I made us more salad!

Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips I howsweeteats.com

More CHOPPED salad, to be exact. My favorite kind. Everything is in little bits and oh-so cute.  

However… if you came over for lunch, I doubt I’d ever make salad because entertaining people is the perfect excuse to eat something rich and delicious. Calories don’t count when eaten with friends. I’m thinking pizza.

Yes, pizza.

Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips I howsweeteats.com

If you haven’t figured it out already, this is sort of my copycat version of Chili’s quesadilla explosion salad, which I haven’t had in eons but used to loooooove. I mean, I was eating that back in the day long before I was consuming vegetables, which makes perfect sense since it now always tops the lists of those “highest calorie foods” and “things to avoid at chain restaurants” and [insert scary music here] “salads that aren’t what they seem.” Whatever. That’s why it was so good.

I used to love going to Chili’s for the chips and salsa but three or four years ago, after driving around for an hour and not really knowing what we wanted to eat (know that feeling?), my husband and I ended up there and had one of the worst meals of our lives. Which rarely happens because surprisingly, I am not a high-maintenance restaurant eater. Unless it’s at brunch.

So we haven’t been back since and more than once I have wanted one of those salads. Mainly for the quesadillas. Of course.

Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips I howsweeteats.com

Also, don’t listen to me, because this isn’t a copycat version at all, it’s just my version. You know I like to make stuff up.

There are a ton of ingredients here, but I find they are all pretty necessary and “a ton” does not always equal “time consuming.” You’re gonna marinate you’re chicken overnight (or not), add your salad junk together, toss in a little dressing and crush tortilla chips over top.

Now we are best friends. Right?

Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips I howsweeteats.com


Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips

Yield: serves 2

Total Time: 30 minutes


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 limes, juiced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 whole wheat tortillas
4 ounces monterey jack cheese, freshly grated

4 cups butter lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2/3 cup sweet corn
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 red onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive olive
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
a few tortilla chips, crushed


The night before (or a few hours before) combine cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add chicken to a large ziplock bag or baking dish and cover with olive oil and lime juice, then add in garlic. Sprinkle seasoning over top and marinate in the fridge for 2-24 hours.

When ready to make the salads, heat a large skillet over medium-heat heat and add a little olive oil. Sear chicken both sides then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through. Additionally you can bake or grill the chicken - whichever you prefer! Once chicken is finished, let cool for a few minutes and then cut into chunks.

While the chicken is cooling, add a tortilla to the same skillet (add a little olive oil or butter if you'd like, then add the grated cheese and the second tortilla on top. Cook until both sides are golden and cheese is melted, then remove from the skillet and slice into strips.

To make the salads, combine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, corn and onion in a large bowl, then toss with the salt and pepper. Add olive oil, red wine vinegar and lime juice, tossing well to coat. Add in chicken and toss well, then separate on to two plates or bowls. Add crushed tortilla chips on top and quesadilla slices.

Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips I howsweeteats.com

Thought so.

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100 Responses to “Chopped Chicken Taco Salads with Cheese Quesadilla Strips.”

  1. #
    Kim @ Hungry Healthy Girl — June 12, 2013 @ 7:06 am

    Right when I saw this amazingly beautiful salad, my first thought was of Chili’s quesadilla explosion salad, which I LOVE!! This would make the perfect side salad to an outside summer BBQ. Can’t wait to give it a try!


  2. #
    Hope @ With A Side Of Hope — June 12, 2013 @ 7:06 am

    I am a huge Mexican food fan and this salad sounds like something I would absolutely love! I really like the cheese quesadilla strips too. It makes the salad that much more interesting. I am definitely trying this! :)


  3. #
    Heather @ Sugar Dish Me — June 12, 2013 @ 7:07 am

    My first restaurant job was in a Chili’s!! And I used to order that salad as my shift meal– so so good. But I was 18 which I think means that calories were non-existent.
    We had a similar never-again experience with Carrabba’s last year. Hadn’t been in eons and then it was suuuuch a disappointment! Dang I’m glad I can cook.
    P.S. Oil + Vinegar + Lime Juice = Best Summer Dressing Ever.


  4. #
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel — June 12, 2013 @ 7:17 am

    Love the addition of cheese quesadilla strips! So fun.


  5. #
    Quinn Cooper — June 12, 2013 @ 7:27 am

    This looks so good!
    I never make salads like these but every time I have one at a restaurant I always wonder why not.

    Quinn Cooper Style


  6. #
    Tieghan — June 12, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    The quesadilla strips are just awesome. Seriously, awesome!


  7. #
    Belinda @themoonblushbaker — June 12, 2013 @ 7:46 am

    This is what the world needs a brilliant dish turn into salad. At least I can feel good about eating tacos! Wonderful


  8. #
    Kayley Maybe — June 12, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    LOVE the Chili’s quesadilla explosion. I justify the calories by feeding my kids the quesadillas – then we don’t have to order a meal for them off the kids menu! Definitely making this this weekend.


  9. #
    Lauren @ The Highlands Life — June 12, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    WHAT?! This looks amazing. I will be putting this on the menu docket ASAP!


  10. #
    Rayna — June 12, 2013 @ 7:58 am

    Can I count this as a healthy summer salad! The quesadilla strips are just too good to be true!


  11. #
    Laura @ Laura's Sweet Spot! — June 12, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    Quesadillas are my FAVORITE food ever! What a great twist.


  12. #
    Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat — June 12, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    Nom nom nom – this sounds brilliant!! And don’t worry about the huge list of ingredients – I know it will be worth it in the end!


  13. #
    Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen — June 12, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    Oh, girl…your chopped salad looks absolutely divine! Yes, you are my new best friend. LOL! Hubby and I experienced the very same thing with Chili’s once. One awful meal and, well…that’s that. With this recipe, who needs Chili’s?


  14. #
    Zainab@Blahnik Baker — June 12, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    If you are serving this at lunch of course we can be best friends lol! The salad looks amazing and I love that you add cheesy tortilla strips. Yumm!!


  15. #
    Marie @ Little Kitchie — June 12, 2013 @ 8:21 am

    Oh man, I think I ate the quesadilla explosion from Chili’s like 3 times a week in college. Until I had a VERY traumatic experience of which I do not speak of. But I lurrrrve the idea of creating this at home! YUM!


  16. #
    DessertForTwo — June 12, 2013 @ 8:23 am

    You make the most delicious salads!


  17. #
    Molly @ Baklette — June 12, 2013 @ 9:11 am

    The chilis near me used to be this dumpy place and then it mysteriously “caught fire” and was renovated. Haven’t been in awhile, but I think I would prefer this salad over theirs any day!


  18. #
    Joelle (on a pink typewriter) — June 12, 2013 @ 9:16 am

    I haven’t had a quesadilla in ages.. It’s sounded pretty great right about now.


  19. #
    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie — June 12, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    I had a chicken taco salad recipe lined up to make, but this one may have just beat it out. Looks awesome!


  20. #
    Ashley N. — June 12, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    This looks amazing! I had a burrito the size of my head last night, no regrets. I could easily eat Mexican food on the daily, this salad looks like it needs a margarita!


  21. #
    Christine @ Cooking with Cakes — June 12, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    perfection! but I’m a glutton and would love some avocado in here in too ;)

    quick Q – how do you chop your salads so perfectly? do you have one of those fancy thingamabobs I see in my local Chop’t / Just Salad? let a girrrl know!


    • Jessica — June 12th, 2013 @ 9:43 am

      avocado’s in there!
      and i just use a knife – lay everything out on a cutting board and chop, chop, chop.


  22. #
    Tasha @ ThatsSoYummy — June 12, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    I love everything about this salad, especially the added cheese quesadillas… YUM!


  23. #
    dixya| food, pleasure, and health — June 12, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    that salad looks so good – i wont even feel like eating one with all that yummy ingredients in there


  24. #
    erin @hooleywithaz — June 12, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    keep it up with the salads lady, i’m loving it!


  25. #
    Abbe@This is How I Cook — June 12, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    I have a similar version that I do now and then but this reminds me that I should do it more now! Always a good one!


  26. #
    Samantha @FerraroKitchen — June 12, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    This is my kinda food all the time!


  27. #
    Averie @ Averie Cooks — June 12, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    The cheese just oozing from that quesadilla is a beautiful thing!


  28. #
    Sarah R. — June 12, 2013 @ 11:18 am

    <3 Quesadilla croutons! Can I just have a bowl of those with avocados?


  29. #
    Sara — June 12, 2013 @ 11:24 am

    Every salad should come topped with cheesy quesadillas. Perfection.
    How do you get your tortillas so golden brown? When I try to heat them in a nonstick pan, they just get warm, but never really change color. Do I need to throw some butter in there or something?


    • Jessica — June 12th, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

      YES butter. it’s the key! i don’t always do it – it depends on what else i’m eating (moderation… blah blah blah) but i did for these pics. use whole wheat tortillas! cancels out the butter. right?


  30. #
    jessica — June 12, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

    stop it.


    • Pam — June 12th, 2013 @ 12:07 pm



  31. #
    Marcie @ Flavor the Moments — June 12, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    This is the way I love to eat any day of the week. Beautiful salad, and I love the quesadilla strips!


  32. #
    Pam — June 12, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    And how about some black beans? Garbozos? YUMMMM so good Guess what’s for supper?


  33. #
    Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes — June 12, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    The only time I crave salads like this is during the summer and I want this!!!! Love the strips of quesadilla…brilliant…


  34. #
    Paige — June 12, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

    Looks amazing and your comments totally reminds me of my friend Carmela at http://www.happycalories.org/

    I think all happy calories don’t count!!

    Salad looks amazing…maybe I can make it for my new husband and tell him it is a quesadilla! I am crossing my fingers!


  35. #
    Lisa — June 12, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    Love chopped salads; I’m making this week!!


  36. #
    Tracy | Peanut Butter And Onion — June 12, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Wicked good… bravo!


  37. #
    Katriel — June 12, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

    I love you.
    My husband and I go to chili’s every once in awhile and the quesadilla explosion salad was the light of my life. But then they took it off of the “2 for 20$” menu, which means I can never have it again (I’m one of THOSE people).
    I used to dream of the molten lava cake as well, but had it a couple weeks ago and wasn’t impressed and haven’t really had the desire to go back to chili’s since.
    So basically I’m excited to make this salad!


  38. #
    Carol Adams — June 12, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

    Love chopped salads, too, Jessica!
    Thanks !


  39. #
    Larry — June 12, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    This is probably THE most perfect salad in all of Salad Land. It’s similar to the salad I had last night, except mine had sour cream. And chips. And salsa. Maybe it’s the same. But without corn. OH LIFE!


    • Jessica — June 12th, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

      that’s why we’re soulmates.


  40. #
    Kristi — June 12, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

    I love salad that is topped with tons of ingredients. Chopped salad is also becoming my favorite. It’s my favorite way to make it when I’m at home.


  41. #
    Cait's Plate — June 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    OH. MY. GOSH. There are no words for how good this looks. I literally want to faceplant into that first picture.

    Also? Chopped salads are DEFINITELY the best. You get a little of everything in each bite without any huge chunks of one certain thing taking over. It’s by far the thing I miss most about working in Manhattan – sooo many chopped salad places!


  42. #
    Mr. & Mrs. P — June 12, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    Our favorite flavors and ingredients all wrapped up in one dish!


  43. #
    Dana Ivy — June 12, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

    HOLY QUESADILLAS!!! Not going to lie, that Chili’s salad goes down in the books and I, like you, used to munch on it way more than I ever should have! But WHOA- your version looks BETTER!!!!

    Can’t wait to try!
    Dana Ivy
    http://www.iadorewhatilove.com – Check out my blog!!


  44. #
    Kim | Making 40 Fantastic — June 12, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    I’m a Mexican Food Lov-ah and this looks amazing!! Pinning this to make ASAP!


  45. #
    Cristina — June 12, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    That stack of quesadillas. Wow.


  46. #
    Jamie @lifelovelemons — June 12, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

    Gorgeeeouusssssss. The ‘dillas would be perfect for scooping up all the yummy salad goodness.


  47. #
    Ann @ PersnicketyBiscuit — June 12, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    I love chopped salads, but I can never get the lettuce chopped up right. Wow – that sounds really silly, but I’m serious! I’ll keep trying because this looks delicious!


  48. #
    Maria — June 12, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    si por favor!


  49. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking — June 12, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

    Wow, what a beautiful salad! This would be beyond amazing with a creamy avocado dressing… or just as-is! Brilliant.


  50. #
    the baking cup - carolina — June 12, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    this salad takes taco night to the next level!!



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