This Southwest Salad is loaded with black beans, corn, avocado and smoky, spicy honey chipotle chicken, drizzled in a tangy cilantro lime dressing. A hearty main dish salad that fresh, full of bold flavor and easy to make!
I love a giant, fresh, flavor-packed salad for dinner. This Southwest Salad is full of black beans, corn, peppers, red onion, avocado and spicy, smoky, sweet honey chipotle chicken. It’s bursting with my favorite flavors and on repeat in my kitchen all year long.
What I love most about Southwest Salad is that it’s highly customizable! Start with a bed of crisp romaine lettuce and then just follow your heart with your favorite veggies. Keep it vegan or add the spicy sweet honey chipotle chicken for a super filling, nutritious meal.
Ingredients in Southwest Salad
A fresh and crunchy array of colorful veggies, hearty black beans and creamy avocado with warm, spicy chicken brings all the Tex Mex flavor to this salad.
- Romaine Lettuce – I recommend sticking with romaine because it’s crisp, hearty and will hold up loads of toppings.
- Black Beans & Corn – A staple ingredient in any Southwest style dish.
- Tomato – Use halved cherry or grape tomatoes or chopped roma tomatoes for best texture.
- Red Onion – A bit of finely diced red onion or some thinly sliced scallions adds tons of flavor.
- Bell Pepper – Any color you like or try some chopped, roasted poblano peppers for extra flair.
- Avocado – Adds creaminess.
- Fresh Cilantro – I love the flavor of fresh cilantro leaves mixed in with the salad.
- Honey Chipotle Chicken – Boneless skinless chicken breast with a spicy, smoky, sweet honey chipotle marinade. You’ll definitely want to make extra of to have for leftovers.
- Southwest Salad Dressing – I definitely recommend making my Cilantro Lime Dressing. Or go with your favorite ranch if you prefer a creamy dressing.
- Extras: Add some cotija cheese or crushed tortilla chips if you’re feeling extra.
How to make the Honey Chipotle Chicken
Topping this Southwest Salad off with warm honey chipotle chicken just takes it to the next level. If you need a shortcut, just skip this step and go vegan or use rotisserie chicken.
All you need is chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, fresh garlic, honey, cumin, mustard, salt and fresh limes to make a delicious marinade for boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Step one – If your chicken breasts are on the larger side, start by butterflying the chicken breast. Carefully cut lengthwise about halfway through the breast and then open it up like a book. This makes the chicken an even thickness throughout which allows for faster, more evenly cooked, juicier chicken breasts.
Step two: Add fresh minced garlic, chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, honey, cumin, lime juice, olive oil and salt to a shallow dish or plastic zip top bag. Add in chicken breasts, seal and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. I do not recommend letting the chicken marinade for more than two hours. The marinade is highly acidic from the lime juice and any longer could toughen the meat. Reserve some of the marinade for basting.
Step three: Using a well oiled cast iron skillet or grill pan, cook the chicken on medium high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade. Once each side is deep golden brown with a little bit of char, turn the heat down, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Step four: Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and topping your salad.
Note: You definitely want to use a cast iron or heavy duty nonstick skillet. The honey in the marinade will leave some char that’s difficult to remove in any other type of pan.
Assembling your salad
There are a few different ways to assemble your salad so that everyone can have theirs exactly how they like it! It’s all about presentation.
- Make a salad bar: This is a great presentation if you’re having people over for lunch and you’re not sure about everyone’s dietary preferences or tastes. Set all of the ingredients out in colorful bowls to create a salad bar so everyone choose their own adventure!
- Arrange it on a platter: Start with a bed of romaine lettuce on a large platter and then neatly arrange each of the ingredients in separate groupings. A great option if this salad is part of a larger meal and you want to give people the option to pick the ingredients they enjoy. They can still serve themselves and easily leave behind the ones they don’t want.
- Mix or chop it up: Go head and toss it all together. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, spread it out on a large cutting board and run a knife through it to make it a chopped, mixed salad. Not as pretty but certainly delicious as you’ll be sure to get a bit of everything in each bite!
Salad dressing for Southwest Salad
Southwest Salad with Honey Chipotle Chicken
- 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 ripe avocado
- ½ red onion diced
- Optional: cilantro & lime wedges
Honey Chipotle Chicken
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce chopped plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce.
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 limes zest and juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
- Combine all of the marinade ingredients for the Honey Chipotle Chicken in a small bowl. Reserve ¼ of the marinade and set aside for basting.
- Butterfly the chicken breasts and combine with marinade in a covered shallow dish or zip top plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- While the chicken is marinating, prep the salad ingredients and make the Cilantro Lime Dressing.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard. Cook chicken breasts on one side for 1-2 minutes until browned with a little bit of char. Flip, baste with reserved marinade and cook on the other side for an additional 1-2 minutes. Baste again, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and cook the chicken for another 8-10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Remove chicken from the pan and place on a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
- Arrange salad ingredients, add chicken and drizzle with dressing.