This spicy chicken southwest salad is way tastier than your typical fast food salad, so why not make some this week? Tender chicken, black beans, roasted corn, poblano pepper, tomatoes, and cotija cheese are scattered over a bed of tender greens. Complete this tasty mélange with a drizzle of my yogurt-based spicy southwest dressing. Meal preps have never looked or tasted so good!
Over the years, I’ve managed to visit 49 of the 50 states in the United States. (Guess which one I missed?) As a family, we’ve made cross-country road trips that looped our beautiful country three times now.
Something I’ve noticed in small towns in the middle of the country is that there is nearly always a McDonalds or Subway available. You can also find these eateries alongside many of the major highways. If you need to eat at a slightly off time, you can typically count on finding one of these two options.
I remember certain trips where it became rather exciting to come across one of the less common fast food stops. We were willing to drive 5-10 miles out of the way for Panera or a Wildflower Bread.
When we traveled abroad, we quickly learned how varied the McDonald’s menu is in other countries. (McDonald’s in Italy has tiramisu, and it is pretty good.) In the United States, you get two choices for main course salads: the bacon ranch or the southwest.
Since I tend to want salad for lunch, I end up tired of the McDonald’s options by the end of our road trips. I don’t typically make southwest salads at home because my taste buds have grown tired of that particular salad combination.
We did not travel much in the past year, so for once, I wanted a spicy chicken southwest salad.
Take note: this is not a copycat McDonald’s southwest salad!
Don’t get the idea from the previous section that this salad is my attempt at a fakeaway recipe. I promise that what you are getting here is so much better than fast food fare.
We are using a more flavorful combination of ingredients, first of all. Villagio Marzano tomatoes, poblano peppers, and cotija cheese are some of the treats tucked into this one.
(P.S. It’s worth hitting multiple stores if you are having trouble finding the cotija cheese. Trust me on this. It elevates this dish to another level.)
Second, we’re taking a little shortcut by using cooked chicken, but don’t think we’re sacrificing flavor. If you can’t find nice rotisserie chicken in your area, oven roast your own chicken or air fry a chicken. Have it for dinner and save the leftovers to meal prep these salads.
I chose not to season the chicken since we are getting plenty of heat from the pepper and the dressing.
We can’t forget the creamy yogurt-based southwest dressing!
I flavored this condiment with lime juice, a variety of spices, and some chipotle in adobo. It is quite delicious and the perfect complement to this meal.
If you can cook, you may quickly learn that you can make better tasting foods than takeout. You can customize all of your recipes, so they are just the way you like them. Additionally, you can modify dishes to meet any calorie or macronutrient targets that you have.
It’s really a win all around. When you aren’t on the road, I highly recommend learning your way around the kitchen. You might end up glad that you did!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Spicy Chicken Southwest Salad
- 8 cups baby lettuce (I used Trader Joe's spring mix)
- 14 ounces cooked chicken, shredded (397 grams; I used dark meat from a rotisserie chicken)
- 15 ounces canned black beans, drained (425 grams)
- 1 cup frozen roasted corn, thawed
- 1 poblano pepper, chopped
- 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped (Villagio Marzano or grape tomatoes)
- 4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (113 grams)
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 scallion, sliced (for garnish)
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped finely (for garnish)
For the spicy southwest dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (low-fat)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped (use peppers and sauce)
- Divide the baby lettuce between four meal prep containers. Top each container with equal amounts of chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, poblano, and red onion. Sprinkle on that super delicious cotija. Garnish each salad with the scallion and cilantro.
To make the spicy southwest dressing:
- Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Divide between four portable salad dressing cups. Could not be easier!
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). To make this dish a bit lower in calories, I would swap the olive oil in the dressing for some low-fat milk. An added benefit of this swap is that your dressing won’t solidify in the fridge. (If your dressing does become too thick, simply give it a quick stir before using.) If you have higher energy needs, feel free to add some additional toppings, such as some crushed tortilla chips or nuts. Another idea would be to add a serving of bread or crackers on the side.
If you make this spicy chicken southwest salad, snap a pic and tag me @SummerYuleRDN on your social media. I’d love to see them!