Chicken Cinco de Mayo Recipes Salads

Southwest Salad Recipe [Video]

Southwest salad is full of fresh vegetables, beans, cheese, and chicken seasoned with taco seasoning and smoked paprika. The creamy cilantro dressing and chopped green onions on top make this salad a delicious Mexican masterpiece. Perfect for backyard barbecues in the summer, a quick and easy meal, or a delicious packed lunch!

Grilled Chicken Southwest Salad

With my recipe for southwest salad, you get the protein from chicken and beans mixed with healthy veggies and greens to make this a great main course. It has a slightly spicy mixture of taco seasoning and smoked paprika and a tangy taste from the lime juice and cilantro lime dressing.

Although I very rarely eat fast food, I first tried this salad at McDonald’s and immediately decided I needed to make my own healthier and tastier version. Theirs was good, but mine is so much better, you will never want to go back to the fast food version! Even if they say their salad is fresh, making it at home is always fresher and you can control what goes into it.

While I love McDonald’s version of this, I prefer my grilled chicken to their buttermilk crispy chicken. I like the smokiness of the grilled chicken and the creamy cilantro dressing with lime and honey goes well with it.

My salad has a variety of veggies, grilled seasoned chicken breast, cheese, and creamy cilantro dressing topped with more cilantro and chopped green onions. The dressing is a little sweet from the honey but it is also tangy because of the lime juice and Greek yogurt. Also, if you prepare the chicken ahead of time, you can have this dish ready to go in minutes!

The most important step in this recipe is marinating the chicken. Mixing the seasonings, lime juice, and olive oil in a baggie and letting it soak for a while gives it an intensely tasty flavor. And remember, the longer you marinate it, the more intense the flavor will be. Serve it with my easy yeast bread recipe to make an easy but filling meal.

What you need to make a southwest salad

It may seem like there are a lot of ingredients in this dish but it is just three easy recipes, grilled chicken, salad, and creamy cilantro dressing. When you break it down, it is not difficult or time-consuming at all!

For the chicken:

  • Chicken breasts – Boneless skinless chicken breasts work best for this recipe and are fast, easy to cook, and taste wonderful with the southwest seasonings.
  • Taco seasoning – You can use store-bought seasoning or try my simple homemade taco seasoning recipe.
  • One lime – Fore the lime zest and juice. Fresh is always better than store-bought.
  • Olive oil – Has a mild flavor and helps the dressing stick to the salad.
  • Smoked paprika – Gives this southwest salad a little bit of a smokey but sweet flavor.

For the salad:

  • Romaine lettuce – I love romaine lettuce in this salad because it is crunchy, flavorful, and adds color and vitamins.
  • Avocado – Be sure to get a ripe avocado for the rich, creamy, and slightly sweet taste with a hint of nuttiness.
  • Cherry tomatoes – These little tomatoes are perfect for halving and adding to your salad for extra flavor and color.
  • Black beans – Canned is fine. Just make sure you drain and rinse them.
  • Corn – Same here, I use canned corn that is drained and rinsed.
  • Cheddar cheese – Shred your cheese for the best flavor.
  • Cilantro – Fresh or dried.

Creamy cilantro dressing:

  • Greek yogurt – Plain Greek yogurt is slightly sweet and tangy with a creaminess you cannot get from anything else healthy.
  • Mayonnaise – I use regular mayo but you can use your favorite.
  • Lime juice: For an extra tangy flavor.
  • Honey: Adds a bit of extra sweetness to your salad dressing.
  • Cilantro: Find the freshest cilantro, for the most flavorful dressing.
  • Salt: Regular table salt to taste.


  • Chopped green onion – Adds some heat and a bit of a kick.
  • Cilantro – Here, fresh or dried will both work.

Fun fact:

Cilantro or not

This salad has a lot of cilantro in it so if you or someone you are serving does not like it, you will want to leave it out. Interestingly, some people have a genetic variation that makes it taste like soap. These people typically have a highly sensitive sense of smell and taste. So, the fondness or dislike for this herb is in your DNA.

However, a study done in Toronto found that culture may be an issue. The people in the study who were from cultures that frequently use cilantro like South Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern liked cilantro the most no matter what their DNA said. This could mean that geography has something to do with it or maybe the reason it is so popular in certain areas is because there are so many who do not have that specific gene.

It is not as common to have an aversion to cilantro. About 20% of people do not like cilantro, but those who do not like it do not like it! In this case, try making this salad, including the salad dressing with parsley, which has a milder flavor. I also have tested this recipe with dill, and it tasted amazing.

How to Make Southwest Salad

  • Marinate the chicken: First, add the chicken, lime juice, olive oil, lime zest, smoked paprika, and taco seasoning to a ziplock baggie and shake it to mix and coat the chicken. Marinate for a minimum of 10 minutes to a maximum of two days.
  • Cook the chicken: Using an oiled cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, cook chicken breasts for about five minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 
  • Make the dressing: Add all the dressing ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • Assemble the salad: Last, put the lettuce in the bottom of a bowl and top it with the veggies, beans, cheese, cilantro, and chicken. Drizzle the dressing on top and then top with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Expert tip:

Cooking chicken breasts so it’s not dry

The most common reason that chicken ends up dry is overcooking. If you cook your chicken for too long, it will end up dry and chalky tasting. Also, if you cook it at too high of a temperature, the muscles will contract and it loses moisture. Marinating your chicken before cooking and making sure you do not overcook them should prevent this problem.

Grilling a chicken breast takes between 8 and 14 minutes depending on how big they are. For a small skinless boneless breast, four minutes on each side is sufficient. A medium-sized breast will take about six minutes on each side, and a large one will take approximately eight minutes on each side. Baking your chicken breast will take longer, about 20 to 27 minutes at 375 degrees F.

How to grill chicken

  • Pound: Use a mallet to first pound the meat to make the thickness even. This is important to evenly cook it.
  • Marinate: In a resealable plastic bag, put the meat and the marinade ingredients. Then, shake everything to coat the meat. Marinate for at least 10 minutes. If you will marinate longer, refrigerate it. Follow USDA’s guidelines on marinating poultry which say that poultry can be marinated for only up to 2 days.
  • Grill: Heat a grill skillet and oil it. Cook each side for up to 5 minutes.
  • Rest: Set aside the cooked poultry for up to 5 minutes to allow it to rest before slicing.

Recipe variations and add-ins:

  • Other meat: Experiment with different kinds like turkey, pork, or beef.
  • Vegetarian: Skip the meat, use firm tofu, eggplant, or zucchini instead.
  • Different greens: Similarly, try replacing the romaine with iceberg lettuce, spinach, or a mixture of your favorites.
  • Add cheese: Those who love cheese can add other types including mozzarella, pepper jack, or Colby cheeses.
  • Spicier salad: For people who love spicy food, you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the marinade.
  • More veggies: You do not have to stop at corn and tomatoes. Toss in some cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli, or other veggies.
  • Make it crunchy: For some added crunchiness, sprinkle some sesame seeds, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, or bacon bits on top.

Serving suggestions:

This dish is best served cold with your favorite side dishes or beverages. Here are some of my favorite ideas.

  • This salad is great served with some tortilla chips or corn chips.
  • Because it has veggies, meat, and beans, it is like a whole meal so just serve it with some refreshing fruit mojitos.
  • At your backyard barbecue or family picnic, this dish goes perfectly with burgers or hot dogs. Add some Homemade Lemonade and blackberry Cobbler to make it a feast!
  • Try this salad with some of my easy-to-make beer bread to soak up the extra dressing.

Frequently asked questions

What is southwest salad?

The southwest salad is a Tex-Mex dish that came about in southern Texas many years ago when the Tejano people created their favorite Mexican cuisine. What goes into a southwest salad varies depending on who makes it. Sometimes it has poblano or jalapeno peppers, roasted sweet potatoes, Mexican seasonings, herbs and spices, and in most cases chopped bacon. But it typically has leafy greens, veggies, cheese, some kind of protein like meat or beans, and salad dressing.

In this recipe, the main ingredients that you will hardly miss in this dish are the grilled chicken and romaine lettuce. You also get black beans, tomatoes, corn, avocado, cilantro, and cheddar cheese.

The chicken is seasoned with lime, smoked paprika, taco seasoning, olive oil, and salt. Everything is coated in a creamy dressing made of Greek yogurt, mayo, lime juice, a sweetener like honey or maple syrup, salt, and more cilantro.

What is in a Southwest salad kit?

You may not have the time to chop all the veggies and cook the chicken. In that case, you can grab a premade southwest salad kit from the grocery store that comes with everything but the chicken. But you can buy cooked chicken there too! The kit has chopped cabbage, leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, green onions, Mexican cheese blend, tortilla strips, and salad dressing.

Is Southwest Salad healthy?

Yes, it is healthy! You get protein, fiber, and fat in this dish. But you may want to limit your dressing as it contains mayo.

The veggies are a good source of fiber as well as the beans. The black beans and corn also add carbs aside from fiber. The avocado has some good fat in it and the grilled chicken breasts are lean. So, you get a balanced meal overall.

How to store:

  • Refrigerate: The best way to make this salad is one serving at a time. Keep the ingredients separate so you can save them for another time. You can keep each ingredient in its baggie or container until you are ready to serve it.
  • Freezing: Freezing is not recommended.

More salad recipes to try:

Recipe tips:

  • Be sure to cook the chicken until it reads 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer.
  • If you do not have a food processor, you can use a blender.
  • Always marinate chicken. The longer the better for the best flavor and juiciest chicken.
  • Let your mayo and yogurt come to room temperature before using them so they blend better.
  • If you are going to a barbecue or picnic, do not let the salad sit longer than an hour. It contains mayo and yogurt, which could spoil quickly.

Southwest Salad Recipe

Southwest Salad is a hearty mix of flavorful grilled chicken, avocado, cheese, corn, and beans served with a creamy cilantro dressing! It has that rich Mexican vibe, and it is done in 30 minutes or less!

Photo of southwest salad with chicken.
  • Prep Time20 MIN
  • Cook Time10 MIN
  • Servings 4 servings


For the Chicken:

  • 2 medium chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lime zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Salad:

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado sliced
  • 8 small cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/2 cup black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup corn rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup cilantro for topping

Creamy Cilantro Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup cilantro packed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Chopped green onions
  • Cilantro


Marinate the Chicken:

  • Add chicken breasts, taco seasoning, smoked paprika, salt, lime juice, zest, and olive oil in a medium ziplock bag. Close and shake well to fully coat the chicken into the mixture.
  • Allow marinating for 10 minutes or up to 1-2 days in advance.

Cook the Chicken:

  • Place a cast-iron grill skillet over medium-high heat and once it is hot brush it with about 1 teaspoon of oil.
  • Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, depends how thick the chicken is.
  • You can also cook the chicken on a gas grill. Turn on the grill to medium-high, clean the grates, and grill the chicken on both sides for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Allow chicken to rest for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing it.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing:

  • Add all the dressing ingredients to a food processor and pulse to combine until smooth.


  • Place the chopped romaine lettuce on the bottom of a salad plate or bowl.
  • Top with avocado, chopped tomatoes, black beans, corn, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and sliced chicken.
  • Drizzle the dressing on top just before serving.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and chopped green onions.

Nutrition Facts

Already made this?
Share your feedback




Yum! I can eat this salad every day for lunch! I am a big fan of avocado too!



This looks delicious. I am definitely going to give it a try and make it for the family.



This is one of those recipes that I would NOT share!!! LOL This looks so good. I must make this tonight. Happen to have some avocadoes.

Terri Steffes

Terri Steffes

Yummy! I am super excited about this great salad. I am saving for a summer party I am having!

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.