Southwest Chicken Salad also referred to as a Santa Fe Chicken Salad is a healthy alternative for dinner that is loaded with flavors. It’s a popular salad that can be made at home to taste just as good or even better than your favorite restaurant. Nearly always you will find a bed of greens topped with grilled chicken, corn and black beans along with avocado, tomatoes and cheese. These are things that most of us already have in our pantry or refrigerator. The toppings vary and you can always add or leave out ingredients that work for you. The salad dressing is a personal choice but there are many recipes for dressings that enhance the flavors of this salad. I chose a chipotle ranch dressing that paired well with all the toppings and gave it a spicy kick. If you have some or all of these ingredients handy, you too could put together a salad for dinner that is scrumptious and healthy which is ways a plus!
On this day it just happens to be sunny and 68 degrees! A great day for grilling! One chicken breast will easily serve 2 people for this salad. I used a seasoning blend that included dehydrated green chile, garlic, onion and other spices.
There was a lot of spice going on in this Los Chileros Chicken Fantastico! Rub. The spices appeared charred on the grilled chicken but the flavor was anything but. Really good!
The one thing that is always a must for this type of salad is crispy tortilla strips. They give that added crunch and taste so good. I used 4 corn tortillas that were cut into strips. Add a drizzle of olive oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan and add about half the strips. Toss them around so that all the strips get some oil on them and begin to brown and crisp.
When perfectly fried, place in a bowl with paper towels to absorb the excess oils. Sprinkle salt and Aleppo pepper flakes over top. Try not to eat them all before going on the salad! They are addictive!
The dressing is made from Cibolo Junction Chipotle Ranch Dip Mix. They have many different dip mixes that might make delicious dressings. I have been experimenting with dip mixes to make some really great salad dressings. The directions use mayonnaise and buttermilk to make the dressing, but I only used half of the recommended amount of dip mix to that. The mix was concentrated with spice and flavor and personally I think adding more would have overwhelmed the flavors of the salad. You can substitute plain whole Greek yogurt for half or all of the mayo, and you can substitute milk with a spritz of lemon juice for the buttermilk.
Assemble your salad with lettuce on the bottom, I used a combination of Romaine and Red Leaf Romaine. Top with sliced Grilled chicken, about 1 cup of black beans, 1 cup of corn, 1/2 cup of sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado, tortilla strips, crumbled queso fresco cheese and a sprinkle of green onions. Drizzle chipotle ranch dressing over top. Enjoy!
Romaine or Red Leaf Romaine Lettuce (approximately 1/2 bag of salad)
1 large Chicken Breast, grilled
Los Chileros Chicken Fantastico Rub, to season chicken
4 Corn Tortillas, cut into strips
1 cup Black Beans
1 cup Corn, fresh, frozen or canned
1/2 Avocado, sliced
1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
Queso Fresco Cheese, crumbled
2 Green Onion, sliced
Chipotle Ranch Dressing
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise, can substitute Whole Plain Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup Buttermilk, can substitute 2% or Whole Milk with a spritz of Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Chipotle Ranch Dip Mix, I used Cibolo Junction Chipotle Ranch Dip Mix
Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk and chipotle ranch dip mix together. Taste and add more dip mix if needed. Refrigerate dressing if not using immediately.
Sprinkle Chicken Fantastico Rub over chicken and add a drizzle of olive oil over both sides. Preheat grill to 350 – 400 degrees. Grill chicken 20 – 25 minutes turning every 5 – 7 minutes. Chicken is done when internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Cut corn tortillas into strips. In a small skillet add a drizzle of olive oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add about half of the tortilla strips and toss to coat oil on all the strips. Fry over medium to medium high heat as the tortillas crisp and brown. When crisp remove to a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Drizzle pan with oil and fry remaining tortilla strips. Sprinkle some salt and Aleppo Pepper flakes on tortilla strips for added flavor. Set aside.
Cut or tear salad into bite size pieces. Layer lettuce in a medium sized bowl. Top with grilled chicken, black beans, corn, sliced tomatoes, sliced avocado, crumbled queso fresco cheese and sliced green onion. Top with chipotle ranch dressing.
Additional toppings might include cooked bacon bits, sliced red or yellow bell peppers, sliced olives, red onion, lime wedge or cilantro. Additional cheese choices might be grated cheddar cheese, grated Monterey jack cheese, grated jalapeno jack cheese or cotija cheese crumbles. Additional dressing choices; cilantro lime dressing, creamy avocado dressing, chile lime dressing or honey lime dressing.
Makes 2 full serving salads.