This Santa Fe Chicken Salad is a Chili’s copycat recipe loaded with spicy chicken, pico, avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips, ranch and Santa Fe sauce.
Reading: how to make santa fe sauce
Ingredients in santa fe salad
It’s so easy to make this salad – you only need a few ingredients to make the best salad ever! Here’s what you need:
- chicken cutlets
- olive oil
- taco seasoning
- romaine lettuce
- pico de gallo (store bought or homemade)
- chopped cilantro
- tortilla strips
- ranch dressing
- Santa Fe sauce (a mix of mayo, lime juice and spices such as chili powder and cumin)
How to make this salad
Here’s how to make this easy salad without a trip to Chili’s:
- mix together ingredients for santa fe sauce.
- Rub chicken cutlets with olive oil and taco seasoning.
- Heat a large skillet over med-high heat and cook chicken for 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through.
- Set aside and let cool, then slice chicken thinly.
- When ready to serve salad, toss lettuce with ranch dressing in a large bowl.
- Top lettuce with sliced chicken, avocado, pico de gallo, cilantro and tortilla strips. Drizzle santa fe sauce overtop then serve and enjoy!
Santa Fe salad dressing
The dressing for the salad is a combination of two things; ranch salad dressing and an incredibly flavourful Santa Fe sauce.
- You’ll start by tossing the salad greens with the ranch dressing.
- Next, you’ll add all of the salad ingredients onto the top of the greens.
- Then, you’ll finish off the salad by drizzling the zesty Santa Fe sauce over everything.
It’s SO delicious, and super easy to make, too! Just add all of the ingredients (mayo, lime juice and spices) to a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Chicken cutlets – These are whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are cut in half, making two thinner pieces of breast meat.
Cutlets make for a shorter cooking time. Also, it makes the breast meat an even thickness from end to end,
If you would rather use dark meat, you can substitute them for boneless skinless chicken thighs. Just slice them into cutlets like you would if you were using chicken breasts.
- Taco seasoning – If you don’t have any taco seasoning, it’s easy to make homemade taco seasoning. Or, just use a combination of 2 parts chili powder and 1 part each of cumin and paprika.
- Salad greens – I use romaine lettuce, but feel free to use any salad greens of your choice. Even baby spinach would be a great choice.
- Mayonnaise – To keep the dressing lower in fat and calories, I use light mayo. Feel free to use full-fat or non-fat mayo, or even sour cream or yogurt.
How many calories in Santa Fe chicken salad at Chili’s?
The difference in calories between Chili’s Santa Fe chicken salad and my version may surprise you.
According to the restaurant’s nutritional guide, one serving of their salad has 635 calories, and that is without any dressing. You have to add another 210 calories for 3 tablespoons of their Santa Fe dressing!
In comparison, a serving of my copycat salad has just 438 calories, and that includes the ranch dressing and Santa Fe sauce!
Ideas to make this salad vegetarian
It may be obvious, but the easiest way to make this a vegetarian salad is to omit the chicken. If you’d like to add some meatless protein, here are some ideas:
- black beans
- crispy tofu or tempeh
- hard boiled eggs
Storing the leftovers
As with any other salad, you’ll need to refrigerate any leftovers, and you should use them up within 5 days.
Try to separate all the ingredients and only dress the salad you’re going to be eating fresh so that you can keep everything as fresh as possible.
TIP: If you think you’ll end up with leftovers, you may want to leave the tortilla strips off of the salad and serve them tableside instead. Otherwise, they may become soggy in the fridge.
Freezing the chicken
For easier meal prep, you can freeze the chicken.
After you cook the chicken, just allow it to cool down, then store it in a zip top freezer bag or meal prep container.
A day or two before you want to use it, place the container of frozen chicken in your refrigerator to thaw.
It’s perfectly safe to eat the chicken cold on top of your salad but it does taste better warm.
If you would like to warm it up, feel free to do so in a 350 F. oven for 20-25 minutes, or you can saute it in a pan on the stove for a few minutes, or you can microwave it on medium power for a couple of minutes. However you choose to reheat the chicken, make sure you sprinkle some water overtop first to prevent the chicken from drying out.
More restaurant copycat recipes
- Chipotle chicken avocado melt (Panera copycat)
- Chili’s margarita grilled chicken
- Applebee’s quesadilla burger
Meal prep tools for this recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on storing any leftovers
- I get all my free-range chicken from Butcher Box, conveniently delivered to me frozen
- Get a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through