This recipe is a twist on a chicken Caesar salad that swaps out some of the elements of a classic Caesar with fresh, Mexican-style flavors.
You can serve this salad as a main dish when you’re looking for a light, easy dinner or, omit the chicken and serve with a steaming bowl of Tortilla Soup.
How To Give Caesar Salad A Mexican Twist
In place of conventional croutons, this salad uses lightly crushed tortilla chips that are pan-toasted in olive oil along with minced garlic. The chips add loads of flavor and a deliciously toasty crunch that works just as well, if not better than regular croutons.
To further develop the Mexican flavor profile, the pan-fried chicken tenderloins are coated with a mildly spicy blend of seasoned flour made with chili powder, ground cumin and paprika.
Freshly squeezed lime juice replaces lemon in the dressing, and a handful of fresh cilantro adds a bright, herbaceous note that really stands out amongst all the other flavors.
A few corn kernels bring a touch of sweetness to the dish and the finishing touch is a topping of crumbled queso fresco. If you’re not familiar, queso fresco is a fresh, Mexican cow’s milk cheese with a mild, salty flavor similar to feta.
For a more traditional version, give our Classic Caesar Salad Recipe a try!
Mexican Chicken Caesar Salad
We’ve changed up some of the classic elements of a chicken Caesar salad to create a Mexican-inspired version filled with the perfect balance of textures and fresh flavors.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Salads
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 8 chicken tenderloins (about 1 lb)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ounces tortilla chips, roughly crushed (see notes)
- 2 romaine lettuce hearts (about 1/2 lb), torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen corn kernels
- 6 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (may substitute crumbled feta)
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Start by making the dressing. Add the olive oil, lime juice, mayonnaise, garlic, a pinch of salt and a little black pepper to a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cilantro, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Set aside to allow the flavor to develop.
- Add the flour, chili powder, cumin, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and few grinds of black pepper to a large zip-top plastic bag and shake to combine.
- Trim any white tendons from the chicken tenderloins and discard. Add the chicken to the bag with the seasoned flour and shake to coat.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Using tongs, shake the excess flour from each chicken tenderloin and transfer them to the pan.
- Cook the chicken until lightly browned and no longer pink in the middle, 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside to cool.
- Wipe out the pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the tortilla chips and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the garlic is barely golden and the chips are lightly toasted. Watch carefully to be sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Divide the romaine lettuce between 4 serving plates and scatter 1/4 cup of corn over each portion.
- Slice the chicken tenderloins into 1/2 inch pieces and divide them between the salads. Top each with a portion of the garlic-tortilla chip mixture and crumbled queso fresco.
- Spoon some dressing over each salad and serve.
If you don’t have a kitchen scale handy, fill a regular-sized sandwich bag with unbroken tortilla chips – that should be about 2 ounces.