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Southwestern Chicken Salad

by Dana Bean, RD

A fast and flavorful mix, this Southwestern Chicken Salad is a warm weather favorite! Salads don’t have to be boring, and eating them definitely doesn’t have to mean you’re falling into diet culture.

Southwestern Chicken Salad

A bed of greens topped with tender chicken, black beans, avocado, blackened corn, cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese, crunchy tortilla strips with a chipotle salad dressing.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: dinner, lunch


  • 1 Air grill OR skillet


  • 1-2 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp oil divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup frozen corn thawed
  • 2.5-3 cups mixed greens spring mix, romaine, etc…
  • 2/3 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small or medium avocado sliced
  • 1 cup black beans rinsed and dried
  • 2/3 cup tortilla strips or chips


  • Pat the chicken dry and cut in half lengthwise into cutlets (width will stay the same, but thickness is cut in half). Add to a bowl with 1.5 Tbsp oil, salt, and pepper. Mix until chicken is coated and either air grill at 450 for 11 minutes or add to a skillet and cook until internal temperature reached 165 degrees F.
  • If desired, make blackened corn in the skillet by adding 1/2 Tbsp oil and corn and cooking on medium high heat for 5-8 minutes or until corn looks browned/blackened.
  • Assemble salad by adding base of greens topped with tomatoes, cheese, avocado, black beans, corn, and tortilla strips. Top with a creamy chipotle dressing (See Note 1) and enjoy!


  1. Try this easy creamy chipotle dressing!
southwest chicken salad in a white bowl with lime, chipotle salad dressing, and another salad dressing in the background.

Cook the chicken, assemble the salad and done! This is one of my go-to salads since it’s flavorful, quick, and tastes like a salad you’d get when eating out. If you’ve ever thought that salads you make at home don’t taste as good as what you’d get from a restaurant, this is NOT one of those salads.

Chicken (with oil and seasoning): Air grilled or sauteed in the pan, the fillet chicken cooks fast and is juicy

Mixed Greens/Lettuce: You can choose your favorite lettuce here! I usually opt for the spring mix that comes pre-washed, or I’ll do half greens with half romaine

Black Beans: Make sure to rinse and dry these!

Corn: You can skip the charred corn if you’re running low on time, but it really adds some of that elevated flavor to the dish

Tomatoes: halved cherry tomatoes or diced romas works well

Cheese: some shredded cheddar to add flavor

Avocado: we’re doing all the toppings, so adding some avocado for good measure. You could also do guac instead!

Tortilla Strips or Chips: to add some crunch!

Dressing: There are a few options for dressing! My favorite is this Chipotle Salad Dressing and is the one pictured. You could also do ranch or a cilantro lime.

Southwestern Chicken Salad on 2 plates with a white background.

Ah diet culture. It’s the idea of prioritizing intentional weight loss and thinness above basically everything else in life. It’s very ingrained into society and robs us of out time, money, energy, and sanity!

But rejecting diet culture doesn’t mean we have to reject all foods that diet culture believes belong to it. Instead, it means rejecting the motivation and meaning behind eating certain foods.

So for salads? Let’s make them substantial, add a variety of nutrients to them, and reclaim them!

A great big IT DEPENDS! You (and your dietitian) are the only one who can decide this. We have protein, fat, fiber, and carbs represented in this meal, but it doesn’t mean you may not need more. Your nutrient needs are individual and there is no “one size fits all”.

Though this salad is delicious and generally balanced, it doesn’t have a lot of grains added (aside from the corn chips). You may consider adding something like a quesadilla to the side or rice to the base to add more grains if you’re finding the salad “as is” is not as filling or satisfying as you need.

Southwestern chicken salad with a white background in 2 bowls.
  • Diet culture doesn’t get to claim salads or any other food for that matter!
  • It’s ok (encouraged!) to add elements to a meal to make it more satisfying

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