My Copycat Chick-Fil-A Southwest Salad recipe is what dinner dreams are made of! Featuring juicy marinated and grilled spicy chicken breast, fresh greens, black beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and tortilla strips all drizzled with a spicy southwest salad dressing, this entrée salad is hearty enough to fill up even my firefighter hubby!
Do you ever have those days when your body is just craving a big plate of veggies and lean protein? If so, you’re in luck. This spicy southwest chicken salad is just what the doctor ordered. The warmly spiced honey lime chicken breasts are extra juicy thanks to marination, then get gorgeously charred on the grill.
After cutting the cooked chicken into strips, it’s placed on a giant pile of mixed baby lettuces, layered with a bevy of Tex-Mex-inspired toppings, and finally smothered in a deliciously creamy spicy ranch dressing. In short, it’s the perfect antidote to your cravings.
But, rather than waiting in the giant line that always seems to be outside of Chick-Fil-A, you can easily make this spicy chicken salad at home in just 30 minutes. And, as if that weren’t enough to make you fall head over heels, you can feed the whole family for less than half of what you’d pay in stores. So, what are you waiting for?? Let’s get this spicy salad party started!
- What is a spicy southwest salad?
- What does it taste like?
- Why You’ll Love This Chick Fil A Spicy Southwest Salad Recipe
- Ingredients Needed
- How to Make Spicy Southwest Salad Copycat Recipe
- Optional Variations & Dietary Adaptations
- Serving Suggestions
- Expert Tips
- Homemade Chick Fil A Southwest Salad Nutrition
- Pricing Info
- Other Cinco De Mayo Recipes
What is a spicy southwest salad?
This delicious meal was inspired by the Chick Fil A Southwest Salad made with grilled chicken filets. It’s a big entrée-style salad meant to fill you up without weighing you down. It’s chock-full of veggies, lean protein, and tossed in a crave-worthy spicy salad dressing made with ranch and smoky hot sauce — perfect for folks who love bold, Tex-Mex flavors.
What does it taste like?
My chicken southwest salad recipe tastes like a loaded chicken burrito and a salad had a baby. 😋 The chicken is marinated in a sweet and tangy marinade, then grilled to juicy perfection. The salad greens are fresh and light, and the assorted toppings add pops of sweet, crunchy, and creamy flavors and textures. Honestly, it’s my favorite salad!
Why You’ll Love This Chick Fil A Spicy Southwest Salad Recipe
- Quick & Easy – With just 30 minutes of active work required, this yummy chicken salad recipe is perfect for busy weeknights. I’ve never been in a Chick-Fil-A line that was any shorter, so you’re not wasting any time by making it at home.
- Budget-Friendly – When you’re on the road, spending $10+ on meal as healthy as the southwest Chick Fil A salad isn’t the end of the world. But $10 per person per meal is pretty darn spendy, and not particularly sustainable — especially with 2 kiddos and a mortgage. This homemade version has all the flavor you crave, but costs about half as much as ordering it from the window.
- Perfectly Filling – I feel like salads sometimes get a bad rap for being unsatisfying, or at least that they’re only side dish material. Not so with this super hearty Chick Fil A chicken salad recipe. Between the hefty portion of grilled chicken, the creamy richness of avocado and spicy ranch dressing, and the fiber from all the veggies and legumes, this is a bowl that’s sure to fill you up — even if you’re running on empty.
While the list might look kind of long to make this chopped southwest salad, don’t fret – everything is easy to find at any grocery store. Here’s what fresh ingredients to grab:
- Lime – Make sure you grab a fresh lime — you want both the juice and the zest for the tangy chicken marinade. If you’re a big fan of lime, buy a couple more to squeeze over your finished salads for added brightness!
- Garlic Powder – This spice cabinet staple adds sweet, cooked garlic flavor to the marinade without any fuss.
- Cumin – Cumin is one of those staple Tex-Mex flavors, perfect for adding warmth to our grilled chicken southwest salad.
- Chili Powder – This warming spice blend adds a nice color and taste to the chicken breasts.
- Salt – This helps tenderize the meat as it sits in the marinade, so don’t skip it. If you’re looking for a lower-sodium option, reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon.
- Honey – Adding honey to the marinade makes the chicken a little sweet to balance out the spicy flavors.
- Avocado Oil – This will add some moisture to chicken breasts, which are prone to drying out. Feel free to use olive oil instead!
- Chicken Breasts – The main protein source of this recipe. Chicken breasts grill easily and are excellent at absorbing all the marinade flavors!
- Ranch Dressing – Feel free to use either homemade or your favorite store-bought dressing.
- Hot Sauce – Transform regular ranch dressing into the BEST dressing for southwest salad by just adding a few tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce. I used Cholula’s chipotle flavor for a bit of added smokiness and a spicy kick to enhance the charred flavor of the grilled chicken. Sriracha and Tapatio are also great for adding spicy southwest flavor!
- Lettuce – It wouldn’t be a proper salad without lettuce! I used leaf lettuce (e.g. Bibb), but you’re welcome to swap in mixed baby greens or crunchy romaine lettuce if you prefer.
- Tomatoes – I love to add tomatoes for the flavor, color, and vitamins they provide! Cherry or grape tomatoes on the vine are excellent all year round since they’re grown in greenhouses.
- Black Beans – Low-sodium canned black beans that are drained and rinsed work great for this salad recipe!
- Bell Pepper – I like to use yellow, orange, or red bell peppers because they’re sweeter than green. You can use any color you’d like, though!
- Avocado – A filling and healthy fat source, avocado adds an extra dose of creamy texture to this chicken salad Chick Fil A recipe.
- Corn – Defrosted frozen corn kernels are my go-to, but you can use canned or fresh if you’d like, too!
- Crunchy Tortilla Strips – For crunch and saltiness. You can usually find them by the salad kits in the produce department. You can also sometimes find them in bulk bins at a discount grocery store like Winco. Feel free to use crushed tortilla chips instead!
- Red Onion – As if this salad recipe didn’t have enough color, red onion adds a gorgeous purple and a nice piquancy.
- Cilantro – Garnish your salad with cilantro for added freshness.
Missing something to make this spicy southwest chicken salad? Not to worry. Here are some simple swaps to try:
- Chicken Breasts – Feel free to swap in pressed firm or extra firm tofu to make it vegetarian. You can also eliminate this ingredient altogether, in which case you won’t need any of the marinade ingredients, either!
- Garlic Powder, Cumin, & Chili Powder – Feel free to swap in your favorite taco seasoning. Just make sure to read your labels — many have enough salt that you won’t need to add any extra.
- Ranch Dressing – Instead of using our semi-homemade spicy salad dressing, you could buy a premade southwest salad dressing or even an avocado lime dressing, too!
- Hot Sauce – You’re welcome to omit the hot sauce if you’re spice-averse. Plain ranch is always a yummy choice.
- Black Beans – Black beans are a favorite in my house, but kidney beans, pinto beans, or garbanzo beans also work great! Alternatively, feel free to use a marinated bean dish like Cowboy Caviar, which can replace the beans, corn, and bell peppers all in one fell swoop.
- Tortilla Strips – If you can’t find tortilla strips, just break up some regular tortilla chips and sprinkle them on!
- Cilantro – I LOVE cilantro, but if it’s not your jam, feel free to swap in parsley or omit it.
- Red Onions – You’re welcome to use red onion pickles if you prefer a bit of extra tang. Alternatively, sliced green onions (a.k.a. scallions) will also work. They just won’t pop as much as the magenta ones!
How to Make Spicy Southwest Salad Copycat Recipe
This grilled southwest chicken salad recipe comes together in just a few simple steps:
Step 1: Marinate. In a large bowl or gallon-sized zip lock, combine the chicken marinade ingredients. Add the chicken breasts, and toss until covered in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours.
Step 2: Grill. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray, then heat on medium heat. Once the grill pan is hot, add the chicken breasts, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Flip the chicken breasts and cook on the other side for 5-6 minutes as well. Don’t flip the chicken back and forth, as you won’t get the perfect grill marks! Once the chicken is cooked, set aside to cool, then slice into thin strips.
Step 3: Make Spicy Dressing for Salad. While the chicken is cooking, make the southwest ranch dressing. Add the ranch dressing and hot sauce to a small bowl, then stir until combined. Set aside.
Step 4: Assemble your salads with lettuce, sliced chicken, tomatoes, black beans, bell pepper, avocado, corn, red onion, tortilla strips, cilantro, and lime juice. Drizzle with the spicy ranch dressing and eat up!
Optional Variations & Dietary Adaptations
As much as I love the southwest chicken salad Chick-Fil-A serves, there are plenty of ways to make it your own. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Vegan Southwest Salad – Swap the skinless chicken breasts for pressed firm or extra firm tofu. Make sure your ranch dressing is vegan-friendly and swap out the honey in the marinade for maple syrup or agave nectar. As a bonus, tofu only needs about 30 minutes to marinate!
- Southwest Steak Salad – Swap out the chicken breast for skirt steak, then grill to medium. So tasty!
- Add Cheese – For a little extra creamy richness, add any type of the cheddar cheeses, blend of Monterey jack cheeses, Cotija, or fiery pepperjack.
While there’s no WRONG way to eat this yummy copycat chick fil a chicken salad, there are some fun variations to keep things interesting:
- DIY Salad Bar: Next time you’re hosting a party, set up a DIY salad bar at home. Lay out all the various toppings like your grilled chicken, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sliced avocados, and crispy tortilla strips. That way, your guests can create their own perfect salad without you needing to worry about different dietary preferences!
- Salad in a Jar: For a deliciously portable option, layer the salad in mason jars. Start with the dressing at the bottom, followed by heavier items like chicken and beans, and work up to the lighter ingredients like lettuce and tortilla strips at the top. This keeps everything fresh until it’s time to shake it up and eat. Perfect for packed lunches!
- Wrap It Up: Use a large flour tortilla or wrap of your choice to fill with the salad mix and then roll up for a convenient and mess-free meal on the go.
- Salad Pizza: After baking a thin crust pizza shell, top it with the salad for a refreshing and crispy meal. You can add more of the spicy ranch salad dressing before adding the salad on top, or bake some cheese onto the crust for extra flavor.
- Drink Pairings: A citrusy margarita or a refreshing cucumber lime water is the perfect accompaniment for this southwest salad.
- Dessert Ideas: Opt for a palate-cleansing scoop of citrus sorbet or granita for a light and lovely finish.
- Quickly defrost your corn by running it under cool water for about 3-5 minutes. Drain it thoroughly before using!
- Preheat your grill pan. If you want perfect grill lines on your chicken, you need to make sure your grill pan is sizzling hot! Heat it up for 2-3 minutes on medium heat before adding your chicken to make sure it sears perfectly.
- Spray oil on your grill pan. Not only will doing this make clean-up easier, but it will also help the chicken become golden brown and not stick to the pan. Word to the wise: chicken that gets stuck to the pan will not be pretty.
- As the Beatles said, let it be. Don’t flip your chicken multiple times. Make sure to cook for the full 5-6 minutes on each side, but don’t cook either side more than once. If you flip your chicken back and forth multiple times, you’ll give the chicken multiple grill marks and it won’t look picture-perfect.
- Feel free to work ahead. The chicken can be popped in the marinade in a freezer-safe zip-top bag for up to 3 months. To use, defrost it overnight in the fridge, then grill as directed. You’re also welcome to prep other sturdy ingredients like the spicy salad dressing, black beans, onions, and bell peppers ahead of time. Once chopped, keep them in separate containers for up to a week. Wait to slice your tomatoes and avocado until serving — tomatoes taste better at room temp rather than refrigerated, and avocado is prone to oxidization.
If you find that you’ve got some leftovers, feel free to store assembled salads in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just make sure to store the dressing and tortilla strips separately, and consider waiting to cut the avocado up for the salad until the day you plan to eat it.
Yep! So long as you don’t have any issues with cross-contamination in the kitchen and so long as your tortilla strips aren’t manufactured on equipment that processes wheat products, you should be good to go!
I personally love ranch dressing spiked with some vinegary hot sauce for a tangy-spicy-creamy combo that’s tough to beat. That said, feel free to swap in the Tex-Mex dressing of your choice like an avocado ranch if you prefer less heat, or a cilantro lime vinaigrette for more tang.
They absolutely are! As long as you stay away from pouring too much high-fat or high-sugar dressing on, then they are great for you! Grilled chicken salads are usually loaded with vegetables, lean protein, and fiber to keep you full and keep you healthy, too!
Grilled chicken is easy to make, and for chicken breasts, grilling on either the outdoor grill or your grill pan takes about 5-6 minutes on each side.
Yes you can! For this southwest grilled chicken salad, go ahead and assemble your salad, but leave off the avocado, dressing, and the tortilla strips until the day you plan to eat it. Store your salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Homemade Chick Fil A Southwest Salad Nutrition
This vibrant southwestern salad isn’t just a feast for the eyes with its burst of colors; it’s also a powerhouse of nutrients. With each hefty serving, you’re getting a satisfying mix of healthy fats, fiber, and lean protein, ensuring you’re fuelled and full for hours. We’re keeping it smart with the sodium too – opting for lower-sodium ranch dressing and beans cuts down on the salt without skimping on flavor.
So, what’s the damage? Not much, actually! Each serving clocks in at 529 calories (that’s 100 calories less than Chick-Fil-A!), which is very reasonable for a meal this substantial. You’ll get 30 grams of protein for muscle maintenance, 30 grams of fat (the good kind, don’t worry), and 48 grams of carbohydrates for that much-needed energy. And let’s not overlook the 14 grams of fiber, which helps to keep your digestive system happy.
Plus, with only 791 mg of sodium, it’s a heart-friendly choice. So, when you’re craving something deliciously filling that covers every color of the rainbow without tipping the calorie scale, this spicy southwest chicken salad has got you covered. Enjoy every bite, knowing you’re eating something truly good for you!
Total nutritional content per serving is:
- Calories: 529 calories
- Total Fat: 30 grams
- Protein: 30 grams
- Sodium: 791 mg
- Carbohydrates: 48 grams
- Fiber: 14 grams
*This nutritional information is an estimate and calculated based on the ingredients used to create the recipe. The nutritional value of your ingredients may differ slightly. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.
This is what I personally paid to make this recipe:
- 1 lime: $0.25
- 1 tsp garlic powder: $0.03
- ½ tsp cumin: $0.02
- 1 tsp chili powder: $0.04
- ½ tsp salt: $0.01
- 2 tbsp honey: $0.80
- 1 tbsp avocado oil: $0.27
- 2 chicken breasts: $8.48
- ½ cup ranch dressing: $0.67
- 3 tbsp hot sauce: $0.98
- 1 head green leaf lettuce: $1.97
- 2 tomatoes: $0.67
- 1 can black beans: $1.01
- 1 red bell pepper: $1.28
- 2 avocados: $2.49
- 1 cup corn: $0.32
- ½ red onion: $0.42
- ½ cup tortilla strips: $0.44
The total comes out to be around $20.15 or roughly $5.04 per salad!
Other Cinco De Mayo Recipes
Tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating in the comments below! I would really appreciate your feedback!
Spicy Southwest Salad
- 1 lime juiced and zested
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 chicken breasts
Spicy Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup ranch dressing
- 2-3 tbsp hot sauce of choice I used Chipotle Cholula
For the Salad
- 1 head green leaf lettuce chopped
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper sliced
- 2 avocado sliced
- 1 cup corn
- ½ red onion sliced
- ½ cup tortilla strips
- cilantro for garnish and lime wedges
- In a large bowl or gallon-sized zip lock, combine the chicken marinade ingredients. Add the chicken breasts, and toss until covered in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours.
- Spray a grill pan with cooking spray, then heat on medium heat. Once the grill pan is hot, add the chicken breasts, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Flip the chicken breasts and cook on the other side for 5-6 minutes as well. Don't flip the chicken back and forth, as you won't get the perfect grill marks! Once the chicken is cooked, set aside to cool, then slice into thin strips.
- While the chicken is cooking, make the southwest ranch dressing. Add the ranch dressing and hot sauce to a small bowl, then stir until combined. Set aside.
- Assemble your salads with lettuce, sliced chicken, tomatoes, black beans, bell pepper, avocado, corn, red onion, tortilla strips, cilantro, and lime juice. Drizzle with the spicy ranch dressing and eat up!
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This spicy southwest grilled chicken salad is one you’ll be making every spring and summer from now on! I can’t wait to hear what you think!