Chicken Taco Salad

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This healthy Chicken Taco Salad is loaded with seasoned ground chicken, black beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, Cheddar cheese, and avocado. The salad is drizzled with an easy homemade cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

Overhead image of Chicken Taco Salad.

Easy Chicken Taco Salad

As the weather warms up, there is nothing I crave more than a big hearty salad (followed by strawberry shortcake of course). Chicken Taco Salad is loaded up with veggies, a simple ground chicken mixture, and the best cilantro vinaigrette. It’s similar to my turkey taco salad, but with a vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing.

It’s packed with nutritious ingredients and so many amazing textures and flavors. 

Process shots: images of the garlic and onions being sautéed; the ground chicken being added; and the seasonings being mixed in.

How to make Chicken Taco Salad

  • Make the dressing. Start by prepping the dressing so the flavors can meld and it can chill before adding it to the salad.
  • Cook the chicken. Saute the ground chicken in a little olive oil with onions and garlic. Once the chicken is cooked through, add taco seasoning to the meat.
  • Assemble the salad. While the chicken is cooking and cooling a bit, chop the lettuce and other veggies and toss in a large bowl or arrange on a large salad platter.

Homemade taco seasoning

To keep the prep on this chicken taco salad easier, I use a packet of taco seasoning for the ground chicken. If I’ve got extra time, though, I’ll whip up a quick taco seasoning; here’s the recipe for that if you’d like to do your taco seasoning from scratch:

  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon beef bouillon powder (optional)

Stir the seasonings together and use in place of the taco seasoning packet.

Process shots: the lettuce being chopped; all the toppings being added; the dressing being blended; the dressing being poured over the salad.

Corn

We like the corn raw and crunchy in Chicken Taco Salad — straight off the cob. If you’re not a fan of raw corn, it can be grilled or skillet charred before adding it to the salad.

  • To grill corn: Preheat a grill to medium high heat, around 400 degrees F. Once hot, clean the grill grates. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on each corn cob and rub that oil onto all the sides. Very lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the corn. Place corn on grill grates (nothing needs to go down first/don’t wrap in foil) and close grill. Allow to cook (temps remaining at 400 degree F) for about 3 minutes per side undisturbed. Using tongs, rotate and continue cooking, for about 12 minutes total. When all sides are browned, remove from the grill onto a plate. Cut the kernels from the cob once it’s cool.
  • Char corn in a skillet: Cut corn kernels off the cob. Preheat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Sauté corn kernels in the skillet for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until kernels are lightly charred. 

Don’t have corn on the cob? Use frozen corn instead! Here’s how to prepare frozen corn for this chicken taco salad.

Chicken Taco Salad tips

  • Roll the romaine lettuce into thin cigars and thinly slice. Chop the thin slices to get thin and short ribbons of lettuce. This gives the lettuce more surface room for the dressing to coat and makes the salad easier to eat.
  • Wash lettuce and make sure to dry thoroughly. There’s nothing that ruins a salad quicker than wet lettuce! Use a salad spinner if you have one to ensure the lettuce is 100% dry before adding anything else.
  • Pick out a ripe avocado — it makes all the difference in adding a creamy element to this Chicken Taco Salad. How to test if an avocado is ripe: If an avocado yields to a firm gentle pressure (shouldn’t give in too easily) you know it’s ripe and ready-to-eat. 

Overhead image of Chicken Taco Salad, fully dressed and ready to be eaten.

Chicken Taco Salad leftovers

Unfortunately, once dressed, this chicken taco salad doesn’t store well. The dressing makes the lettuce soggy. I’d recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day. Store dressing and salad separately. You’ll also want to store the avocado separately as well since it has a tendency to brown and change texture.

Make ahead

The components for this salad can all be prepared ahead of time and then assembled just before serving. Store the dressing in a mason jar in the fridge and shake before tossing with the salad.

If the dressing separates or forms clumps, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the olive oil solidifying which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes or so before you need it to bring it back up to temperature, then shake it up to remix.

Overhead image of Chicken Taco Salad, ready to be eaten.

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Chicken Taco Salad

5 from 3 votes
This healthy Chicken Taco Salad is loaded with seasoned ground chicken, black beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, Cheddar cheese, and avocado. The salad is drizzled with an easy homemade cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Print Recipe

Chicken Taco Salad

5 from 3 votes
This healthy Chicken Taco Salad is loaded with seasoned ground chicken, black beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, Cheddar cheese, and avocado. The salad is drizzled with an easy homemade cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword Chicken Taco Salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 623kcal

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 cups cilantro twist and rip off the top half of the bunch of cilantro to loosely measure (stems are fine)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons diced jalapeno seeds and ribs removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Salad

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 red onion, separated (See Note 2)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (1 and 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (See Note 3)
  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (3 heads of lettuce)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh corn, cut off the cob (~2 ears of corn)
  • 1 large avocado, (or 2 small-medium ones) thinly sliced or diced
  • 1 and 1/4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup extra sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • Optional: additional limes and cilantro for topping salad

Instructions

  • DRESSING: Combine all the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, but add to taste). Pulse until ingredients are combined and then drizzle in olive oil and quickly pulse until emulsified. Don't over-mix/pulse/blend the olive oil or it can create a metallic flavor. Taste and adjust any seasonings to personal preference.
  • GROUND CHICKEN: Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add in 1 cup finely diced red onion and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic. Stir often, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if it starts to burn. Add in the ground chicken and cook for 6-8 minutes or until white and cooked through. Add in the packet of taco seasoning and reduce the heat to low. Stir to coat and season to taste with salt (it will vary depending on the taco seasoning used). Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  • LETTUCE: Wash and chop the lettuce. Cut the lettuce into ribbons and halve the ribbons -- thinner salad pieces allow for more surface area that the dressing can adhere to. Use a salad spinner to ensure the lettuce is 100% dry before adding any other ingredients
  • VEGGIES: Thinly slice the other quarter of the red onion to get about 1/4 cup (See Note 2), drain and rinse black beans, prepare the corn (See Note 4), halve the cherry tomatoes, chop or thinly slice the avocado(s), and grate the cheese. Add to the salad.
  • ENJOY: If eating the salad immediately, pour the dressing over (add to desired preference, you may not want to use all the dressing), toss the salad, and enjoy! Add additional lime wedges and cilantro to individual plates.
  • STORAGE: Unfortunately once dressed, this chicken taco salad doesn’t store well. The dressing makes the lettuce soggy. I’d recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day. Store dressing and salad separately. You’ll also want to store the avocado separately as well since it has a tendency to brown and change texture.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you don't like a lot of dressing, halve the dressing recipe. Any leftover dressing stays good for up to 1 week in the fridge and is delicious over salads, roasted or raw veggies, etc.
Note 2: The red onion is used twice; cut it in half and dice up half to use with the ground chicken. Cut up the other 1/4th of the onion (or all the rest of it if desired) into thin strips. 
Note 3: Either use 1 packet taco seasoning (I use McCormick®) or make your own by mixing together the following spices: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground  cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon beef bouillon  powder.
Note 4: Thaw and then sauté frozen corn in a skillet Or grill fresh corn. To grill fresh corn: Preheat a grill to medium high heat, around 400 degrees F. Once hot, clean the grill grates. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on each corn cob and rub that oil onto all the sides. Very lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the corn. Place corn on grill grates (nothing needs to go down first/don't wrap in foil) and close grill. Allow to cook (temps remaining at 400 degree F) for about 3 minutes per side undisturbed. Using tongs, rotate and continue cooking, for about 12 minutes total. When all sides are browned, remove from the grill onto a plate. Cut the kernels off the cob once cool.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 4servings | Calories: 623kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 33.9g | Fat: 38.6g | Cholesterol: 112.7mg | Sodium: 757.7mg | Fiber: 14.1g | Sugar: 9.4g

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