Southwestern Taco Salads

These salads are loaded because that’s the only way you can normally get me to eat a salad. Blackened chicken, avocado, crumbled cotija cheese, fire roasted corn, pico de gallo, and a spicy chipotle ranch dressing. This is a “non-recipe” recipe – you can improvise with whatever ingredients you have in the fridge and change up the ratios of the toppings as desired. Don’t have pico de gallo? Throw in a few tablespoons of chunky salsa. Want to make it vegetarian? Swap the chicken for black beans. Want to eat the salad dressing with a spoon? Go ahead.

Serves four as an entree


For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayo
  • 2 tbsp taco sauce (I used the Ortega brand)
  • Zest and juice from one lime
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less depending on spice preference)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 lb chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Zest and juice from one lime
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced/chopped
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce, thinly sliced/chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups pico de gallo
  • 1 cup frozen fire roasted corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Large handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • Optional: tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips


  1. To make the dressing, whisk the sour cream, mayo, and taco sauce together in a bowl. Add the lime zest and juice, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Whisk to combine and add salt and pepper as needed to taste (this will depend on the taco sauce you’re using; the taco sauce that I used already had a decent amount of salt in it). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup vegetable oil, taco seasoning, lime zest and juice. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or up to overnight.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat for 3-5 minutes – you want it to get very, very hot. Don’t put anything in the pan until you’re ready to cook, unless you’re trying to start a grease fire.
  4. Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to the skillet. Shake any excess marinade off of the chicken and add the chicken to the skillet. Turn the heat down to medium-high (helps prevents smoking), and cook for 5-7 minutes per side. Don’t move or disturb the chicken while it’s cooking – that’s how you get the blackened crust. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 5-7 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through (165 degrees if you have a meat thermometer). Remove and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  5. Assemble the salads. In a large bowl, add the lettuces, chicken, corn, pico de gallo, red onion, cotija cheese, avocado, and cilantro. Toss with as much dressing as desired and top with tortilla strips and a bit of extra cotija cheese. Enjoy.