This Mexican Avocado Chicken Salad with Honey Cilantro Dressing is loaded with a colorful and flavorful blend of avocado, veggies, corn, beans, and crunchy tortillas. Tossed with a homemade honey-cilantro dressing, this chopped salad is a total crowd-pleaser.
Adapted from Mandy’s Gourmet Salads: Recipes for Lettuce and Life cookbook, this Mexican chicken salad combines basic chicken salad with the robust flavors of Mexican cuisine to make the most amazing mayo-free chicken salad. If you’re looking for other mayo-free salads, check out my Chopped Chicken Salad — a crisp Mediterranean-inspired salad with lemon chicken, tarragon tahini dressing, and spiced chickpeas — or my Roasted Vegetable Chicken Salad — made with white balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.
With so many vibrant textures and flavors, each bite of this salad is a fiesta in your mouth. The combination of healthy and vibrant ingredients makes it an impressive cold salad to serve at your next outdoor gathering.
Why You Will Love This Recipe //
- It is a great way to use leftover chicken, as well as clean out the fridge by using any fresh veggies you may have on hand.
- No mayo! For food safety purposes mayo-free chicken salads are a better option to serve at outdoor gatherings during warmer weather.
- Quick and easy!
- Plenty of serving options (tostadas, sandwiches, wraps, etc).
- 6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- ½ cup red pepper, finely chopped
- ½ cup yellow pepper, finely chopped
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup corn kernels
- ½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup tortilla chips, crushed
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup pickled jalapenos, finely chopped (optional)
- grilled or cooked chicken or tofu, cubed
- half of a lime
- ⅓ to ½ cup Cilantro Cumin Dressing (to taste)
Honey Cilantro Dressing:
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- Romaine Lettuce (chopped): Adds a fresh and flavorful crunch with every bite. The thicker leaves will not wilt as quickly when mixed with the dressing.
- Cilantro (chopped): This gives the salad bursts of earthy-citrus flavor. You can also use parsley.
- Avocado (diced): Adds a contrasting soft texture to the crisp vegetables. Be sure to use a firm but ripe avocado. You don’t want it to be too soft and turn into mashed avocado when tossed.
- Crisp-fresh Veggies: You will need chopped red and yellow bell pepper, shredded carrots, and chopped red onion.
- Corn Kernels & Black Beans (drained and rinsed): Add even more color, flavor, and texture.
- Tortilla Chips (crushed): For the salty crunch!
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese: My favorite cheddar blend for this Mexican chicken salad is from Trader Joe’s. Omit or use a non-dairy alternative for a dairy-free variation
- Pickled Jalapenos (finely chopped): These are optional but they add a delicious spicy tangy flavor to the salad.
- Grilled/Cooked chicken or Cooked Firm Tofu (cubed): This salad is a great way to use leftover chicken.
- Lime: Adds fresh-citrus flavor and zing.
For The Honey Cilantro Dressing:
- Vinegar: I used apple cider vinegar. You could also use white wine vinegar or unseasoned rice wine vinegar.
- Oil: Olive oil is a fairly neutral-tasting oil and a great base for salad dressings.
- Flavorings: Lime juice, ground cumin, honey, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper are blended in with the vinegar and oil.
How To Make // The Steps
Step 1: Make the dressing. In a blender, add garlic, vinegar, lime juice, cumin, honey, and cilantro. Blend on medium-high speed until the cilantro is chopped well and the mixture is fully combined. Then, while blending on low sleep, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is thick and emulsified (about 30 seconds). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Mix all ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients, juice from half a lime, and 1/3 cup of the dressing. Gently toss with tongs until all of the ingredients are coated in dressing. Add more dressing as necessary and re-toss.
Tips & Tricks //
- To speed things up, you can make the honey cilantro dressing up to 3 days in advance and then toss it with the Mexican chicken salad ingredients before serving.
- Start with a little dressing and add more only if necessary. If the salad has too much dressing it will wilt the lettuce.
- If you have the extra time, allow your Mexican chicken salad to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. It gives the flavors time to fully develop and get acquainted.
- Add more greens to the salad, like baby spinach leaves or chopped kale.
- To add a layer of smoky grilled flavor, use grilled corn, chopped grilled peppers, and grilled chicken.
- Follow this recipe but use turkey instead of chicken. This is a great way to spice up leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
- Kick things up a notch by using fresh jalapenos instead of pickled jalapenos. You can also add a splash of the brine to add a spicy-tangy kick.
- Vegetarian Mexican “Chicken” Salad: For a meatless alternative, swap the chicken out with pressed, extra-firm cooked tofu. If a vegetarian salad is what you’re looking for, try my Grilled Peach and Avocado Salad.
To adapt this recipe for gluten-free diets, simply omit the tortilla chips unless they are certified gluten-free.
Traditional Mexican chicken salad is made with shredded chicken, mayo, frozen mixed vegetables, and cooked potatoes, so no -this is not an authentic Mexican chicken salad but delicious nonetheless.
This hearty salad is a meal all on its own. However, it is also great scooped onto a thick and chewy tostada, wrapped in tortillas (burrito-style), and even tossed with fresh cooked and chilled pasta.
How To Store Mexican Avocado Chicken Salad //
If the salad was just made, let it cool to room temperature (more the chicken than the other ingredients). Store in an airtight container and put it in the fridge where it should last for up to 5 days. It’s hoped you didn’t dress the entire salad so that you can store the dressing separately and only apply it when you’re about to eat the salad. The dressing should last for 3 days. To prevent the avocado from browning, squirt a bit of lemon juice on it.
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