Just before falling asleep a few nights ago, I came up with a new theory. About salad. (Really, Erin? Salad is what you lie awake thinking about?) When it’s a delicious Mexican Salad with a creamy lime dressing, chunks of roasted sweet potatoes, and other healthy, yummy goodies that make every forkful more captivating than the last, you bet I do!
Crisp, flavorful, and filling, this salad is a complete experience blend of textures and flavor. It’s made with crisp romaine lettuce, hearty black beans, and other goodies (radishes! pepitas! avocado!), along with one other key ingredient that led me to my recent salad hypothesis.
If you put tortilla chips on it, they will come.
I’m still working out the exact title and topic sentence for my “research” (The Tortilla Chip Salad Effect? Salty + Crunchy + Green = WIN? Chips for the Improvement of All?), but the gist is that if you want to make a salad that everyone is going to obsess over, try adding tortilla chips.
Cases in point: Healthy Taco Salad; BBQ Chicken Salad; an *AMAZING* southwest salad that’s in my upcoming cookbook. (<—can’t wait for you to be able to preorder it! Sign up here if you’d like to receive email updates. I’ll be sharing details with its release.)
And, of course, today’s stellar healthy Mexican Salad!
This modern take on a traditional Mexican Salad keeps core Mexican flavors and ingredients, but gives them a wholesome spin.
In addition to the chips and other yummy, crunchy things, this Mexican Salad is loaded with a satisfying, ultra tasty mix of both roasted and fresh veggies and is high in plant-based protein and fiber, making it a legitimate vegetarian main.
Prepping this Mexican Salad recipe does require up-front chopping, but you’ll be rewarded.
This chopped salad can last several days in your refrigerator, meaning that if you make it today, you’ll have a wholesome, healthy lunch or dinner waiting for you.
How to Make a Mexican Salad That’s Better Than the Rest
This Mexican Salad stands out for its mix of different textures, flavors, and blend of sweet and heat.
The Ingredients (and How They Work Together) are:
CREAMY + CRUNCHY. Great salads have both creamy ingredients to make them taste rich and satisfying and crunchy ingredients so they taste interesting and fresh.
- Team Crunchy Ingredients: Crisp romaine lettuce, radishes, pepitas, and tortilla chips.
- Team Creamy Ingredients: Roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, black beans, and a creamy Mexican dressing. For bonus points (and an extra tasty salad!), you can make your own black beans from scratch with this Instant Pot Black Beans recipe.
SWEET + HEAT. This Mexican Salad recipe is special for its balanced blend of sweet and spicy elements.
- Sweet Notes: Caramelized roasted sweet potato; fresh, juicy cherry tomatoes.
- Heat Notes: Chili powder, cumin, and (for the brave) sliced jalapenos. Radishes add a surprising spicy element too.
FRESH + FILLING.
- Freshness and Zip: A creamy lime dressing made with Greek yogurt wakes up the other ingredients; cilantro gives the salad freshness.
- Stay Fuller, Longer: Healthy fats, fiber, and protein from the black beans, pepitas, a wide array of veggies, and protein in the yogurt dressing give this salad rib-sticking power, without the need for meat.
Mexican Salad Recipe Steps
- Roast the sweet potatoes. I do this first, then prep the rest of the ingredients while the salad cooks.
- Whip up the creamy Mexican dressing. It’s a blend of lime juice, Greek yogurt, and cumin. It takes three minutes to make and is SO good and citrusy.
- Add the lettuce to a bowl, and start tossing it with the dressing. This gives a nice, light coating of dressing.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Toss, and drizzle on more dressing as needed.
- Top with tortilla chips or strips. As many as you like.
THEN DIVE IN!
You can enjoy the Mexican Salad right away, or save it for later using the below salad meal prep tips.
Mexican Salad Meal Prep Tips
This salad can last 3 days in the refrigerator (which is long in the life of a salad), so it’s a fantastic recipe to prep on weekends, then pack for lunch. Tuck it into your lunchbox with a slice of Mexican Cornbread, and you will look forward to your meal all morning.
Here are tips to keep Mexican Salad tasting its best:
- To make ahead. You can prep all ingredients (except tortilla chips) and keep them separate or mix together. Prepare the dressing, but leave it off the Mexican Salad ingredients for now. I recommend waiting to add the creamy lime dressing until a few hours before you serve it and waiting to add the tortilla chips until immediately before serving, so they stay crunchy.
- To save extra time, you can bake your pepitas and sweet potatoes ahead of time. Store the sweet potatoes in the refrigerator and pepitas at room temperature until you’re ready to assemble the Mexican Salad.
- How to pack it. Prepare all ingredients of the Mexican Salad, but do not add the dressing or tortilla chips to the other ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over the bottom of a large container, then add the salad ingredients on top. Place your desired amount of tortilla chips in a ziptop bag, and store outside of the refrigerator until serving. When you’re ready to enjoy your Mexican Salad, shake up the prepared container to toss the ingredients with the dressing. Sprinkle with your tortilla chips, and enjoy!
- To store. Place Mexican Salad in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. If possible, store your dressing in a separate container, and keep your tortilla chips outside of the refrigerator so they stay crunchy.
Mexican Salad Recipe Variations
- Mexican Salad Bowl. Warm up the beans and sweet potatoes and serve over a bed of warm quinoa. Add the toppings of your choice. I like to use shredded romaine for crunch. Also, check out my Chipotle Burrito Bowl, which does something similar,
- Craving Meat? Top the Mexican Salad with grilled, diced, or shredded chicken. I love the grilled cilantro lime chicken from this Strawberry Chicken. See my post on Instant Pot Chicken or How to Cook Shredded Chicken for two super easy ways to make shredded chicken breasts or thighs. Grilled shrimp would be yummy too.
- Add (Vegetarian) Protein. Top the salad with the sautéed tofu from this recipe for Tofu Tacos.
- Add Corn. Corn is a classic ingredient in many authentic Mexican salad recipes. Feel free to toss it in here too. You can use grilled, canned, or frozen (and thawed) corn.
More Authentic Mexican Salads with a Twist
More Favorite Mexican Recipes
- Mexican Shrimp
- Mexican Chicken and Rice
- Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos
- Crock Pot Mexican Casserole
- Shrimp Tacos
- Taco Pasta
- Instant Pot Mexican Casserole
- Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole
- Skinny Margarita (to wash it all down!)
This Mexican Salad is fabulous, and I looked forward to it every day that it was in our refrigerator. Don’t be surprised when you stay awake thinking (and fall asleep dreaming) about it too!
For the Salad:
- 1/4 cup raw pepitas
- 2 medium/large sweet potatoes — (about 2 pounds) peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks (5 cups) or 3 1/3 cooked
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large head romaine lettuce — chopped (6 cups)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes — halved
- 1 can — (15 ounces) reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small jalapeno — cut into thin rounds, seeds/membranes removed if desired (removing will yield a more mild salad; heads up—it's pretty spicy if you include it), 1/4 cup
- 1 small bunch radishes — thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
- Crumbled feta cheese — goat cheese, or queso fresco (optional, for serving)
- Tortilla strips or crushed chips — for serving
FOR THE DRESSING (3/4 cup dressing)
- 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 medium lime — 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pepitas in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until the pepitas turn darker (they'll be a deep goldish brown) and are fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the pepitas to a small plate or bow. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
- On a rimmed baking sheet (I use the same one I toasted the pepitas on to save a dish; just brush it off first), toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt, until evenly coated. Spread into an even layer and roast until browned and tender, 20 to 22 minutes, stirring once halfway though. Let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the dressing ingredients: Greek yogurt, olive oil, lime zest and juice, garlic, salt, and cumin. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. The dressing should taste very bright and limey—it's flavor will mellow once it's tossed with the other ingredients.
- In a large bowl, place the chopped romaine hearts. Drizzle with about ¼ cup of the dressing and toss to moisten. Add the beans, jalapeno, radish, and cilantro and drizzle on another ¼ cup dressing. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with tortilla strips. Enjoy, with extra dressing as desired.
- MAKE IT VEGAN/DAIRY FREE: Swap a non-dairy yogurt for the Greek yogurt or use the dressing from this Grilled Corn Salad instead; omit the cheese.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: You can prep all the ingredients for the salad (except the tortilla chips) and keep them separate or mix them together. Prepare the dressing, but store it separately from the Mexican Salad ingredients for now. I recommend waiting to add the creamy lime dressing until a few hours before you serve it and waiting to add the tortilla chips until immediately before serving, so they stay crunchy.
- TO STORE: Place Mexican Salad in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. If possible, store your dressing in a separate container, and keep your tortilla chips outside of the refrigerator so they stay crunchy.
- See blog post above for more tips on making this Mexican Salad for meal prep!
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (2.75 cups) — Calories: 170, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Potassium: 388mg, Carbohydrates: 14g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 5g, Vitamin A: 7121%, Vitamin C: 22%, Calcium: 51%, Iron: 1%
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