Nothing says summer food like corn!! This is especially true out in the Hamptons where the corn is so sweet you could eat it for dessert. Almost every day since mid-July, my husband has gone to our local farm stand to pick up corn. We boil it, roast it, and grill it for salads like my favorite Southwestern Chicken Salad.

This chicken salad is one of my favorite summer dishes. It’s packed with smoky, slightly fiery, and tangy flavors. It’s the perfect main dish for lunch or dinner. My Southwestern Chicken Salad recipe is so light and fresh compared to the mayo-heavy chicken salads of my youth. One of the best parts about making this dish is the wonderfully intoxicating smell of mesquite that wafts through the air as you’re grilling the corn and chicken to smoky perfection.

Serve this salad on a hot summer day alongside my Garden Herb New Potato Salad or one of my favorite guacamole recipes! And don’t forget an ice cold beer to go with it!

Southwestern Chicken Salad

Southwestern Chicken Salad
Southwestern Chicken Salad
Print Recipe Southwestern Chicken Salad
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Course: Chicken, Dinner, Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Mexican


  • 3 Large, thick, whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 ½ pounds total), trimmed and separated)
  • Tequila-Green Onion Marinade recipe follows
  • 2 cups Wood chips preferably mesquite, optional
  • 1 Large ear of tender, sweet corn shucked
  • 1 tsp Olive oil
  • 2 Large sweet red peppers roasted, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup Diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup Finely chopped cilantro plus sprigs of cilantro as optional garnish
  • 2 tbsp Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp Lime zest colored part of peel
  • 3/4 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cumin, preferably from toasted seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Pepper Sauce
  • 1 Buttery ripe, black-skinned California avocado
  • 1 medium-large ripe, juicy tomato trimmed and chunked

Tequila-Green Onion Marinade

  • 3 Green onions trimmed and chopped (tops included)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Gold tequila
  • 6 Garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar packed
  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Salt


  • Southwestern Chicken Salad
  • In a shallow, nonreactive dish, combine the chicken breasts with the marinade. Cover and let stand at room temperature, turning occasionally, for 1 hour.
  • Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill (medium-high). When the fire is hot, distribute the wood chips if you are using them. Position the grill rack about 6 inches above the heat.
  • Brush the corn with the 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the chips are smoking, lift the chicken breasts from their marinade, reserving the marinade, and lay them and the corn on the rack.Cover and grill, basting the chicken breasts with the reserved marinade and turning them once, until the marinade is used up and they are lightly browned and just cooked through while remaining juicy, and the corn is lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer the chicken and corn to a cutting board.
  • Cut the chicken breasts with the grain into long, thin strips; cut the strips crosswise into 2-inch pieces. With a serrated knife, cut the corn kernels off the cob; with the back edge of the knife, scrape any corn pulp and juices off the ear.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the chicken pieces, pepper strips, corn kernels, pulp and juices, onion, cilantro, parsley, lime zest and black pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice the extra-virgin olive oil, salt, cumin and Tabasco. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and toss well.
  • The salad can be prepared to this point up to 1 hour in advance, if desired. Cover and hold at room temperature. Toss again and transfer to plates or a large platter. Halve and pit the avocado and with the dull side of a table knife score the flesh down to the peel into ½-inch chunks. With a spoon, scoop the avocado chunks out of the peels and over the salad. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired, and serve immediately

Tequila-Green Onion Marinade

  • In a food processor or blender, combine the green onions, lime juice, olive oil, tequila, garlic, sugar and soy sauce. Process until fairly smooth.

When you’re making any kind of big salad like this one, it’s important to season all of your ingredients individually before tossing them together. This way each bite will be amazing.

Southwestern food is a combination of South American flavors mixed with Mexican cuisine and some Native American influence sprinkled in there. We often see a lot of spices like cumin, coriander, cilantro, chili powder, and cinnamon. Often, Southwestern food is chock full of beans, cheese, chiles, corn, fresh herbs and a ton of lime.

Make this salad while the corn is at its peak sweetness! I hope you’re all having an amazing summer. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this marvelous Southwestern Chicken Salad in the comments section below.