This Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad is made with flavorful grilled chicken on a bed of crispy romaine lettuce topped with sweet corn, black beans, crispy red onions, juicy grape tomatoes, tortilla strips, shredded cheddar cheese, and drizzled with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce and Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing. If you are looking for a healthy dinner salad recipe, this is a great choice!
I think most of us can agree that salads typically aren’t indulgent. They certainly have a bit of a reputation for being a boring, flavorless pile of rabbit food. This Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad is anything but that.
How do I make Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad?
It seems sort of silly to devote a whole post to a salad. I mean, it’s a chicken salad, how hard can it be? Well the answer is, it’s not hard. At all. But there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your southwest chicken salad isn’t the aforementioned boring, flavorless pile of rabbit food. And if you’re trying to find a go-to healthy dinner salad recipe, you certainly want it to taste like a delicious dinner, not a punishment!
Preparing the Southwest Flavored Chicken
Salads are kind of hard to mess us, but chicken isn’t. You can ruin a chicken breast quick, fast, and in a hurry. There are a couple of things to remember:
- Tenderize the chicken. Put your chicken breast in between two slices of plastic wrap and hammer it flat and thin with a tenderizing mallet. If you don’t have one, first.. GET ONE! But I’ve been able to accomplish the same idea with a hefty metal spoon and a little bit of patience.
- Season generously! Chicken breast gets a bit of a bad rap for being flavorless. Whatever seasoning you choose to use, coat this chicken breast well! You can search homemade southwest spice recipes or buy them premade, but whatever you choose, spice it up! I chose to use John Henry’s Fajita Rub with Cilantro. If you can’t get John Henry Seasoning where you are it’s worth it to order it online!
- Sear on a hot pan. Let the pan get hot and then cook your chicken. You want quite a bit of rich brown char to give it some extra flavor.
Use a variety of toppings
You can add whatever toppings you like to your southwest chicken salad, but here are a few classics:
- black beans
- tortilla strips
- red onion
- cherry tomatoes
- cheddar cheese
The more toppings you add, the more rich and flavorful your southwest chicken salad will be!
Get the drizzle just right
Ok, this part is more important than you think. One of the things that will take your salad to calorie-town super fast is drenching it in ranch. As much as I’ve tried and enjoyed healthier dressing options, nothing quite hits the spot like ranch.
If you want to give your southwest salad some extra flavor and dimension, after you have assembled your salad, put your favorite BBQ sauce in a squeeze bottle and give the whole salad a little drizzle. Not only will it give it some more flavor, but it will enable you to use less ranch because you’ve added some delicious flavor.
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DON’T just dunk some BBQ all over your southwest chicken salad. It is supposed to just give it a hint of flavor! Plus, BBQ sauce often contains quite a bit of sugar so it defeats the purpose.
As a resident of Texas, I’ve tried my fair share of BBQ sauces, but my all time favorite is Stubb’s Sweet Heat. So good!
After you’ve added your BBQ to your southwest chicken salad, drizzle on your avocado ranch (or whatever other dressing you like).
That’s pretty much it! This is southwest BBQ chicken salad is definitely one of my favorites, especially when I’m trying to keep it light! It’s a super easy and delicious healthy dinner salad full of flavor!
Looking for some more recipes on the lighter side?
- Fresh Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Loaded Cauliflower Soup
- Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
- Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Pasta Bake
Southwest BBQ Chicken Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
For the Salad
- 4-6 ounces chicken breast
- ½ tbsp cooking oil or non stick spray
- 1 tbsp southwest seasoning see recipe notes1
- 3 cups shredded romaine
- ¼ cup sweet corn
- ¼ cup black beans mix them with some hot sauce for some extra kick
- 5-6 grape tomatoes
- sliced red onion as much as you like
- 1-2 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
- 1-2 tbsp tortilla strips
- 1 tbsp your favorite BBQ sauce for best results, put it in a squeeze bottle with a fine tip
- 2 tbsp Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
For the Dressing
- 1 medium avocado about ½ cup
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
- 1 lime
For the Dressing
- Remove peel and pit from avocado and discard.
- Place avocado, sour cream, milk, and ranch mix into food processor.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour into bowl or container. Squeeze lime juice into dressing and stir.
Make the Salad
- Place chicken in between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizing mallet, pound out chicken until it is very thin and even throughout. Be careful not to tear.
- Season both sides of the chicken with southwest seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Prepare all of the salad topping and fixings and have them ready to go. Chop the lettuce, saute the corn if desired, slice onion, add some hot sauce to your beans, etc.
- Heat oil in non stick pan over medium high heat. Cook chicken for about 3-4 minute per side, depending on how thin you hammered it.
- Remove from pan. Slice chicken.
- Assemble salad how you like. I like to start with a bed of lettuce and then distribute everything evenly throughout.
- Drizzle a little drizzle of BBQ sauce across the whole salad. **This works best in a squeeze bottle with a small nozzle. The idea is to get just a little bit of BBQ flavor.
- Drizzle Avocado ranch on top.
- If you want to make your southwest seasoning from scratch, there are tons of recipes to make your own, or purchase them premixed. I opted for a premixed fajita seasoning from John Henry.