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Southwest Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Southwest Salad is far more delicious than any restaurant salad at a fraction of the cost!  This Southwest Salad is bursting with black beans, red bell peppers, tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, pepitas, Pepper Jack cheese, and bathed in Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing.  The dressing alone is worth making this Southwest Salad recipe!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 -8


Southwest Salad

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • fresh corn kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onions
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup roasted and salted pepitas (may sub. sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese, or more to taste
  • Tortilla Strips for Salads (I like Fresh Gourmet Santa Fe Style)

Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

  • 1 small avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded, deveined and roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (may sub.plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (medium for more of a kick)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp EACH pepper, smoked paprika
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional)


  • Add all of the Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping the sides down as needed. Add hot sauce and additional salt and pepper to taste. Add additional milk to thin to desired consistency if needed. Chilli in the refrigerator, time permitting.
  • Add salad ingredients to a large bowl except for the tortilla strips and toss to combine.
  • Toss salad with desired amount of dressing (there will probably be some left over) or drizzle dressing over individual servings if not eating all of the salad immediately.
  • Garnish salad with tortilla strips and freshly cracked salt and pepper.


*If using Greek Yogurt, you might need to add more sugar to taste


Charred corn is optional but I love grilling corn because it results in deeply sweet, succulent, smoky corn, instead of just sweet corn.  If you don’t have time, don’t worry about it, if you do, you will LOVE it!


  • Peel the corn
  • Remove all the silk
  • Lightly brush all over with olive oil
  • Season with salt and pepper on all sides
  • Grease and heat grill to high heat
  • Grill corn over direct heat for 10-12 minutes, turning until lightly charred on all sides, closing the lid in between rotations.


If you don’t have corn on the cob or have access to a grill, you can still char frozen, canned, or fresh corn in a cast iron skillet:
  • Heat one tablespoon 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 (a few minutes longer if frozen)
  • Transfer kernels to a large bowl to cool so they don’t continue to cook.


This Southwest Salad is extremely customizable.  Here are a few recipe variations:
  • Add chicken:  Turn this Southwest Salad into Southwest Chicken Salad by adding easy Mexican chicken, crockpot Mexican chicken, chipotle chickenchili lime chicken, cilantro lime chicken.
  • Add shrimp.  My cilantro lime shrimp used in my burrito bowls would be superb in this salad and transform it into a meal.
  • Add beef.  You can add ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning or chopped carne asada steak or beef barbacoa.
  • Add pork. You can add carnitas, salsa verde pork or chipotle pork.
  • Add avocado.  I use avocado in the dressing so I haven’t included it in the Southwest Recipe but you can still add it to the salad if you wish.  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.
  • Add mangos.  I love mangos with everything Southwest.  They offer a pop of fresh, juicy sweetness that cuts through the robust TexMex seasonings and creaminess of the Southwest Dressing. If you are intimidated by mangos, don’t be, just check out my How to Cut A Mango Post that teaches everything you could ever want to know about mangos.
  • Add bacon.  Because bacon makes everything better.  I recommend thick-cut bacon so its wonderfully meaty texture doesn’t get lost in the salad.  You will want to add the bacon to the Southwest Salad at the end with the tortilla chips.
  • Add rice. Pile the Southwest Salad on some brown rice or quinoa, Cilantro Lime Rice or Mexican Rice or add it directly to the salad. You can also create Southwest Burrito Bowl by layering rice, salad then your protein of choice.


There are three ways to serve this easy Southwest Salad:
  • If you don’t expect or want leftovers: add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except for tortilla chips and toss with desired amount of dressing. Add tortilla chips when ready to serve.
  • If you expect leftovers:  add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except the tortilla strips.  Let individuals dress their own salad plates with dressings and tortilla chips.
  • Create a taco salad bar: line up all of the ingredients in separate serving bowls and let guests assemble their own Southwest Salad.


I often am asked what to pair with this Southwest Salad recipe.  The shorter list would be what NOT to pair with it because it goes with practically all of my Mexican recipes.  Here is a summary of my favorite combinations but please do not limit yourselves to my list alone: