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This fresh Chick-fil-A salad is a perfect copycat! Southwest chicken salad starts with spicy grilled chicken, mixed with fresh veggies, topped with a spicy-sweet salad dressing, and finished with crunchy tortilla strips. This colorful salad is loaded with southwest flavors and plenty of texture!

southwest chicken salad in a bowl.

Easy Southwest Chicken Salad

Whenever that craving for Chick-fil-A salad hits you, make it at home instead. I’ve done this with Chick-fil-A nuggets, so I know it’s possible to make everyone’s favorite takeout items for less money and very little effort at home.

This colorful and nutritious salad rivals the same thing at the fast food chain. In fact, after just one bite, you’ll be convinced that this is one of your favorite salad recipes of all time! If you love the crunch and taste of a chopped veggie salad, you’ll love this Southwest chicken salad. 

This hearty and zippy salad makes lunchtime easy! This salad always hits the spot when you don’t know what you’re in the mood for. The smoky grilled chicken breast is perfect with the creamy salsa dressing on top of a bed of crispy veggies. 

Whether you need an easy side dish or want something different for lunch, make this copycat Chick-fil-A salad. Serve it with chicken noodle soup for a delicious meal. 

Why you’ll love Southwest Chicken Salad

Copycat  – This recipe looks and tastes just like the famous southwest chicken salad recipe from Chick-fil-A. Might I say, this delicious salad is even better!  

Healthy – This is a high-fiber, high-protein, and low-carb salad that fills you up and provides many essential nutrients. It’s a great way to enjoy lunch or a light dinner throughout the week. 

Easy – This flavorful salad is ready in less than 25 minutes. And you can speed up that process even more by making the chicken ahead of time. Or using leftovers!

overhead shot of bowl of southwest chicken salad.

Equipment you’ll need

Ingredients

Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.

For the Chicken: 

  • Chicken Breasts – Use either boneless skinless chicken breasts or breasts of tenderloins.   
  • Olive Oil – Use your favorite oil to cook the chicken. Olive oil or avocado oil are my top contenders for browning juicy chicken.
  • Seasoning – Garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, coarse kosher salt, and black pepper. Together this blend of seasonings gives the southwestern chicken salad a smoky, spicy, bold flavor profile.  
overhead shot of labeled ingredients.

Creamy Salsa Dressing: 

  • Sour Cream – Use full-fat sour cream for the best flavor and to prevent a thin, runny dressing.
  • Salsa – Use your favorite kind of salsa, as spicy as you can handle it. I have a great On the Border copycat salsa recipe you’d love.
  • Mayonnaise – Real mayonnaise will give it the creamy consistency needed to balance all the crunchy, crispy elements.  
  • Milk – Use your favorite kind of milk, as long as it is unflavored and unsweetened. It helps thin out the dressing to make it pourable. 
  • Lime – Fresh lime juice brightens the dressing with some zesty citrus tang. 
  • Honey – This sweetens the dressing perfectly. 
  • Seasoning: Chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper provide the southwest flavors to this southwest salad!
overhead shot of labeled ingredients.

For the Salad:  

  • Hearts Of Romaine – This is the inner part of a head of romaine lettuce. It’s the lighter part that has a mild flavor and crunchy texture. It is a classic choice for this salad, but you can certainly swap it with iceberg lettuce if preferred.  
  • Spring Mix – Add your favorite types of mixed greens. 
  • Black Beans – Drain and rinse them very well. 
  • Frozen Corn – Crisp corn kernels add a fantastic texture and juicy bursts of sweetness to the salad. 
  • Cherry Tomatoes – These are a must for all Southwest salads. Grape tomatoes are also a good idea. Juicy tomatoes of any kind are great, but you don’t want to overdo it. Using overripe or super juicy tomatoes can cause your salad to become soggy.
  • Cheese – Fiesta or Mexican cheese is the perfect thing to sprinkle on top. If you’ve got cotija cheese in your fridge, go ahead and use that. Cheddar cheese is always a popular choice.
  • Red Bell Pepper – Chop or slice any color of bell peppers. 
  • Cilantro – If you don’t like fresh cilantro, use parsley or leave it out. 
  • Tortilla Strips – They add color and crunch to the zesty salad. 
overhead shot of labeled vegetables laid out to make salad.

How to make Southwest Chicken Salad

This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.

  1. Step One: Marinate the chicken in the seasonings while you heat the pan. Combine chicken pieces in a large bowl with oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix with tongs or clean hands until the chicken is fully coated. 
  1. Step Two: Heat oil in a skillet or sauté over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the chicken and cook it for 4-9 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside. 
  1. Step Three: To a large bowl add the dressing ingredients. Mix until combined.
  1. Step Four: Add the salad ingredients and chicken to the large bowl of dressing. Toss until fully combined and enjoy!

What to serve with Southwest Chicken Salad

The simple ingredients in this fresh salad deliver bold flavors that stand out reminding you why you love making copycat recipes! Serve it with your favorite soup or sandwich for a filling and healthy lunch or dinner. 

You might also want to serve it with extra lime wedges for people to squirt a little extra juice on their salad. 

To stick with the Southwest theme, serve the salad with either black bean wraps or some air fryer quesadillas. Then, add some homemade guacamole to the table and you’re ready to eat!

Tips & Suggestions

  • You can add ripe avocados, cucumbers, jalapenos, green onion, red onion, or anything you need to make this a perfect salad.
  • If you prefer shredded chicken, you can shred the tender chicken instead of slicing it into strips.
  • Add some sliced jalapenos, chipotle peppers, or green chilies to make it spicier. 
  • Greek yogurt can be used instead of sour cream. 
  • The Southwestern flavors in this salad pair well with all kinds of dressings. If you want to switch it up on occasion, try a cilantro lime dressing or ranch dressing. 

How to reheat and store Southwest Chicken Salad

How to store leftovers

Store the leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To make it last longer and prevent the salad from becoming soggy, keep the salad and salad dressing in separate containers. 

How long will copycat southwest chicken salad last in the fridge?

If you store the dressing separately from the salad, it will stay fresh for up to three days in the refrigerator. 

Can I freeze the cooked chicken?

Yes, you can freeze the cooked chicken breast. Freeze it in a freezer-safe bag like a Zip-lock bag. Keep them in the freezer for up to six months. 

How to reheat southwest chicken

It’s best to reheat the chicken breast in a large skillet over low heat. 

fork taking a bite of salad.

FAQs

Can I use leftover chicken in this salad?

Yes, this is the perfect way to use up any cooked chicken that you have in your refrigerator. Shred up a rotisserie chicken or even use canned chicken. 

Is southwest chicken salad spicy? 

This is only as spicy as you make it. Add more peppers, use more cayenne pepper, or add some hot sauce to the dressing.  

Can I make it without meat? 

Yes, you can. It’s not exactly a Southwest chicken salad, nor is it a copycat, but the vegetables and dressing will taste just as delicious even without the grilled chicken on top. 

Need more salad recipes? Try these:

The Best Potato Salad

Spinach Apple Salad

Hoagie Salad

Traditional Macaroni Salad

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Click here for my entire collection of salad recipes.

dressing drizzled over chicken in a southwest salad.
southwest chicken salad in a bowl.
5 from 1 vote

Southwest Chicken Salad (Chic-Fil-A Copycat)

Servings: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
This fresh Chick-fil-A salad is a perfect copycat! Southwest chicken salad starts with spicy grilled chicken, mixed with fresh veggies, topped with a spicy-sweet salad dressing, and finished with crunchy tortilla strips. This colorful salad is loaded with southwest flavors and plenty of texture!

Ingredients
 

Chicken Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper

Creamy Salsa Dressing Ingredients

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • cup salsa
  • ¼ mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup milk
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 hearts romaine chopped
  • 5 ounces spring mix
  • 1 cup black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn defrosted
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup fiesta / Mexican cheese shredded
  • ½ cup red bell pepper chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro chopped
  • 1 cup tortilla strips

Instructions

  • In a large bowl add the chicken, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix with tongs or clean hands until the chicken is fully coated.
    1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • In a saute pan add 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Once the oil is hot add the chicken.
  • Saute or grill the chicken for 4-9 minutes on each side over medium heat. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  • To a large bowl add the dressing ingredients. Mix until combined. Set aside.
    ½ cup sour cream, ⅓ cup salsa, ¼ mayonnaise, ¼ cup milk, juice from 1 lime, 1 tablespoon honey, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, ⅛ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • To a large bowl add the salad ingredients, chicken, and dressing. Toss until fully combined.
    2 hearts romaine, 5 ounces spring mix, 1 cup black beans, 1 cup frozen corn, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup fiesta / Mexican cheese, ½ cup red bell pepper, ¼ cup cilantro, 1 cup tortilla strips

Notes

  • You can add ripe avocados, cucumbers, jalapenos, green onion, red onion, or anything you need to make this a perfect salad.
  • If you prefer shredded chicken, you can shred the tender chicken instead of slicing it into strips.
  • Add some sliced jalapenos, chipotle peppers, or green chilies to make it spicier. 
  • Greek yogurt can be used instead of sour cream.
  • The Southwestern flavors in this salad pair well with all kinds of dressings. If you want to switch it up on occasion, try a cilantro lime dressing or ranch dressing. 
  • If making ahead of time, do not dress the entire salad. Store leftovers separately covered in the fridge.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 528kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 639mg | Potassium: 873mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 7028IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 291mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram @melissa_pplates so I can see!

Originally published September 27, 2016

Southwest Fiesta Salad with a quick homemade spicy jalapeno dressing is a fast and healthy meal for any day of the week. | Persnickety Plates



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