Although I shared this southwest chicken salad over 3 years ago, it’s still an absolute favorite recipe of mine. A few years back Abra and I were testing a bunch of different salad jar recipes and I knew I wanted to create a veggie and protein-packed salad filled with Southwest flavors. Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I’m always ordering some version of this salad with a side of tortilla chips and a marg and it never ceases to bore me.
I’ve gone in and given this flavorful salad a little upgrade with new photos, salad dressing options, and even more ways to customize because meal prep salad jars should be FUN. I’ve also included different ways to use up leftover chicken or to grill or bake the chicken for this salad.
The options are truly endless for making this salad your own, so get your mason jars ready for the meal prep you’ll come back to time and time again.
The key to making a salad in a jar
I love making and storing salads in jars because they’re such an easy, fun way to meal prep! The key to a perfect mason jar salad is to layer the ingredients in a way that they don’t get soggy. You’ll always want to put the dressing at the bottom, followed by crunchy veggies, protein, and greens at the top. Get all of my mason jar salad tips & recipes here!
For example, in this southwest chicken salad in a jar, you’ll want to keep that romaine crisp by adding it last!
Southwest chicken salad ingredients
You’re going to love all of the flavor and crunch in this southwest chicken salad. It’s filling, protein packed, and so easy to make! Here’s what you’ll need:
- For the dressing: I originally made this salad with my homemade chipotle ranch dressing, but it would be perfect with this simple greek yogurt ranch, your favorite store-bought ranch, or this spicy cilantro yogurt sauce.
- Chicken: you’ll need cooked, diced or shredded chicken breast. Notes on this below!
- Black beans: for an extra boost of protein, fiber, and Southwest flavor we’re adding canned black beans.
- Veggies: in your mason jar you’ll layer up a diced roma tomato, cucumber, corn, jalapeño, sliced avocado, and chopped romaine lettuce. Gotta love all of the crunch!
The perfect chicken for this salad
This southwest chicken salad is a great way to use up leftover chicken or even rotisserie chicken, but if you’re cooking it from scratch we recommend:
- Marinating the chicken in this delicious jalapeño cilantro marinade
- Grilling or baking it
- Then dicing it up or shredding it using one of these techniques!
Alternatively, you can make my Grilled Jalapeño Cilantro Chicken or my Sazon Grilled Chicken Thighs and use some of the chicken in your salad. So easy!
Customize your southwest chicken salad
Because this salad uses such simple ingredients, is very easy to customize to your taste preferences or what you have on hand. Here’s what I can recommend:
- To make vegetarian: simply omit the chicken and add more black beans, 1 cup of chickpeas, or 1 cup of cooked, cubed tofu. Learn how to grill tofu here!
- For a dairy free dressing: try this flavorful Cilantro Lime Dressing.
- For the veggies: feel free to mix in any veggies you have on hand! Red onion and bell pepper would be delicious here, and I love adding pickled jalapeños in place of the fresh ones.
- Delicious garnishes: once you serve your salad, feel free to garnish with tortilla strips, shredded cheese, and fresh cilantro to make this chicken salad even more like a taco bowl!
How to make this southwest chicken salad in a jar
- Make the dressing. Start by making one of the dressing options, or choosing your fav store-bought dressing.
- Chop your veggies. Dice, chop and slice all of the vegetables as directed so that they’re bite-sized.
- Layer the mason jar. Add all of the ingredients to your mason jar in the following order: dressing, tomato, cucumber, corn, black beans, jalapeño, chicken breast, avocado, and romaine. Feel free to add a squeeze of lime juice to the avocado to keep it extra fresh.
- Store, then serve. Store your mason jar salad in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it, then enjoy!
Storing & serving tips
Store the southwest chicken salad in a 16 ounce mason jar or meal prep container for up to 2-3 days. Because it’s tricky to create the layers in a meal prep container, I recommend storing the dressing separately and adding it right before serving. Simply pour the salad out from the jar into a bowl or onto a plate to enjoy it, or mix it up right in your meal prep container.
More meal prep salad recipes we love
- Balsamic Chicken Berry Salad in a Jar
- Thai-Inspired Chicken Quinoa Salad in a Jar
- Greek Chicken Salad in a Jar
- Peach Brussels Sprouts Crunch Salad with Creamy Tahini Poppy Seed Dressing
- Spicy Ranch Chopped Chicken Cabbage Salad
Get all of my mason jar salad recipes here, and the rest of my salad recipes here!
I hope you love this southwest chicken salad in a jar! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Southwest Chicken Salad in a Jar
Delicious southwest chicken salad packed with fresh, crunchy veggies and black beans for an extra boost of protein. Store this southwest chicken salad in a jar with your choice of easy, homemade salad dressings like chipotle ranch and spicy cilantro yogurt! The perfect meal prep salad for busy weekdays.
- For the dressing, 2 tablespoons of any of the following*:
- Greek yogurt ranch dressing
- Chipotle ranch dressing
- Spicy cilantro yogurt sauce
- For the salad:
- 1 roma tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup diced cucumber
- 1/4 cup corn
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 1/2 jalapeno, sliced (or you ucan do pickled jalapenos)
- 1 cup diced or shredded grilled or baked chicken breast** (see notes for the perfect marinade)
- 1/4 avocado, sliced
- 1-2 cups chopped romaine
Make the mason jar salad by adding the ingredients to a 16-ounce mason jar (or equivalent) in the following order: dressing, tomato, cucumber, corn, black beans, jalapeño, chicken breast, avocado, romaine. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days until you're ready to eat. When ready to eat, simply pour ingredients into a bowl or onto a plate and enjoy! Feel free to double the recipe to make 2 mason jar salads.
To make vegetarian: sub 1 cup chickpeas or 1 cup cubed, cooked tofu.
*Feel free to also use a store-bought ranch if you’d like.
**We recommend marinating your chicken before baking or grilling in my fabulous jalapeno cilantro marinade.
Learn how to grill chicken here, how to bake it here, and see the full post for tons of different ways to customize this salad!
This post was originally published on April 23, 2018, and updated & republished on August 10, 2022.
Is there a dressing sub to make it vegan?
Sure, feel free to skip the ranch dressing and use a vegan-friendly dressing of choice. You can also use chickpeas instead of chicken.
A good/easy vegan ranch:
1 C vegan mayonnaise
1/8 C non-dairy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp chives
This Chipotle Ranch dressing sounds INCREDIBLE!!!
It’s the BEST!!
What a fun challenge!! This is one of my favorite kinds of salad!
Mine too! That chipotle ranch is seriously amazing.
Another super yummy salad! Salads in a jar are so pretty and make it feel really special as a break from regular meal prep 🙂
I went for the vegan option and did the chickpeas. Sauteed in the spices as if it were chicken and the flavors were on point. For the dressing I used vegan yogurt and a spoon of Just Mayo…..it helped the texture. Added few slices of radish and green onion tops because I had them. Bombdiggity!
Delicious! I’m all about green onion 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!
This is so cute! And sounds delicious! A little spice makes a salad even better!
Agreed! Always like a little heat 🙂
This is so my kind of salad! Definitely putting this in the lunch rotation!
So good! Enjoy 🙂
Love, love, love your recipes. But I feel compelled to ask if you would consider not using plastic bags to marinate. I know they’re convenient but we are drowning in plastic and you have such a large audience and could perhaps inspire others to lose the single use plastics. I live on an island and the vast amount of plastic trash that washes up on our beaches is heartbreaking. Seabirds, turtles, and whales ingest bags and die from intestinal blockages. The more we eliminate plastic from our everyday lives, the better off our planet will be. Thanks
Hey Alison! Thank you so much for your note – I am 100% aligned with you here. Typically I just marinate my chicken in a bowl and stick it in the fridge, but know that people have baggies on-hand for easy storage. I will definitely do my best to educate on more environmentally-friendly options moving forward! Thank you again!
This is insanely good! I had a craving for veggies so I just had it for breakfast 🙂
I’m glad you like it!! Perfect for any meal of the day 😉
I cant find my recipe for the bonus salad, the one with egg, avocado, chickpeas and bbq sauce.
Can I get another copy?
Hi Emily! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and she can help you out 🙂
How long can these be stored in the refrigerator and retain the freshness?
They should be fine for about 3-4 days in the fridge!
Just curious as to how big the jars are?
I use 32-ounce mason jars!
Your recipes are fabulous… they look delicious and nutritious! So grateful to have discovered you and your site today. The videos are very well done.Thank you!
Welcome to AK! So happy you found the site 🙂 Hope you find recipes you love!
I was wondering if i can marinate the chicken in ziplock bags and then freeze the bag,?
This made a great, tasty work lunch. In particular, I enjoyed the salad dressing – healthy, tasty, easy, and with a nice kick from the chipotle.
Such a great lunch! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
Excellent salad and easy to make. I decided to cook the chicken in an air fryer. My teenage kids loved it as well 😁
Perfect! So happy to hear that!
I love jar salads and this one is my absolute favorite. It comes together super fast and it makes enough for 4 nights (2 if I share with my husband.) They are just spicy enough and super filling. A must-make salad!
I meal prepped this salad for dinners last week, and it lasted well all week and was so delicious! We used glass containers rather than jars. It was filling and flavorful! I ended up buying a jalapeno ranch rather than making a salad dressing, and it paired perfectly!