Chicken Fajita Salad

Chicken Fajita Salad bursting with juicy marinated chicken, bell peppers and onions with creamy salsa dressing!

This Chicken Fajita Salad takes my insanely popular chicken fajita recipe and turns it into a healthy, satisfying salad!  It’s a fresh, vibrant, crispy, juicy, robust, earthy, tangy explosion in every forkful, perfect for lunch, dinner, entertaining or potlucks. This Chicken Fajita Salad is loaded with succulent marinated chicken, charred bell peppers and onions, creamy avocados, juicy tomatoes, zesty cilantro and salty Cotija all doused in intoxicating Creamy Salsa Dressing!  It’s prep ahead friendly for a meal you can throw together in minutes when ready to serve AND can be cooked on the grill or stovetop. You can also customize the chicken salad recipe by using more or less of your favorite ingredients, adding corn, black beans, etc.  Now prepare to fall in love – this might just be the best chicken salad recipe of all time!

If you love everything fajitas, you love my readers favorites:  steak fajitas, crockpot chicken fajitas, chicken fajita pasta, pork fajitas, shrimp fajitassheet pan salmon fajitas and fajita seasoning!

PIN THIS RECIPE TO SAVE FOR LATER

CHICKEN salad RECIPE VIDEO

up close top view of chicken fajita salad (chicken salad recipe) in a wood bowl with chicken, tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers

CHICKEN SALAD RECIPE

This Chicken Fajita Salad recipe is inspired by my readers favorite Chicken Fajitas recipe – because the best chicken fajitas make the best salad!  There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a message on Instagram saying it’s the best chicken fajitas they’ve ever made.  Here are just a few comments on the fajita recipe post:

These fajitas are the best in the world!!! Thanks so much for creating the recipe!! I am over the moon excited for finally having found a fajita recipe that is reminiscent of Mexican restaurant fajitas… -Smiling from ear to ear down in Belize, Central America! -Myra

These were SO delicious! Especially the chicken! My husband said it was “as good as any fajita from a restaurant.” Thanks for another great recipe! – Katie

These were the best fajitas I have ever made!! -Ann

I found this recipe at some point within the last several months, and have made it probably 10 times. So, so, SO delicious! -Melissa

I made these for dinner tonight. They were AMAZING! -Sandy

I literally jut put the last bite in my mouth and hopped up from the table to comment. THIS IS SO DELICIOUS!!! My only complaint is that there isn’t enough for leftovers  Next time I am definitely doubling this recipe! Thanks for sharing this one – such a winner!!! -Pamcita

So, as you can see, the star of this chicken salad recipe is the fajita chicken. It’s  beautifully charred on the outside, gloriously juicy and tender on the inside and dripping with flavor through and through thanks to the easy marinade. 

The marinade ingredients are a little lengthy but they take 5 minutes to whisk together, then you’re just a grill and chop away from dinner.  Plus, you can prep the dressing and the salad ingredients while the marinade does the rest of the heavy lifting.  The marinade is bursting with complex flavor from the bright orange juice, grounding soy, robust chili powder, smoky paprika, kicking chipotle chili pepper, earthy cumin, aromatic oregano, garlic, onion powder and liquid smoke for that extra smoky flavor.

The earthy, robust chicken is begging to be devoured alongside sweet, charred bell peppers, zippy, caramelized red onions, sweet, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocados, zesty cilantro, salty Cotija and crunchy Romaine lettuce.  It’s a hypnotic bowl of textures and flavors that will have everyone coming back for more.

Finally, the chicken salad recipe is dressed with a cool and creamy, tangy, zippy, sassy, as-spicy-as-you-want salsa, sour cream dressing.  This dressing is inspired by my Mexican Pasta Salad recipe and I have been itching to use it again because it’s just so good!  The cool and creamy dressing beautifully compliment the earthy flavors of the chicken – just like adding sour cream to your fajitas!  And the best part is, this dressing takes minutes to whisk together – no blender or chopping required!  It can also be made days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

So, I hope you enjoy this epically delicious Chicken Fajita Salad recipe.  Your new favorite way to eat fajitas.

CHICKEN FAJITA SALAD ingredients

There are three parts to this Chicken Fajita Salad recipe: 1) the chicken marinade, 2) the salad ingredients and 3) the dressing.  The ingredient list is somewhat lengthy, but remember, to make the marinade and the dressing, all we do is dump and stir in each spice, dash of citrus, etc.  The salad ingredients require a little chopping but are minimal and can be prepped ahead of time. 

THE MARINADE

The most effective way to infuse chicken with flavor and tenderize it at the same time is with a marinade.  The dynamic Chicken Fajita Marinade also allows you to use leaner cuts of chicken like chicken breasts without the chicken drying out.  You will need:

  • Chicken:  you can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs – totally personal preference here.  After the chicken cooks, let it rest for 5 minutes to reabsorb the juices then you can slice or chop the chicken. The photos show sliced chicken, but in reality, the salad is easier to eat with chopped chicken.
  • Olive oil: use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Orange juice: freshly squeezed is best but you can use bottled orange juice if it is pure fleshly squeezed without any additives.
  • Lime juice: you will need the juice from about one lime.
  • Soy sauce: use reduced sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt.
  • Brown sugar: balances the tangy orange, lime juice and umami of the soy.
  • Dijon mustard: adds a hint of acid and tangy heat.
  • Liquid smoke: adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the chicken even if you choose to cook it in a skillet. 
  • Fajita seasonings: we make a homemade fajita seasoning blend with pantry friendly seasonings of chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, chipotle chili pepper, dried oregano and pepper.

DO I HAVE TO ADD CHIPOTLE CHILI pepper?

You are probably familiar with all of the chicken fajita marinade ingredients except perhaps chipotle chili pepper and liquid smoke – but I recommend purchasing them both as they will (or should) become pantry staples.

Chipotle chili pepper is ground up dried chipotles and adds a smoky heat as opposed to just pure heat. It can be found in any grocery store along with the rest of the seasonings.  It is sometimes called chipotle chili powder or chipotle chile powder. If you need to make these Chicken Fajitas NOW, then you can substitute the chipotle chili powder with ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is spicier, so that is why you’ll want use less.

DO I HAVE TO ADD LIQUID SMOKE?

Liquid smoke (it really is liquid smoke!), is worth seeking out if cooking the chicken indoors, and I also use it when grilling the chicken outdoors as well.  I use it in many of my recipes from Mexican Chicken to BBQ Brisket to this chicken salad recipe. Liquid smoke is created by capturing smoke as it rises through a combustion chamber filled with wood chips to a condenser.  In the condenser, the smoke cools and forms a liquid, thus liquid smoke (thank you Wikipedia).  It is a very common ingredient and should be easy to find next to the barbecue sauces in your grocery store.

chicken fajita salad (chicken salad recipe) with chicken, bell peppers, red onions, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro in a wood bowl

The salad

  • Romaine lettuce: I prefer Romaine because it’s sturdy, cool and crunchy and holds up for an extended period of time without becoming soggy. You will want a large head of Romaine, otherwise you can use 3 smaller hearts.  You can even use half Romaine and half iceberg or another favorite green.
  • Bell peppers:  you can use a red, yellow or orange bell pepper – whatever you have on hand other than green which doesn’t add much additional flavor.  I like to use one of each.  You will quarter the bell peppers if grilling and slice them if cooking on the stove.
  • Red onion:  use red onion rather than yellow onion for its sweet, zippy bite.  You will quarter the onions if grilling and slice if cooking on the stove. If grilling, thread the red onions on a long skewer so it’s easier to cook without falling through the grates.
  • Tomatoes: use whichever are riper at the store between cherry or grape tomatoes.  You can also use a few Roma tomatoes, but you will want to seed them first so they don’t make your salad soggy.
  • Avocados:  you can add sliced or chopped avocados for a satisfying creamy burst to complement the crunchy textures.  If you’re anticipating leftovers, you may want to omit the avocados from the salad and use them as a topping so they don’t brown upon storage.  Make sure you use ripe avocados but not overly ripe or they will turn to mush.  To tell if an avocado is ripe, squeeze it gently. A ripe avocado should yield slightly to pressure but not feel overly soft.  If your avocados ripen before you are ready to use them, they can be stored in the refrigerator which will dramatically slow down the ripening process.  For more detailed information on how to select avocados, see my guacamole recipe.
  • Cilantro: adds a tangy, zesty, citrus flavor.  If you’re one of the 4-14 percent who thinks cilantro tastes like soap, just skip it. If you love it, add more to taste.
  • Cotija cheese: is Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk that’s salty and crumbly, similar to Parmesan.  It adds wonderfully salty flavor and is worth splurging for.

The Dressing

The dressing is super easy to make, simply whisk all the ingredient together in a bowl in just minutes!  You will need:

  • Salsa:  use your favorite salsa or my homemade 5-minute blender salsa is spectacular.  I suggest medium or spicy salsa.  If you use mild, you’ll want to amp up the flavor with cayenne pepper.
  • Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt:  I prefer sour cream in this dressing but Greek yogurt works well because we are making a tangy dressing.  If the dressing is too tangy by using Greek yogurt, add a teaspoon or so of honey.  Fat-free sour cream or yogurt both work great as well, just don’t use regular yogurt because it is not nearly as thick as Greek yogurt.
  • Mayonnaise:  binds all of the dressing ingredients together and prevents them from separating –your dressing will not taste like mayo! 
  • Lime Juice:  awakens all of the flavors!  Use fresh or bottled lime juice and use more or less to taste depending on how tangy you would like the dressing.
  • Garlic:  fresh garlic is fantastic but you can substitute with ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Seasonings: ground cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper round out the flavor profile. 

Chicken salad recipe variations

I kept this Fajita Chicken Salad pretty traditional, but it would also be super delicious with corn, black beans, jalapenos, etc.   Here are some ideas to mix up your chicken salad recipe:

  • Use a different protein. The marinade can be used on any other grilled protein such as shrimp, beef, pork or salmon.  You can also use carne asada steakbeef barbacoa, carnitassalsa verde pork or chipotle pork in the salad.
  • Use a different chicken marinade. The chicken fajita marinade keeps with the flavor of chicken fajitas but you may use a different chicken marinade along with the bell peppers and onions such chipotle chickenchili lime chicken, and cilantro lime chicken.
  • Start with plain cooked chicken. You can also use rotisserie chicken, baked chicken or poached chicken if you want to serve the salad right away without the marinating time.  If this is the case, shred or chop the chicken and toss it in some of the “marinade” after it is cooked. It will still soak up tons of flavor.
  • Use a spring salad mix. This blend of lettuce boasts a broad spectrum of flavor and textural interest. It usually consists of 16 different fresh greens and lettuces including red romaine, green romaine, baby spinach, radicchio, red oak leaf, mizuna, red leaf, lollo rosso, arugula, red mustard, green mustard, red chard, frisee, and tatsoi. 
  • Add beans.  Add black beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans etc. 
  • Add corn. Corn adds succulent pops of juicy, smoky crunchy sweetness. You can char the corn on the grill or in your skillet for a tantalizing sweet and smoky addition or if you’re short on time, you can slice the corn straight off the cob into the salad.  I highly suggest fresh corn in the spring/summer months but you can get away with using canned or frozen corn in the winter.  If using canned corn, take care to rinse and drain it first. If using frozen corn, you don’t need to thaw it before you add it to the hot skillet to char.
  • Add cucumber. I recommend an English cucumber because then you don’t have to peel it, but you are welcome to substitute with a peeled, slicing cucumber.
  • Add jicama.  Choose a small jicama for sweeter, more appealing flavor.  Choose jicama that is firm, with a smooth skin that’s not cracked, shriveled or bruised and free of soft spots. 
  • Add other veggies. You can anything your heart desires such as broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, roasted sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Add cheese.  Add cubed pepper Jack, Monterrey or sharp cheddar or shredded Mexican cheese blend.
  • Add olives. Black olives offer a delectable tanginess.
  • Pickle red onions. Swap the grilled red onions for tangy, punchy fantastic pickled red onions.   
  • Jalapeno. Spice up your grilled chicken salad with jalapenos! Remove the seeds and the white veins of your jalapenos because these pack the fieriest heat.  You can add the seeds back to the salad after you taste it and still want more heat.
  • Add pickled jalapenos.  You can also use fabulous, spicy, tangy additions in place instead of fresh jalapeno.  Start with just a little and stir in more to taste – you don’t want to ruin your entire chicken salad by making it too spicy!
  • Add pico de gallo.  Swap the tomatoes and cilantro for fresh pico de gallo for a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de fries gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Swap dressing.  Use the dressing for Cilantro Lime Dressing or Avocado Ranch.
  • Make it gluten free. Swap the soy sauce in the marinade for gluten free tamari.
showing how to make chicken fajita salad by tossing with creamy dressing

HOW DO I MAKE JUICY, TENDER CHICKEN?

The dynamite Chicken Fajita marinade transforms the chicken into a juicy, flavor bomb worthy of the title “best Chicken Fajitas” and now the best chicken salad!  The marinade accomplishes three things:  1) tenderizes the chicken, 2) infuses it with flavor and 3) chemically changes its structure so it retains juices and actually becomes juicier.   I’ve outlined how the ingredients below adeptly accomplish this:

  • Citrus:  orange juice and lime juice tenderize the chicken by breaking down the tough connective tissue. They also infuse the chicken with bright floral tones characteristic of chicken fajitas that complement the earthy seasonings. 
  • Soy sauce:  enzymatically breaks down the proteins to further tenderize while also adding a rich depth of grounding flavor.
  • Seasonings: the homemade fajita seasoning mix penetrates the chicken inside and out and is the perfect, robust blend.
  • Oil:  is crucial as it spreads the oil-soluble flavors more evenly across the chicken and also promotes even browning when cooking.

CHICkEN FAJITA MARINADE TIPS

The Chicken Fajita marinade is SO easy – just whisking ingredients together – but here are some tips and tricks when it comes to marinating your chicken to maintain sanitary conditions and food safety:

  • What containers to use: For easy cleanup, use food-safe plastic bags during storage, and discard the bags after marinating. You may also use food grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers to marinate food.  If you marinate in a container instead of a plastic bag, cover the container during storage in the refrigerator.
  • Where to marinate: Always marinate chicken for a prolonged period of time in the refrigerator, never on the counter. You can marinate on the counter for 30 minutes to help bring the chicken to room temperature and cook evenly, but no longer.
  • Reusing marinade: Never reuse marinade used for raw chicken or meat unless you boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria. Instead, we are going to reserve ¼ cup of the marinade to add to the vegetables.
  • Cook it safely: Be sure to use a food thermometer and cook chicken to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN Fajita SALAD

Step 1: Marinate chicken

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness.  Place chicken in-between two pieces of plastic wrap or I like to place my chicken in a large freezer size bag.  Pound the chicken to an even thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, rolling pin or side of a can. Pounding the chicken ensures the chicken cooks evenly and also breaks down the fibers and tenderizes the chicken.
  • Marinate the chicken. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a freezer bag. Remove ¼ cup and add to a separate bag with the bell peppers and onions. Marinate the chicken for 4-12 hours in the refrigerator, occasionally flipping the bag over.
  • Let the chicken rest.  When you’re ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rest 15-30 minutes.
showing how to make chicken fajita salad by marinating chicken in a glass bowl

STEP 2: Make Dressing

  • Make the dressing while the chicken is marinating so it has time to chill.
  • Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
showing how to make chicken fajita salad by whisking together dressing ingredients: salsa, sour cream, mayonnaise and spices, in a glass bowl

STEP 3: Cook Chicken

TO GRILL

  • Prep the grill. While the chicken is resting, heat the grill so that it’s around 400ºF degrees. Clean and grease the grill.  400ºF is the ideal temperature – not too hot and not too cold – you get gorgeous grill marks on the outside without burning and the inside remains juicy and tender.
  • Grill the chicken. Grill the chicken for about 5-7 minutes per side depending on thickness. An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F. Let the chicken rest while you finish making the salad, then slice into thin 1/2-inch strips, or chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Grill the onions and bell pepper alongside the chicken.  Grilling the bell peppers enhances the natural sweetness and laces it with charred undertones.  It’s is easy to pop on the grill at the same time as the chicken. Cook the onions for about 10-12 minutes and the bell peppers for about 6 minutes.
  • Slice grilled chicken and veggies.  Transfer onions and bell peppers to a cutting board. Slice into thin strips once cool enough to handle.
showing how to make chicken fajita salad by grilling chicken and bell peppers
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CHICKEN IS DONE?

Grilled chicken breasts are done when they register 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.  Chicken thighs and other dark meat, however, should be cooked to 175 degrees F because dark meat contains higher amounts of connective tissue.  Cooking dark meat to only 165 F will yield chewy, rubbery meat, but cooking it to 175 F will yield tender, juicy meat as the collagen melts and turns to gelatin.

I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer otherwise there is no accurate way to check and see when your chicken is cooked without slicing and loosing valuable juices.

TO COOK ON THE STOVE

  • Cook chicken.  Cook chicken in a hot skillet for undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 2-4 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing across the grain into strips.
  • Cook bell peppers. While the chicken is resting, heat 1 tablespoon oil in the leftover juices in the skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add sliced chicken and toss to coat.
showing how to make chicken fajita salad recipe by cooking chicken and bell peppers in a cast iron skillet

STEP 4: ASSEMBLE

Add lettuce to a large bowl and top with chicken, fajitas, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro and Cotija cheese. If not expecting leftovers, drizzle with desired amount of dressing, otherwise, toss salad, serve and dress individual bowls with dressing.

showing how to make chicken fajita salad by drizzling with creamy dressing

TIPS AND TRICK TO MAKE CHICKEN salad

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness.  This not only helps the chicken cook more evenly but tenderizes it as well.  If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can.  I place my chicken in the Ziploc bag I’m going to marinate it in for convenience.
  • Don’t over-marinate.  The marinade is highly acidic which means you don’t want to marinate the chicken as long as you would in a marinade without as much citrus.  Don’t marinate much longer than 12 hours or the muscle fibers can break down and become mushy.
  • Marinate long enough.  I recommend marinating the chicken for at least 4 hours.  This will infuse the chicken with TONS of flavor and juiciness. 
  • Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking.  Transfer the marinating chicken to your kitchen counter 30 minutes before grilling.  Room temperature chicken cooks more evenly and quickly which translates into juicier chicken because there is less time for moisture to be released while cooking. This also relaxes the cold fibers for juicier results.
  • Use a cast iron skillet.  If cooking on the stove, a cast iron skillet will give you the best sear for authentic tasting, chicken for fajita salad. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, make sure your pan is sizzling hot before you add your chicken.
  • Clean grill.  If grilling, you should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.
  • Use a hot grill.  Heat up the grill with the lid closed cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes.  Once the grill is hot, you can adjust the temperature.  Don’t add the chicken until the grill reaches temperature or you won’t get those beautiful grill marks.
  • Flip only once using tongs. After you add the chicken breasts to the grill, don’t touch them for a full 5 minutes. You need enough time for the chicken to sear and then they will naturally release from the grill. Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over using tongs.
  • Don’t overcook!  Cook chicken breasts just to 165 degrees F. Chicken breasts are a lean protein and therefore can dry out if overcooked.  Use a meat thermometer to eliminate all of the guess work to achieve succulent, juicy chicken every time.  
  • Let chicken rest.  After the chicken is cooked, it is important to let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  While the chicken cooks, the juices are forced away from the heat to the middle of the protein.  The resting time allows for the redistribution and reabsorption of the juices throughout the breast.
  • Lime juice to taste.  Don’t forget the lime!  The lime brightens and enlivens the earthy fajita flavors. I add plenty of lime juice to the dressing but you can also squeeze fresh lime juice over the entire salad.
  • Customize ingredients.  The salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions.  You can use add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies, nuts and cheeses.
  • Chill dressing.  You’ll want to refrigerate your dressing for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, so the flavors deepen and meld. Cold dressing is also much more appetizing than lukewarm dressing. If you’re short on time, pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Prep ahead.  You can make your chicken, chop all your veggies, make the dressing all ahead of time and store in air-tight containers in your refrigerator so all that’s left is to do is assemble and EAT! Detailed prep ahead instructions to follow.
  • Freeze chickened in marinade. If you can’t get to cooking your marinating chicken within 12 hours, pop it in the freezer. Freeze chicken for 2 to 3 months. When it’s time to cook, thaw the chicken and cook immediately.

HOW TO SERVE CHICKEN SALAD

  • If not expecting leftovers:  add all of the salad ingredients to a large salad bowl.  You can toss everything together with the dressing or serve it on the side and let everyone dress their own salads.
  • If expecting leftovers:  toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl except avocados and the dressing. Serve avocados and the dressing on the side.  This will prevent the salad from getting as soggy when storing.
  • Salad Bar:  if you have picky eaters or want a fun entertaining idea, then consider a salad bar where everyone can pile on as much or as little of their favorite toppings.  Everyone is a winner with a salad bar!
chicken fajita salad (chicken salad recipe) with chicken, bell peppers, red onions, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro in a wood bowl

WHAT CAN I PREP AHEAD?

This chicken salad recipe can be prepped ahead so when it comes time to cook, it’s just 10 minutes to dinner.

  • Marinade: whisk all the marinade ingredients together and either store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or proceed to marinate your chicken.
  • Vegetables: chop the lettuce, slice the tomatoes, slice your bell peppers and onions and store in separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
  • Dressing: whisk the dressing together and store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.

HOW TO STORE CHICKEN SALAD

If you plan on storing the chicken salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the lettuce will become soggy and wilted.  Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The avocados should also be removed from the salad or better yet, not tossed with the salad initially and instead added to individual servings.

The chicken salad recipe without dressing will stay fresh for about 2 days in the refrigerator, but will keep for up to 4 days.

CAN I FREEZE CHICKEN for this salad?

You may freeze either the chicken after it is cooked or the chicken when it is added to the chicken fajita marinade. This makes it super handy to double or even triple the chicken to use later.  I do not recommend freezing the bell peppers as they will become mushy when thawed. 

  • Freeze Marinating Chicken: add chicken to the marinade in a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air, label and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then use immediately.
  • Chicken: after you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

What should I serve with this Chicken Salad?

This chicken salad is a meal-in-itself with protein and veggies but everything is extra tasty with carbs!  Add a side of cornbread,  grilled corn on the cob, corn casserole or chips and homemade salsa, grilled corn salsapineapple salsa, mango salsa, or avocado corn salsa

This chicken salad would also be tasty with a side of watermelon, cantaloupe,  caramelized grilled pineapple, cheesecake fruit salad, pina colada fruit saladfruit salad with honey lime vinaigrettegrape salad or summer fruit salad.

HOW SHOULD I SERVE CHICKEN FAJITA salad?

You can serve this Chicken Fajita Salad as a salad or as bowls, wraps, etc.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Chicken Fajita Burritos: Wrap the salad in a large cheesy tortilla along with Cilantro Lime Rice, black beans and guacamole.
  • Chicken Fajita Burrito Bowl: Pile the salad on a bed of rice with black beans, corn, and tortilla chips.

IS this chicken SALAD HEALTHY?

This chicken salad recipe is bursting with fresh greens and lean. The chicken is a lean protein which means it doesn’t have very much fat which can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and even lose weight all while helping to sustain your muscles.  Chicken is also full of calcium and phosphorous which helps strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of arthritis.

Bell peppers are an excellent addition to a healthy diet.  They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, especially vitamin C and over 30 different types of carotenoids. Researchers have found carotenoids improve eye health, and ward off eye disease as well as prevent certain types of cancers.  Bell peppers are also full of vitamin C.  1 cup of sliced red bell peppers gives you 157% of your daily vitamin C content, which is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s also involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.

To keep salad as healthy as possible, swap the sour cream for Greek yogurt and the mayo for avocado mayo.  

up close of juicy chicken in chicken fajita salad (chicken salad recipe) in a wood bowl
top view of chicken fajita salad (chicken salad recipe) in a wood bowl with chicken, tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers

Chicken Fajita Salad

Chicken Fajita Salad bursting with juicy marinated chicken, bell peppers and onions with creamy salsa dressing! This Chicken Fajita Salad takes my insanely popular chicken fajita recipe and turns it into a healthy, satisfying salad.  It’s a fresh, vibrant, crispy, juicy, robust ,earthy, tangy explosion in every forkful, perfect for lunch, dinner, entertaining or potlucks. It's prep ahead friendly for a meal you can throw together in minutes when ready to serve. You can also customize the chicken salad recipe by using more or less of your favorite ingredients, adding corn, black beans, etc.  Now prepare to fall in love –this might just be the best chicken salad recipe of all time!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN FAJITA MARINADE

SALAD

  • 2 small chicken breasts (1 pound) or boneless chicken thighs pounded to an even thickness
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered if grilling, sliced if cooking on the stove
  • 1 orange bell pepper, quartered if grilling, sliced if cooking on the stove
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, quartered if grilling, sliced if cooking on the stove
  • 1 red onion, quartered if grilling, sliced if cooking on the stove
  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce (6 cups), chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 avocados, sliced or chopped
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds or pepitas

SALSA SOUR CREAM DRESSING

  • 3/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup medium or spicy salsa
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, ground cumin, pepper
  • cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  • MARINADE: In a large freezer bag, whisk together all of the Chicken Fajita Marinade ingredients. Remove ¼ cup to a separate freezer bag and add the bell peppers and onions. To the first bag, add the chicken and turn to evenly coat. Marinate the chicken and the vegetables in the refrigerator for 4 hours up to overnight.
  • DRESSING: Make the dressing while the chicken is marinating so it has time to chill. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Add additional lime juice for a tangier dressing and cayenne pepper for a spicier dressing.

TO COOK ON THE STOVE

  • When ready to cook, let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, dab excess marinade off chicken and add to skillet. Cook chicken undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, or until nicely browned (or blackened if you prefer) on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 2-4 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (don't overcook!).
  • Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing across the grain into strips.
  • Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon oil to the leftover juices in the skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add sliced chicken and toss to coat.

TO GRILL

  • When ready to cook, let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. Skewer the quartered onions on one long metal skewer so they are easier to cook. If using a wooden skewer, soak in water for 30 minutes first.
  • Preheat grill to 400 degrees, clean and grease grates.
  • Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through (an instant read thermometer should reach 165 degrees F). Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Grill the onions for approximately 2-3 minutes on all 4 sides or until nicely charred. Grill the bell peppers for approximately 3-4 minutes per side or until nicely charred but not soft.
  • Transfer onions and bell peppers to a cutting board. Slice into thin strips once cool enough to handle.

ASSEMBLE

  • Add lettuce to a large bowl and top with chicken, fajitas, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, sunflower seeds and Cotija cheese. If not expecting leftovers, drizzle with desired amount of dressing. If expecting leftovers, toss salad, serve and dress individual bowls with dressing.

Video

Notes

  • Chipotle chili pepper: is ground up dried chipotles and adds a smoky heat as opposed to just pure heat. It can be found in any grocery store along with the rest of the seasonings.  It is sometimes called chipotle chili powder or chipotle chile powder. If you need to make these Chicken Fajitas NOW, then you can substitute the chipotle chili powder with ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is spicier, so that is why you’ll want use less.
  • Liquid smoke: (really is liquid smoke!), is worth seeking out if cooking the chicken indoors, and I also use it when grilling the chicken outdoors as well.  I use it in many of my recipes from Mexican Chicken to BBQ Brisket to this chicken salad recipe. It is a very common ingredient and should be easy to find next to the barbecue sauces in your grocery store.
  • Cotija cheese: is Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk that’s salty and crumbly, similar to Parmesan.  It adds wonderfully salty flavor and is worth splurging for.
  • Salsa:  use your favorite salsa or my homemade 5-minute blender salsa is spectacular.  I suggest medium or spicy salsa.  If you use mild, you’ll really want to amp up the flavor with cayenne pepper.
  • Recipe variations: see the post for lots of variation ideas. At the very least, feel free to add corn, black beans, jalapenos, pickled jalapenos,
  • Use a cast iron skillet. If cooking on the stove, a cast iron skillet will give you the best sear for authentic tasting, chicken for fajita salad. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, make sure your pan is sizzling hot before you add your chicken.
  • Clean grill. If grilling, you should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.

PREP AHEAD

This chicken salad recipe can be prepped ahead so when it comes time to cook, it’s just 10 minutes to dinner.
  • Marinade: whisk all the marinade ingredients together and either store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or proceed to marinate your chicken.
  • Vegetables: chop the lettuce, slice the tomatoes, slice your bell peppers and onions and store in separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
  • Dressing: whisk the dressing together and store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.

STORAGE

If you plan on storing the chicken salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the lettuce will become soggy and wilted.  Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The avocados should also be removed from the salad or better yet, not tossed with the salad initially and instead added to individual servings.
The chicken salad recipe without dressing will stay fresh for about 2 days in the refrigerator, but will keep for up to 4 days.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    This fajita chicken marinade is absolutely the most awesome I have ever made or tasted. I marinated 4 breasts overnight which we grilled and sautéed the veggies on the stove in cast iron because I wanted them to stay saucy with the marinade they were in. We did fajitas last night and will use the leftovers for this glorious salad. Your Mexican recipes are just amazing every time.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for the awesome review Stephanie! I’m thrilled this was a hit, and so happy it can be dinner for two nights!

5 Secrets to
30 Minute Meals

Tips, tricks & recipes to get dinner on the table fast!

FREE EMAIL BONUS