This Southwestern Salad With BBQ Chicken and Chipotle Ranch is a refreshingly spicy summer hit! It’s easy, healthy, and will please just about anyone!
The Southwestern Salad
Every food blogger has their own version of a Southwestern Salad. It seems crazy and almost unimaginative, right? Wrong, the beloved Southwestern Salad is so popular for two reasons: it’s delicious and easy to make! And while nearly every food blogger has posted one of these uniquely American salads, each has their own twist and flare. The Cafe Sucre Farine’s version is Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa (It’s very delicious, btw). Or the best reviewed version on Google is the Southwestern Salad with Avocado Dressing from Tasty.co. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds great!
My version of this Southwestern Salad With BBQ Chicken and Chipotle Ranch has been updated from a family recipe I’ve been eating since childhood. While it’s most definitely a summer recipe, the heartiness makes it great year round. In fact, I had a craving for it back in February and was considering making a post back in the Winter time. My judgement got the best of me and luckily for you, I’ve developed a bright new dressing to compliment the salad this Summer!
What Makes a Salad Southwestern?
This is a good question. What makes a Southwestern Salad, Southwestern? If you think about it, a cobb salad has many similar ingredients. It’s not even off the charts for a cobb salad to have black beans in it too! In my opinion, it’s a culmination of the flavors. A bright herby note from cilantro, an earthy flavor of beans, a bit of zest from the limes, sweetness from the corn, and a hint of spice. All the other ingredients just add to the flavor.
This Southwestern Salad With BBQ Chicken and Chipotle Ranch
I love variety and this salad perfectly shows that! As a base I used spinach, because everybody needs some good leafy greens. A bit of chlorophyll and iron is healthy for you! Following the mild flavor of the spinach is purple cabbage! Purple cabbage gives a great bit of texture, plus it adds that very subtle bitterness to help balance the salad. Following this, we have the corn, which I prefer cut right off the cob this time of the year. The sweetness of the corn helps round out the spice and acidity, same with the cherry tomatoes. Then we have the peppers, both mini sweet peppers and poblano. These add color, crunch, and some freshness to the bite, in addition the poblano has that mild heat. While some purple onions add a bit of color, they also pack a bit of a punch ,helping break through the dairy in the dressing.
Additionally, we have some carrots and cucumbers, because why not? But really, they add color and more interesting texture to keep your mouth from boredom. We’re now down to the lime, cilantro, pepitas, pickled jalapeños, and bbq chicken! Pepitas, filled with vitamins adds a bit of saltiness and crunch! The lime, like the pickled jalapeños give us our sourness. Unlike the heat from the pickled jalapeños, the lime gives off some tropical notes. And of course we’ve got cilantro, because what southwestern dish isn’t complimented from some herby freshness? And, finally, our main delicious protein, bbq chicken! Honestly, you can use any chicken, but I love the sweet tanginess of bbq.
Oh yeah, I forgot the black beans and cheddar! How could I forget the black beans in a Southwestern Salad? Obviously, the black beans while not providing much for texture, add that nice earthy umaminess to complete the flavor profile. And the cheddar cheese, it’s just good mild dairy!
The Chipotle Basil Ranch Dressing
Let me warn you in advance, this dressing has a bit of a bite! Or in other words, it’s got the good slow burn… Originally, I used cilantro in my dressing, but it really didn’t do much because we already have cilantro in the salad. Then I recalled the wonderful Stetson salad from Phoenix’s Cowboy Ciao! After 20 years in business, the main restaurant is now closed, but that salad has made quite an impression! For their Stetson Salad, they infused the ranch with basil! It’s bright, its unique, and somehow it works perfectly with a bit of heat and creaminess!
Knowing we want to be somewhat healthy, I opted to use Greek yogurt for the base and added some ranch for flavoring. I’m not actually saying it’s healthy for you. Especially since I use full fat yogurt in the dressing, but it’ll make you feel a little bit better about dousing your salad in this deliciousness! Feel free to substitute the whole yogurt for fat free. Additionally, I used both ancho chili and chipotle chili powders in the dressing. If you’re spice adverse, but still want the smokiness of the chipotle, you can substitute it for smoked paprika!
What to Serve This With?
- Honestly, this salad is a stand alone entree. You really don’t need any accompaniments. If you want to add something a bit more earthy and fatty to compliment the salad, I would pair it with a chorizo fundido! You can probably skip the poblanos, but the cheese, tortillas (chips), and chorizo will help fill those carb cravings!
- In regards to washing down the spice, I suggest a cold pilsner, a pinot noir, or very chilled sauvignon blanc.
Tips and Tricks for this Southwestern Salad With BBQ Chicken and Chipotle Ranch
- Chop everything in advance. I often meal prep using large tupperware and stack the ingredients in a row. If you want to make the salad itself in advance, I would put in everything but the chicken, beans, and lime. Those three items can potentially cause the salad to get soggy. And if you don’t like layering ingredients, I also love using meal prep style tupperware to keep ingredients contained.
- The Chipotle Basil Ranch can remain refrigerated for up to a week. The basil is the only thing I would worry about oxidizing beyond those 7 days.
- Do you have a plethora of additional ingredients after making your salad? It happens to the best of us, but don’t worry! Save them for left over bbq chicken nachos!
- Keep and serve the dressing separately, especially if people are spice averse. It also helps avoid your leftovers from getting soggy.
- For the chicken, make it easy on yourself! Buy a rotisserie chicken, shred it, and toss it in your favorite bbq sauce!