A hearty Santa Fe Salad topped with pan fried chicken tenders is not only easy to make and put together, it’s perfect for that quick midweek family meal everyone will love.
- Why You’ll Love Santa Fe Salad
- What is in A Santa Fe Salad?
- Best Topping Options for Sante Fe Salad
- What Is Santa Fe Salad Dressing Made Of?
- How Long Does This Santa Fe Recipe Last?
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly [Expert Tips]
- Great Sides for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Santa Fe Salad
Made with pantry staple items, a good Santa Fe Salad is easy to throw together when you don’t have a lot of time. It is also filled with ingredients that are easy to prepare and a good way to use items that may have been sitting in your fridge or pantry for some time.
The flavours are wholesome, familiar, and there is something in it for everyone. The skinless chicken breast is such a great source of protein, and who could resist taco seasoning?
Chicken is a really a budget friendly salad ingredient. As such, I use it quite frequently, for example, in our gluten free pasta salad with tarragon mustard chicken and chicken and gem lettuce salad with sriracha aioli.
This Santa Fe-style salad doesn’t last very long on the dinner table in our household, as everyone is always digging in like they haven’t eaten for days! Hope you’ll enjoy it like we do!
What is in A Santa Fe Salad?
As the Sante Fe salad evolves over time, there is no real hard and fast rule as to the exact ingredients that go into the recipe. However, there are some main ingredients that usually feature in all the different variations.
Greens: There are always fresh greens featured in a Santa Fe salad. It can be mixed leaves, romaine lettuce, arugula or, in this recipe, fresh baby spinach leaves.
Staples: Some of the mainstays include corn, black beans, tomato, black olives, corn chips and jalapenos. We feature these staples in our parmesan chipotle corn salad with black beans too!
Cheese: There is often some cheese as well. Simple shredded cheddar cheese is our go-to, but you can always replace or add it with cotija, mozzarella or Monterey Jack.
Other ingredients: Other popular additions include green or red onion, avocado, bell pepper and cilantro.
Best Topping Options for Sante Fe Salad
The best topping to add to a Santa Fe salad has got to be crunchy corn chips. Grab a hand full and gently crumble them in your hands and sprinkle them all over your salad just before serving. The crunch is a game-changer!
For a stronger flavour and a little healthier option would be to use tortilla chips or strips instead. Blue tortilla chips would add some great colour and make it super festive, just like we did in our taco salad. You can also get multigrain versions if that is your preference.
What Is Santa Fe Salad Dressing Made Of?
Again, just like the salad itself, there are so many different concoctions of the Santa Fe salad dressing. You will also find that there are creamy versions and vinaigrette styles.
For our Santa Fe salad dressing, we have chosen to go down the fresh and light version. Of which the lime provides the citrus and the tang as it gets added to olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
Then we added the usual suspects such as garlic powder, onion powder, cumin powder, some dried oregano, a touch of chilli powder for some zest and a bit of sugar to balance the flavours.
Some Santa Fe salad dressing will also include honey, paprika, garlic and cilantro. For a creamy version, mayonnaise is used instead of olive oil and vinegar.
How Long Does This Santa Fe Recipe Last?
If you place the Santa Fe salad in an airtight container in the fridge, you will get 3 days out of it. Perhaps leave out the corn chips and only crumble some on top when you are ready to eat.
Flavour/Texture: All the ingredients in this grilled chicken salad make for a party in your mouth! From the freshness of the vegetables and leaves to the strong flavours of the pan-fried chicken breast, you get creamy, crunch and softness all at the same time.
Ease: The skinless chicken tenders are the only component that requires cooking, of which all you’re doing is placing it on the frying pan and turning it over a few times. Everything else is just about prep and some chopping and slicing. A truly simple meal.
Time: It will take about 25 minutes or less. A lot of the prep can be done while you’re pan-frying the chicken.
These are the ingredients you need for Santa Fe Salad:
Chicken breast: You can buy a whole chicken breast and slice it up, or you can simply just buy the chicken tenders. If you’re defrosting, ensure it is pat very dry before adding it to the fry pan. Otherwise, the oil will spit.
Taco seasoning: You can get any taco seasoning of your choice. If you love it spicy, by all means, get the one that will really amplify the heat levels!
Fresh vegetables: As always, look for fresh, quality vegetables since you’re eating them raw. We use tomatoes, avocado and baby spinach leaves.
Black olives: You can buy them already sliced if it makes it easier for you.
Canned vegetables: Corn kernels and black beans are needed for this Santa Fe salad recipe. Make sure they are properly drained, and if you want, you can give them a bit of a rinse too. If you do, pat them dry before adding to the mixing bowl.
Corn chips: Any corn chips you like. No hard and fast rule here.
Salad dressing powders: For the Santa Fe salad dressing, we add chilli powder, cumin, garlic and onion. All lovely and aromatic additions.
Dried oregano: Just a little to add herbaceous notes to the salad dressing.
Lime: A key ingredient for the dressing. This salad requires that tang for balance.
Variations and Substitutions
Vegan option: You can replace chicken with firm tofu and use vegan cheese. Firm tofu pan fries well and certainly works with the taco seasoning.
Taco seasoning alternative: Any other kind of seasoning would work, such as chipotle, creole or red rub, to name a few.
Grill: If the BBQ is on, put the chicken on the grill for a really nice smoky flavour. You can leave the chicken breast whole if you wish.
Sour cream: Add a dollop of sour cream on top of the salad for a creamy finish and channelling those nachos flavours.
Other type of dressing: Instead of a classic Santa Fe salad dressing, you can also use your favourite ranch dressing.
Cheese: Apart from cheddar, you can use cotija, mozzarella or Monterey Jack.
Step by step instructions for how to make Santa Fe Salad:
How to Prepare the Salad
Slice the chicken breast into 3 strips and coat with taco seasoning.
On medium to low heat, add oil to a fry pan and fry until nice and charred. Once cooked, slice into 5-6 pieces.
Cut tomatoes into quarters.
Drain the corn and black beans, rinse and pat dry.
How to Make the Santa Fe Dressing
In a small jar or mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the salad dressing and mix until well combined.
How to Assemble this Salad
In a large mixing bowl, add baby spinach, black beans, corn, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste and salad dressing. Mix until well combined.
Scoop the well mixed salad onto a salad platter.
Place the avocado and the chicken on top of the salad.
Crumble corn chips on top.
Add jalapeno slices to finish.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly [Expert Tips]
Chicken: Instead of pan frying the chicken breast whole and then slicing them, slice them into 3 first and then coat them with the taco seasoning. This means you’ll get more of the taco seasoning flavour across the recipe.
If you’re using frozen chicken, make sure you pat them dry before frying them. This will prevent some spitting and creating a mess.
Pan fry on medium to low heat. The taco seasoning tends to burn if it is too hot. The outside will char too fast while the chicken isn’t cooked.
Corn and black beans: Rinse the corn and black beans to get rid of the brine and any remnants. But make sure you pat them dry before adding to the salad as otherwise, everything will go soggy.
Corn chips: Don’t crumble corn chips onto the Sante Fe salad until you’re ready to eat. They will go soft if left sitting there for too long before eating. If you like, you can even have the corn chips on the side.
Great Sides for This Salad
What to serve with Santa Fe Salad? Try these delicious recipes:
The Sante Fe salad with chicken makes for a perfectly delicious main dish in itself. We have plenty of great side dishes that would go so well with the protein in the salad.
For our friends who love their air fryer, our air fryer parsnip fries would be right up your alley. A really nice alternative to normal french fries too.
For a comforting side dish recipe to go with an equally homely salad, these baked sweet potato slices are delicious or you can try our easy sautéed mushrooms with soy sage butter as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Southwestern salad is also known as Santa Fe salad with very little difference. The ingredients are pretty much the same, incorporating the likes of a fresh green leaf such as lettuce or baby spinach, corn, black beans, avocado, tomatoes and topped with jalapenos and corn chips.
A Southwestern salad featuring chicken would also have skinless chicken breasts or tenders coated in taco seasoning and grilled or pan-fried.
Substitute the chicken with tofu and replace the cheese with vegan cheese. Alternatively, you can just remove these two ingredients altogether.
Yes, you can. The chicken does not have to be hot and is perfectly fine to serve at room temperature. The rest of the ingredients will hold when mixed. Just add the corn chips later when you’re ready to eat so that it is nice and crunchy.
Truly a party on a platter! Flavoursome and simple to make. Great for meal prep, work lunch or an easy midweek dinner. You can serve it as a side or a main meal on its own. Love the versatility of this gluten free salad recipe!
More Main Meal Salad Recipes
Santa Fe Salad with Chicken
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 pkt taco seasoning
- 2 tbsp oil, cooking
- 8 tomatoes, truss or cherry
- 1 avocado
- 8 black olives, sliced
- 80 g baby spinach, leaves
- 1 can corn, drained, rinsed and dried
- 1 can black beans, drained, rinsed and dried
- ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 cup corn chips
- 10 jalapeno, slices, from the jar
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ lime, juiced
- 1 tsp sugar
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Slice the chicken breast into 3 strips and coat with taco seasoning.On medium to low heat, add oil to a frying pan and fry until nice and charred. Once cooked, slice into 5-6 pieces.
- Cut tomatoes into quarters.
- Dice avocado.
- Slice olives.
- Drain the corn and black beans, rinse and pat dry.
- In a small jar or mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the salad dressing and mix until well combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, add baby spinach, black beans, corn, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste and salad dressing. Mix until well combined.
- Scoop the well mixed salad onto a salad platter.
- Place the avocado and the chicken on top of the salad.
- Crumble corn chips on top.
- Add jalapeno slices to finish.
- For a vegan option, you can replace chicken with firm tofu and use vegan cheese. Firm tofu pan fries well and certainly works with the taco seasoning.
- Instead of taco seasoning, you can use any other kind of seasoning you like, such as chipotle, creole or red rub, to name a few.
- If you have the BBQ going, put the chicken on the grill for a really nice smoky flavour. You can leave the chicken breast whole if you wish.
- Add a dollop of sour cream on top of the salad for a creamy finish and channelling those nachos flavours.
- Instead of a classic Santa Fe salad dressing, you can use your favourite ranch dressing.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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