Mexican Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
This Mexican Salad is far more delicious than any restaurant and serves a crowd at a fraction of the price! It’s fresh, filling, flavorful, gluten-free, loaded with vegetables and drizzled with intoxicating Cilantro Lime Dressing. You will want to do douse the dressing on EVERYTHING, guaranteed. This Mexican Salad recipe is bursting smokey grilled sweet corn, crunchy red bell peppers, juicy tomatoes, hearty black beans, salty pepitas, creamy avocados, fresh romaine lettuce, kicking Pepper Jack cheese and crispy tortilla strips. You can dress this Mexican Salad up or down by adding chili lime chicken, chipotle chicken or cilantro lime chicken or more or less of your favorite ingredients to make it YOUR favorite Mexican Salad!
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 30minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 30minutes
Cook Time
Mexican Salad
Ingredients
SALAD
  • 1 large head romaine lettucechopped (8 cups)
  • 115 oz. can black beansrinsed and drained
  • 1cup cherry or grape tomatoeshalved
  • 2 ears sweet corn on the cob
  • 3/4 English cucumbersliced and quartered
  • 1 red bell pepperchopped
  • 1 avocadopitted and sliced
  • 1 small bunch radishesthinly sliced, optional
  • 1/4cup chopped red onions
  • 1cup cubed pepper jack cheesemore or less to taste
PEPITAS (or skip and use roasted, salted pepitas)
  • 3/4cup raw pepitas
  • 1teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2teaspoon chili powder
  • Freshly cracked salt
TORTILLA STRIPS (or skip and use store-bought tortilla strips/chips)
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2teaspoons Vegetable oil
  • Freshly cracked salt
CILANTRO LIME DRESSING
Instructions
CILANTRO LIME DRESSING
  1. Click “Cilantro Lime Dressing” in the ingredients to be directed to the recipe. Prepare according to directions, cover and refrigerate. Dressing can be made 3 days in advance.
PEPITAS AND TORTILLA STRIPS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet (21 x 15) with foil.
  2. Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch strips. (I stack them all together and use my pizza cutter.)
  3. Add tortilla strips to baking sheet and toss with vegetable oil. Push to one side of the pan and arrange strips in a single layer; season with freshly cracked salt.
  4. Add pepitas to the other side of the pan. Toss with olive oil, chili powder and season with freshly cracked salt. Arrange in a single layer.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees F for 12-16 minutes or until tortillas are light golden brown.
CHAR CORN
  1. Grilling the corn is optional but adds a delicious smokiness. You may also cut the corn straight off of the cob and use raw in the salad.
  2. GRILL CORN: Lightly brush each ear of corn with olive oil, and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Grease and heat grill to high heat. Once hot, add corn and close the lid. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, rotating the corn until all of the sides are lightly charred, about 10-12 minutes, closing the lid in between rotations. Set the corn aside and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels off of the cob.
  3. OR SKILLET CORN: Cut the kernels off of the cob. Heat the olive oil in large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn starts to char approximately 5 minutes. Transfer kernels to a large bowl.
ASSEMBLE
  1. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl except for the avocados, tortilla strips and pepitas and toss to combine.
  2. Toss salad with desired amount of dressing (there will be some left over) or drizzle dressing over individual servings if not eating all of the salad immediately.
  3. Garnish salad with avocados, tortilla strips, pepitas and freshly cracked salt and pepper.
Recipe Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Pepitas.  If you aren’t familiar with pepitas, they are a type of pumpkin seed.  I purchase my seeds in the bulk bins at Sprouts.  You may also substitute with sunflower seeds but you will need to roast for less time.  For this Mexican Salad recipe, you can use roasted, salted pepitas and skip the oven roasting step OR use raw pepitas and roast them with chili powder and salt – so good!
  • Tortilla Strips.  You can also easily make your own tortilla strips or you can purchase tortilla strips for salad which are usually located near/at the end of the produce aisles.  I particularly love the Santé Fe Style tortilla strips from Fresh gourmet. You can also use your favorite tortilla chips or even spicy or flavored tortilla chips like Doritos to mix up the flavor profile.
  • Leftover protein.  Add almost any leftover protein to the salad to instantly turn it into a complete lunch or dinner.
  • Prep the taco salad dressing first.  The Cilantro Lime Dressing is very best chilled – no one wants lukewarm dressing!  Plan on making the dressing earlier in the day and refrigerating it or pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving if you’re running low on time.
  • Customize taco salad.  All of the ingredients are just a guideline.  You can use more or less of each ingredient, add other vegetables or omit some completely.  The ingredient list is up to you to make it YOUR favorite Mexican Salad!
  • Don’t dress salad.  Wait to drizzle the dressing on the Mexican salad dressing until you’re ready to serve.   Don’t dress the entire salad unless you don’t expect leftovers because dressed salad will become soggy.
  • Hold avocados.  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.

Storage

Mexican Salad will last approximately 3 days in the refrigerator IF you don’t add the dressing directly to the salad. If you combine the salad and dressing before storing it in the fridge, it’ll become soggy. If you plan on storing leftovers, hold the dressing, avocados and the tortilla strips and store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.

PREP AHEAD 

I love that you can prepare this Mexican Salad recipe ahead of time so the salad can come together in minutes when it’s time to serve.

  • Chop vegetables: you can chop your lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, cucumbers and radishes ahead of time.  You can also grill your corn. Store veggies in separate airtight containers in sealable bag so the moisture doesn’t wilt the lettuce.  I do not recommend storing your pre-cut veggies longer than a day because the beauty of this salad is its freshness.
  • Pepitas: can be roasted weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container.
  • Tortilla strips: can be roasted weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container.
  • Make dressing: can be made in advance and stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  The dressing stores for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator, so just take into account how long you will store it after making the salad to know how long you can make it in advance.

Make Ahead

If you want do more than just prep the Mexican Salad ahead of time, you can assemble most of it ahead of time.  The secret to making taco salad ahead of time is to layer the ingredients so they don’t get soggy.  This requires a specific order, with the most wet on the bottom.  To make Mexican Salad ahead of time, layer the ingredients in the following order:

  • beans and corn
  • tomatoes
  • all other veggies
  • lettuce
  • cheese
  • pepitas

You will want to store the salad dressing separately and add the chips and avocados just before serving.

Meal Prep 

Yes!  You will want to follow the guidelines outlined above about layering the salad in a specific order so the ingredients don’t become soggy.  Layer the ingredients in the desired number of containers in the following order:

  • 1) beans and corn, 3) tomatoes, 4) all other veggies 5) lettuce, 6) cheese 7) pepitas
  • Divide tortilla strips into separate airtight containers or plastic bags.
  • Keep  avocados whole and slice/chop just before serving
  • Divide dressing into smaller airtight containers or plastic bags.
  • Toss the salad with dressing, chips and avocados right before serving.