranch also goes well with this recipe too.
- Preheat your grill to medium heat (400-450 F.). Make sure it’s clean and the grates are oiled.
- Grill your chicken 6-8 minutes or so, flipping a few times as needed. It should reach an internal temperature of 165 F. Remove the chicken and let them rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Platter your lettuce, add the sliced chicken, and top with your salsa mixture. Add the slice avocado pieces and the hard boiled egg. Top with your dressing and serve.