Chicken Taco Salad

5 from 7 votes
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This chicken taco salad recipe delivers several delicious Mexican cuisine fixings in one bowl! Crunchy romaine is drizzled with a creamy salsa dressing and then topped with corn, beans, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips.

Chicken taco salad served in a large white bowl with dressing drizzled on top.

Recipe Science

  • Coating chicken in high smoke point oil like olive or avocado forms a protective layer that prevents spice burn.
  • Creating a spicey paste with oil on the surface of the chicken releases fat-soluble flavor compounds from the seasoning.
  • The fat in the sour cream coats the capsaicin in the salsa, taming the spiciness, resulting in a balanced taste in the dressing.

Why It Works

We all love taco night, but sometimes switching things up is fun. I’ve transformed the critical elements from my famous pineapple chicken tacos into a hearty salad. This chicken taco salad is easy to customize with your favorite toppings.

Using my go-to taco seasoning mix is a quick way to boost the flavor of the protein and salad dressing. The bold, concentrated spices are sprinkled on the meat’s surface and mixed into the sauce. The dish is paired with refreshing slices of lettuce and a colorful mix of ingredients.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Salad ingredients spread out on a table with the components individually labeled.
  • Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breast is a great lean protein option. The meat’s neutral flavor makes it ideal for adding the dried taco seasoning blend. Purchase 8-ounce pieces so they won’t cook too fast and dry out.
  • Taco Seasoning: I use my homemade taco seasoning recipe to season the surface of the meat. It combines paprika (smoked recommended), cumin, salt, black pepper, coriander, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder.
  • Dressing: The dressing is made with only three ingredients: sour cream, salsa, and taco seasoning.
  • Lettuce: Use pieces of crisp romaine. It’s sturdy enough to be coated in the creamy dressing and give structure to the hearty taco salad ingredients. Slice the pieces to about ½-inch wide for hearty bites that are easy to chew.
  • Toppings: The essential toppings include black beans, sweet corn, juicy ripe tomatoes, creamy avocado, shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, diced red onion, cilantro, and crunchy tortilla chips or chips.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Chicken Options: This taco salad is also great for using leftover roast chicken. Shred it or chop it up into small pieces. Ground chicken or turkey works great, too!
  • Sour Cream Swaps: Use crema or plain Greek yogurt as a substitute. I enjoy the extra protein and health benefits of probiotics that the yogurt adds to the dressing. Ranch dressing is a great option for a creamy and savory addition.
  • Lettuce: Other types of lettuce, like iceberg or little gem, add a nice crunch. Choose a green that won’t immediately wilt down when tossed with the thick, creamy dressing. Try grilled romaine for a charred flavor.
  • Customize Toppings: Add spicy pepperjack cheese or cotija. Add a refreshing crunch with cucumbers or pickled red onions. Add pinto beans or red beans. Squeeze some lime juice on top of the chicken before enjoying it.

How to Make Chicken Taco Salad

Step 1: Prepare the Chicken

For even cooking, flatten the pieces out to about ½-inch. Alternatively, if they are too large, you can slice them in half into cutlets.

Several different unmixed spices added to a small white bowl.

Step 2: Make the Taco Seasoning 

Combine paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder in a small bowl.

Seasoning blend in a small bowl after being mixed with a wooden spoon.

Make sure to reserve 2 teaspoons to use for the salad dressing.

Two chicken breasts on a white plate covered with taco seasoning spices.

Step 3: Season the Chicken

Sprinkle about ½ teaspoons of the taco seasoning evenly per side. The seasoning is very dry, so rubbing some olive oil and blending it to prevent the spices from charring too quickly when cooking is essential.

A chicken breast with char marks on the surface cooking on a grill pan.

Step 4: Cook the Chicken

Cooking the chicken on the stovetop is easy year-round. I prefer a grill pan to achieve char marks, but a cast iron skillet, nonstick, or stainless steel pan works well.

Add the chicken to the pan with olive oil and cook over medium heat until the surface is a deep golden brown. The paprika in the seasoning blend will darken quickly, so reduce the heat if needed. Cook 5 to 8 minutes per side for the internal temperature to reach 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC).

Pro Tip: During barbecue season, I prefer making grilled chicken outside. The smokey flavor adds another layer of flavor.

Grilled chicken breast with char marks sliced in pieces on a cutting board.

Step 5: Slice the Chicken

Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices before slicing the pieces into strips or chopping them up.

Salsa, sour cream, and taco seasoning spices in a bowl being whisked together.

Step 6: Make the Salad Dressing

Whisk together the sour cream, salsa, and reserved taco seasoning. The rich dairy makes the texture super creamy.

Homemade taco salad dressing being whisked together in a bowl.

When I make a batch of homemade salsa, I use it in this dressing recipe. Feel free to adjust the amount of seasoning to your liking.

Quick Substitution: For convenience, use your favorite jarred or refrigerated salsa product.

Step 7: Dress the Salad

Toss the sliced romaine lettuce with ¼ cup of the salad dressing. Toss to evenly coat the leaves. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Salsa salad dressing drizzled on top of a chicken taco salad.

Step 8: Serve the Taco Salad

This is the fun and customizable part of building your dream taco salad. Add the tomatoes, avocado, corn, beans, cheese, chips, red onion, cilantro, and chicken. For a festive presentation, assemble the ingredients into individual bowls made of crunchy fried tortillas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use ground chicken?

Yes! Ground chicken or turkey works well for a taco salad, especially if you prefer smaller pieces. Brown the meat in the olive oil, cooking until no longer raw, and break it into smaller chunks. Season with two teaspoons of the taco seasoning.

Do you eat taco salad hot or cold?

After slicing, the chicken will be warm, which contrasts with the cool and crisp lettuce leaves and other toppings. If you prefer the meat cold, chill the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before assembling the salad.

How long can you keep taco salad in the refrigerator?

The salad can be meal prepped, adding just the lettuce, tomatoes, corn, black beans, cheese, and cooled cooked chicken up to 2 days before serving. You can make the salad dressing 3 days in advance. Wait to add the avocado, onions, cilantro, and chips so that the components don’t get brown or soggy. Wait to dress the salad until ready to serve.

More Chicken Salads

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Chicken Taco Salad

A delicious & easy chicken taco salad recipe with a flavorful creamy dressing, colorful vegetables and crunchy tortilla chips.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Mexican


Chicken Taco Seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
  • ¾ teaspoons cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Creamy Salsa Dressing

  • ½ cup sour cream, or plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup salsa
  • 2 teaspoons chicken taco seasoning, reserved from above


  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, ½” thick slices
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium avocado, ½” dice (1 cup)
  • ¾ cup corn kernels, canned or grilled
  • ¾ cup black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, or Monterey Jack
  • ½ cup crushed corn tortilla chips
  • ¼ cup diced red onion, ¼” dice
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves


  • Prepare the Chicken – Place one of the chicken pieces between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Flatten with a meat tenderizer to an even thickness, about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining piece.
  • Make the Taco Seasoning – In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Reserve 2 teaspoons to use for the salad dressing.
  • Season the Chicken – Season both sides of the chicken with the remaining taco seasoning mixture. Drizzle about ½ teaspoon of olive oil on both sides, rubbing onto the surface to coat evenly.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
    Flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), on a meat thermometer, about 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat if the surface is browning too quickly. Transfer to a clean plate to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Slice the Chicken – Slice the meat against the grain. If desired, chop into cubes. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Make the Dressing – In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, salsa, and 2 teaspoons of reserved taco seasoning. To thin, whisk in water in 1 teaspoon increments until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Dress the Salad – Add the lettuce to a large bowl and ¼ cup of dressing. Gently toss to combine.
  • To Serve – Top with tomatoes, avocado, corn, beans, cheese, chips, red onion, and cilantro. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

Recipe Video

YouTube video


  • Dressing Yield: 1 cup
  • Storing: It’s best to serve the salad immediately. Alternatively, wait to add the dressing and cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. The salad dressing can be made 3 days in advance. If it’s too thick from chilling, it will need to be diluted with water.
  • Grilled Chicken: Preheat the grill over medium-high heat between 375 and 400ºF (191 to 204ºC). Clean and grease the grates with oil. Keep one burner off for indirect heat cooking. Place the chicken on the direct heat side and close the lid. Cook each side for about 5 to 8 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). If the chicken browns quickly, move it to the indirect heat side to finish.
  • Using Pre-Cooked Chicken: 2 ½ cups of shredded, sliced, or cubed chicken.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 541kcal (27%)Carbohydrates 36g (12%)Protein 36g (72%)Fat 30g (46%)Saturated Fat 9g (45%)Polyunsaturated Fat 4gMonounsaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0.02gCholesterol 104mg (35%)Sodium 1016mg (42%)Potassium 1336mg (38%)Fiber 11g (44%)Sugar 7g (8%)Vitamin A 9334IU (187%)Vitamin C 21mg (25%)Calcium 222mg (22%)Iron 4mg (22%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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