When you need a salad that actually hits the spot, toss together this Santa Fe Chicken Salad! Boldly marinated chicken is served on a bed of romaine lettuce alongside black beans, corn, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese and crunchy tortilla strips. My favorite part might just be the spicy peanut cilantro vinaigrette!

Santa fe chicken salad is plated on a large serving dish.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Salads often get a bad rap. Well, this Santa Fe salad with chicken is pretty far from rabbit food! Protein-packed chicken and black beans keep you fuller for longer while crunchy tortilla strips, juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce and sweet corn make every bite oh so satisfying. There’s a whole lot to love about this classic salad recipe!

While the chicken and salad are both phenomenal, what really sends this recipe over the top is the spicy peanut cilantro vinaigrette. If you’re new here, hi! I’m Kellie and I LOVE homemade salad dressings. They’re always so easy to toss together and way tastier than the store-bought stuff. Once you try this one, you’ll be hooked.

The vinaigrette features fresh cilantro, peanut butter, garlic, honey and so much more. All of the bold ingredients come together to create a silky smooth dressing that’s anything but bland. What gives it that spicy kick is just a little bit of cayenne pepper that you can add more or less of as you see fit.

The ingredients for santa fe chicken salad are spread out.


For the salad:

  • Chicken Breasts – You can swap these with boneless, skinless chicken breasts if preferred. Just note that the cook time will differ.
  • Seasonings – In order to create the best flavor for your chicken, you’ll need chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, kosher salt, pepper and brown sugar.
  • Lime – You’ll need both the juice and zest of 1 lime. It’s important to only use freshly squeezed lime juice and not the bottled alternative.
  • Olive Oil – Avocado oil also works well if preferred.
  • Lettuce – Shredded romaine lettuce is best for this classic Santa Fe salad recipe.
  • Black Beans – Make sure they’re well rinsed and drained before adding to the salad.
  • Corn – It can be fresh or frozen. If it’s frozen, just make sure it’s thawed first.
  • Tomatoes – I like to use halved grape tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes also work well.
  • Pepper Jack Cheese – There’s a slight spicy taste to this cheese that really sends this salad over the top.
  • Tortilla Strips – If you have any extras, toss them into a bowl of the best copycat Chick Fil A Tortilla soup!

For the vinaigrette:

  • Cilantro – When you measure it, be sure to pack it in the cup so you get the most out of it.
  • Peanut Butter – Whatever your favorite brand is will work just fine.
  • Garlic Cloves – I usually say measure garlic with your heart, but it can easily overpower the other ingredients in this vinaigrette.
  • Honey – Add more or less to control the sweetness of the salad dressing.
  • Apple Cider Vinaigrette – There’s the perfect balance of tangy and sweet flavors in this vinaigrette to create the very best flavor palate. Don’t swap it with any other vinegar!
  • Lime Juice and Zest
  • Sesame Oil – There’s a nuttiness to this oil that subtly enhances the peanut butter.
  • Cayenne Pepper – Add more or less to control the spicy element of the dressing.
  • Olive Oil – Try to choose a good quality extra virgin olive oil for the very best flavor and silky consistency.
  • Kosher Salt
Dressing is being poured on top of salad.

How to Make Santa Fe Chicken Salad

This salad is so easy to toss together! For more info on the step by step process, just keep scrolling to the recipe card.

  1. Marinate the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Mix together all of the ingredients for the marinade. Add the chicken to a bowl or zip-top gallon bag and coat it all evenly with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
  2. Cook the chicken. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook on both sides for about 7-8 minutes, or until golden and the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Assemble the salad. Spread the lettuce out on a large platter. Top it off with the beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese and tortilla strips. Add the slices chicken right on top.
  4. Make the vinaigrette. Use a food processor or blender to make your vinaigrette. You just have to toss everything in there (except for the olive oil) and pulse until roughly chopped. Then, slowly stream in the olive oil until everything is nice and smooth. Add some salt to taste.
Dressing has been poured over a chicken salad.

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Santa fe chicken salad is plated on a large serving dish.

Get the Recipe: Santa Fe Salad Recipe

Santa Fe chicken salad is a vibrant and flavorful dish that combines seasoned chicken with southwestern-inspired ingredients. A Cheesecake Factory inspired recipe, this one is topped with a fresh vinaigrette that's easy to make in minutes.
5 from 1 vote


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup fresh corn , or frozen, thawed corn
  • 1 cup grape tomates, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup tortilla strips

For the Spicy Peanut Cilantro Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1 skillet


  • Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar, lime juice, zest and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Add the chicken to a bowl and pour the spice mixture over it. Toss to coat. Allow the chicken to marinade for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil to a skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden, approximately 7-8 minutes. Flip the chicken and turn the heat to medium low. Continue to cook the chicken until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 160˚F.
  • Transfer the chicken to a plate and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Arrange the lettuce on a large platter. Top with the black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese and tortilla strips.
  • Slice the chicken across the grain and arrange on top of the salad.
  • In the bowl of a small food processor or blender, add the cilantro, peanut butter, garlic, honey, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, zest, sesame oil and cayenne pepper. Pulse until roughly chopped.
  • While running the processor on low speed, stream in the olive oil until smooth. Season with kosher salt to taste.
  • Serve the dressing with the salad.
Calories: 593kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 41g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 1227mg, Potassium: 1308mg, Fiber: 12g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 6869IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 218mg, Iron: 6mg