Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tex Mex Chicken Salad

When I used to live in California, one of my favorite fast-food restaurants was El Pollo Loco. They make a grilled chicken tossed salad that is absolutely wonderful. It features a delicous creamy cilantro salad dressing. Recently, I came across a copycat version of this salad dressing recipe in Todd Wilbur’s book, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked. I’ve used that recipe—with a few slight modifications—to help create a TexMex chicken salad that is very similar to the salad served at El Pollo Loco. The recipe is below. I’ve served it as a main dish for luncheons, and it always goes over well.


½ head iceberg lettuce
½ bunch leaf lettuce
1 cup canned sweet corn
1 cup canned black beans
1 cup fresh salsa or pico de gallo
½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled
1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. tortilla strips salad toppings
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, marinated in a spicy herb marinade, grilled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Creamy cilantro salad dressing (see recipe below)

First, marinate the chicken, and after several hours, grill it and slice it into pieces. (Just about any spicy marinade will do; I often marinate the chicken using McCormick's "Mexican Fiesta" or “Zesty Herb” marinade packets.) Refrigerate the cooked chicken pieces until you’re ready to toss the salad.

Next, make the salad dressing, and chill that until you’re ready to pour it on the salad.

No more than 30 minutes before serving, combine the lettuce, corn, beans and pico de gallo in a large salad bowl. Add the cheese, tortilla strips and chicken breasts and stir together. Just before serving, add the salad dressing and stir just until most of the salad ingredients are moistened. Serve immediately. Makes 5-6 main entrée-sized portions.


1 cup mayonaise
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced finely
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. crushed garlic
¼ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. black peper
¼ tsp. ground cumin

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth in a quart-sized bowl or salad dressing bottle. Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

Happy salad making!

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