Southwestern Salad

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This Southwestern Salad combines vibrant flavors and nutritious ingredients, including juicy chicken, black beans, corn, onions, and roasted bell peppers. Paired with crunchy romaine and dressed in a creamy cilantro-lime dressing, it’s easy to prepare and ideal for anyone seeking a wholesome, fulfilling meal.

Southwestern chicken salad in a salad bowl with serving tongs.


Easy & Healthy Southwestern Salad Recipe

Tex-Mex in salad form, this recipe is a breeze to prepare. It’s loaded with vibrant flavors and nutrient-rich ingredients, making it perfect for those of you seeking easy, healthy, delicious meals. Smoky, succulent chicken, earthy black beans, sweet corn, fresh tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, and crispy Romaine lettuce are tossed with a creamy cilantro-lime dressing. The zesty dressing infuses the dish with fresh tanginess that ties all the components together beautifully. There are so many flavors and textures in each forkful, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better salad. Besides, this salad has gotten me through so many busy work weeks because it’s so easy to make all of the components ahead of time and assemble them when you need a quick, easy meal. Plus, it’s insanely delicious! Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

Assembling southwestern chicken salad in a bowl before dressing.

Why You’ll Love This Salad

Colorful, flavorful, and pretty darn good for you, this Southwestern salad has a lot going for it. Here are some of the reasons I think you’ll love it.

  • Nutritious. Packed with lean protein from the chicken and fiber-rich black beans, as well as plentiful vitamins and minerals and even more fiber from the assortment of veggies, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse.
  • Standout flavor. Between the lime, smoked paprika, and the kick of jalapeno in the dressing, this salad is just bursting with wonderfully bright, savory flavors.
  • Customizable. You could take this salad in so many different directions. Crank up the heat, use different veggies, try steak instead of chicken, you name it.
  • Meal prep-friendly. You can easily prepare the components of this salad ahead of time and throw them together when you are ready for a quick and easy meal.
Ingredients for Southwestern chicken salad.

Southwestern Salad Ingredients

Buckle up and head on over to the grocery store. Here’s what you’ll need to make this salad recipe.

For The Salad

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – Boneless skinless breasts will also work.
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Lime – I highly suggest using fresh lime juice as opposed to bottled.
  • Red onion
  • Red bell pepper – Any color of bell pepper will do.
  • Romaine lettuce – You could use mixed greens or butter lettuce instead.
  • Canned corn – Roasted corn off the cob or thawed frozen corn would also work.
  • Black beans – Feel free to use pinto beans if you’d prefer.
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Salt & Pepper

For The Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno – Be sure to remove the seeds from the jalapeno unless you’re really hankering for some heat.
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Sour cream – You can use yogurt instead if you’d like.
  • Salt & pepper

How to Make Southwestern Salad

Get ready to make this healthy, protein-packed southwestern chicken salad – it’s great! Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card below for more detailed instructions.

  1. Seasonings. Season the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and lime juice. Arrange it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  2. Rest and slice. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing it into strips.
  3. Roast the veggies. Arrange the onion and bell peppers over a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.
  4. Make the dressing. Blend the cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, sour cream, salt, and pepper until smooth.
  5. Assemble the salad. Toss together the Romain, roasted veggies, corn, beans, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro, divide the mixture evenly between 4 plates, and top each with chicken and dressing.
Close-up shot of a bowl with sliced chicken, sliced red bell peppers, black beans, tomatoes, and corn.

Tips & Variations

Get this salad right the first time and don’t be afraid to play around and make it your own. Just follow these simple tips and tricks and consider throwing a personalized spin on it if you’re feeling creative.

  • Use fresh lime. Trust me, the flavor is just a million times brighter and better than the bottled stuff.
  • Marinate the chicken. If you want the chicken to be extra flavorful, let it sit in its seasoning for 30 minutes or so before roasting.
  • Toss just before serving. Romaine, in particular, likes to wilt. To keep everything crisp, wait to dress the salad until just before serving.
  • Adjust the spice. Leave the seeds in the jalapeno if you want some spice. Not a spice person? Forget the jalapeno altogether. You could also add or remove some of the paprika or introduce a little cayenne to your chicken and veggie seasonings.
  • Try a different protein. Try grilled chicken, tofu, or even salmon instead of chicken here. You won’t even have to adjust the seasoning.
  • Add more (or different) veggies. I love the bell peppers here, but you could add roasted broccoli or asparagus or even roasted radishes instead of or in addition to the bell peppers.
  • Make it a southwestern bowl. Swap the greens out for rice (or cauliflower rice), and you’ve got yourself a Southwestern burrito bowl!
  • Fun toppings. Don’t be afraid to add extra toppings that appeal to you. Shredded sharp cheddar, sliced avocado, tortilla strips, and/or crumbled, cooked bacon would all be great options.
Sliced chicken topped with a creamy green dressing.

Serving Suggestions

This chicken salad is ever so tasty on its own, but feel free to doll it up with one (or several) of these serving suggestions.

Can I Make This Southwestern Salad in Advance?

You can! This salad is a great meal prep option. Prepare all the components separately, including the dressing, allow them to cool (where applicable), and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge. You can make the chicken, the dressing, and the veggies up to 4 days in advance, but I wouldn’t prep the raw veggies more than a day or two ahead of time because they will lose their freshness. When you are ready to enjoy, all that’s left to do is assemble the salad.

You can also roast the chicken and/or bell peppers up to 3 months in advance and store them in separate airtight containers in the freezer. Allow them to thaw before preparing the remaining components and assembling the salad.

Close-up image of Southwestern Chicken Salad in a salad bowl with wooden serving utensils.


The best way to store this salad is before you’ve assembled it, just because it starts to get soggy after you’ve dressed it.

  • Seal the separate components in separate airtight containers and store them in the fridge.
  • If you have already assembled the salad, go ahead and seal it in an airtight container, tossed and all, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just note that the lettuce will get soggy quickly.
  • I do not recommend freezing this salad.

More Healthy Salad Recipes

On the hunt for more healthy, yet filling lunch or dinner salad recipes? You’re in luck. I have a ton in my catalog of salad recipes, but here are some of my absolute favorites.

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Southwestern Salad

Make this delicious Southwestern salad part of your weekly meal prep rotation. Bursting with vibrant flavors, it's made with chicken, black beans, corn, roasted bell peppers, and more, tossed with crispy romaine in a creamy cilantro-lime dressing.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


For the chicken

For the roasted veggies

  • 1 small red onion,, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers,, cut into thin strips
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

  • 1 bunch of cilantro,, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno,, seeded and sliced
  • tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper,, to taste

For the salad

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For the chicken

  • Prep. Preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Season the chicken. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Squeeze the lime halves over the chicken thighs.
  • Roast. Arrange the chicken on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until juices run clear and the chicken's internal temperature registers at 165˚F.
  • Rest and slice. Remove from oven and let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing it into strips.

Roast the veggies

  • Prep. While the chicken roasts, line another baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Season the veggies. Arrange the onion and bell peppers on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Give everything a toss to coat the veggies with the oil and seasoning.
  • Roast. Roast the veggies in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.

To make the dressing

  • Blend. While the chicken and veggies are roasting, load up your blender with the cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  • Store. Transfer the dressing to a mason jar and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Assemble the salad

  • Toss. In a large salad bowl, toss together the Romaine lettuce, roasted veggies, corn, beans, cherry tomatoes, and fresh chopped cilantro.
  • Serve. Distribute the salad between 4 plates. Top each salad with an equal portion of sliced chicken. Drizzle with the desired amount of dressing, and serve.


  • Choose fresh lime for a brighter flavor.
  • For a deeper flavor, marinate the chicken for about 30 minutes before roasting.
  • Dress the salad right before serving to maintain crispness.
  • Customize the spice level. Keep the jalapeno seeds for heat, or omit the jalapeno entirely if you don’t like spicy foods. Also, adjust the paprika and cayenne as desired.
  • Experiment with different proteins like tofu or salmon.
  • Add different veggies like roasted broccoli, asparagus, or radishes. 
  • Add toppings like cheese, avocado, tortilla strips, or crumbled bacon.
  • For a southwestern twist, replace greens with rice or cauliflower rice to make a burrito bowl.
  • You will have extra dressing. Seal it in a jar and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. 


Calories: 407kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 89mg | Sodium: 1233mg | Potassium: 1069mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 4040IU | Vitamin C: 107mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Jamie says:

    I love your recipes but I miss seeing photos in your emails. Since you changed your email format without photos I seldom open the emails. Please add them back

    1. Katerina says:

      Hi Jamie!
      Thank you for the feedback! I am constantly testing to see what works best, or what will make the readers engage more with my emails and click over to my website. I agree that the emails with the pictures are prettier, but it’s not engaging, unfortunately. I have over 100,000 email subscribers, of which 26% open my emails, and only 2% click over to get the recipe. You’d be surprised to know that with the new format, that number has doubled. Subscribing to newsletters is free for the readers but not for us, the content providers. Keeping my subscribers’ emails costs me thousands of dollars a month. Without anyone clicking over to my website, it’s like throwing money to the wind. 😕 I hope you understand and still come by to “visit”. 😊