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Simple southwestern-inspired ingredients in this 15-minute Santa Fe salad make this vegetarian chopped salad a favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner.
All year round, I love having an arsenal of easy and filling salads on the menu. New favorites like this Ancient Grains Salad and this Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad. Hearty winter salads like roasted cauliflower salad with tahini dressing and roasted sweet potato salads with baby kale. And easy no-cook salads I can whip up in mere minutes like this Santa Fe salad!
So, yeah, you can say that salads are a dinner staple in our home, which means I really have to put in the effort to keep it interesting.
To make salad appealing and substantial enough to be a main course, I usually feel like there needs to be some protein. In our case this usually comes in the form of lean chicken breast, but this Santa Fe Salad I made recently reminded me that beans, yes beans, are awesome. Protein? Yes. Flavor? Yes. Ease? Yes, yes, and yes! They are a true gift when it comes to easy weeknight meals.
As textural contrasts go, this southwestern chopped salad has it going on. Aforementioned creamy beans, chewy cubes of cheese, crunchy greens and crispy tortilla chips.
The balsamic vinaigrette ties it all together with a nice tanginess. But, if you’re not a fan of balsamic vinegar, or you want to add some extra southwestern flavor to this easy salad, you can swap it with this favorite cilantro lime dressing as well.
What is Santa Fe Salad?
Santa Fe Salad is a popular Southwestern salad that is practically a burrito bowl – without the rice. It is typically made with chicken, corn, red beans, tomato, avocado, and corn. It is VERY customizable!
We kept it vegetarian this time, but feel free to add some sliced chicken breast, or even pieces of breaded chicken cutlets.
Red Kidney Beans
I have added canned red kidney beans in this recipe, yes, for a source of protein, but they also add a nice creaminess to this vegetarian southwest salad. Feel free to substitute with beans you have on hand.
Cannellini, black beans, and chickpeas all work well.
I love canned beans for convenience but if you’re used to cooking up dried beans, that definitely works too!
If you have strong feelings (of dislike) for avocados, you can skip them. But, I love using avocados in this Santa Fe Salad. It adds the perfect rich buttery texture in harmony with the cheese, and not to mention mild nutty flavor that compliments this southwestern salad recipe so well!
Hearty, crunchy romaine is my choice of greens for this Santa Fe Salad – but you can use iceberg lettuce, or whatever greens you like best!
You can use a variety of cheeses. I tend to prefer a semi hard mild cheese in this salad, and used mixed cheddar and Monterey jack in this case. Colby, brick, and others would be all great in this.
If you’re looking for a healthier option than fried corn chips, a handful of homemade pita chips would add the perfect texture and crunch to the salad. Try sprinkling them with chili powder.
Step By Step Instructions
- Mix together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
2. Now slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk till combined.
3. In a big bowl, add all your salad ingredients including the romaine, beans, avocado, corn, tomato, etc.
4. Now add the dressing to the bowl and toss to combine.
Make ahead Santa Fe Salad
Except for the avocado, dressing, and tortilla chips, you can combine all of the ingredients up to one day ahead of time. Refrigerate in a tightly sealed container. Add the avocado, whisk in the dressing, and top with tortilla chips just before serving.
Santa Fe Salad that hasn’t been dressed can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days if it’s sealed tightly.
Leftover dressed salad can be kept in the fridge for up to a day if it is kept in an airtight container.
Santa Fe Salad Variations
Salads are pretty versatile – and there is a lot you can add or subtract from this southwestern chopped salad.
- Chicken: Diced marinated chicken in simple flavors, or this shredded roasted chicken would be a great addition to this salad.
- Grains: Add some extra nutrition with grains by adding 1/4 cup or so of cooked grains like barley or quinoa to this salad.
- Red Onions: Thinly sliced red onions would also go great with the flavors in this Santa Fe Salad.
Santa Fe Salad
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 large ripe tomato seeded and diced
- 1 cup canned red kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup frozen corn thawed
- 3/4 cup cheddar cut into small cubes
- 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cut into small cubes
- 1/2 ripe avocado diced
- a few broken tortilla chips for topping
- In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
- To a large bowl, add the romaine, tomato, beans, corn, cheddar, and Monterey Jack. Add the dressing to taste and toss to combine.
- Serve and top with diced avocado and tortilla chips