Make this easy and delicious southwestern salad in larger portions topped with chicken as a meal, or the smaller, vegetarian version as a side.
This salad is made extra special with the addition of charred corn and two types of cheese, but you can totally customize it to your family's tastes. Top it with your favorite grilled and blackened chicken or a simple marinated chicken like this one to add a lean protein and make it a meal.
Or, leave the chicken off and make it in smaller portions. In that case you'll have the perfect complement to any Southwestern or Mexican-inspired meal.
Why we created this recipe
It's simple. One of our top recipes is this one for Southwestern Salad Dressing. It's very straightforward, but somewhat unique because it's a vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing.
Turns out that a lot of folks were also looking around here for the perfect salad to put that dressing on. You asked, and we deliver, y'all!
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Ingredients and Substitutions
- First, the greens. You can totally use what you have on hand (that's a signature strategy in these parts). However, our favorite is either Romaine lettuce or Bibb/Butter Lettuce (we highly recommend theformer for our Grapefruit Salad too).
- Black Beans - the canned variety is fine. We always reach for a favorite brand, Bush's Best and we use their beans in our two baked beans recipes too. The low sodium version is super good, and why not cut back on sodium where you can?
- Jalapenos - in the photos you see whole slices of pickled jalapeno peppers, but you could dice them up if you prefer. In the summer we have them fresh from the garden, and we certainly use those if we have them. If you don't want this salad to be spicy, leave the peppers off, or substitute with something mild like banana or bell peppers.
- Corn - the charred corn is what really makes this salad amazing! In the recipe we give you instructions for a little chili powder and a quick char in a skillet. However, you can take it to new levels of delish by making Blackened Corn first, and using that on your salad.
- Tomatoes - fresh and diced into bite sized pieces.
- Cheddar Cheese - extra sharp is our choice, but you choose your desired level of sharpness.
- Pepper Jack Cheese - another place you can customize with plain Monterey Jack if you want your salad on the mild side.
- Chicken - Cooked chicken cut into strips or bite sized pieces are perfect if this will be a meal sized salad. We linked you above to a couple of our favorite recipes, but you can also use rotisserie chicken that you picked up at the market, or have leftover. Figure on about 4 ounces per person.
Additional add-ons to further customize your salad
- Sliced avocado
- tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
- onion (red or green, or both)
- sour cream or crema
- top with steak or shrimp instead of chicken
The best dressing for your southwest style salad
This is also a matter of preference and a place you can customize.
If you like a vinaigrette we highly recommend our Southwestern Salad Dressing and it will run you about 164 calories per standard two tablespoon serving.
For a creamy dressing you can use your favorite recipe or this little trick: Take your standard Ranch dressing (the best kind comes from the produce section of your store) and stir in a bit of chili powder and cumin.
Dressing up a store bought dressing is what we do for our pasta salad with asparagus too. That will be more like 180-190 calories per serving, but you should check your bottle or jar.
How to make the salad
This is a really simple salad, but we've included a few notes for you.
- Make your dressing first. Time for the flavors to blend is always beneficial.
- Char or blacken your corn first so it can cool off before adding to your salad.
- If cooking fresh chicken, you'll want to have that done and sliced first too.
- Chop the lettuce.
- Dice the tomatoes and allow them to drain a bit.
- Drain the black beans.
- Freshly shred your cheeses. We always recommend this!
Southwestern Salad: Entree' or Side
- Sprinkle chili powder and cumin over the corn. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat and add corn, cooking and stirring until charred. Set aside to cool.
- Add lettuce to bowl and assemble remaining ingredients on top.
- Before serving toss and dress as desired.