This Taco Chicken Salad recipe is full of fresh (and hot!) ingredients like jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, cilantro and more. Stuff this spicy chicken salad in tortillas, put it on a sandwich, or enjoy it with crackers or tortilla chips.
This isn’t any ol’ plain chicken salad. Definitely not! It’s a fun version with a kick! This recipe offers that south of the border flavor in a creamy sauce.
Chicken salad is one of those recipes that’s easy to change up to suit your tastes. I’ve made it the traditional way and with a few modifications like these recipes for Famous Curried Chicken Salad and Chicken BLT Salad. How about we kick it up a notch with a spicier version? Yes, please! You have got to try this Taco Chicken Salad!
This easy salad recipe is full of fresh (and hot!) ingredients like jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, cilantro and more. I’m craving a bowl right now.
Why You’ll Love Taco Chicken Salad
- Simple ingredients with tons of flavor
- Easy recipe for meal prep for weekday lunches and easy weeknight meals
- Lots of ways to customize with your favorite toppings
- Awesome salad for the whole family to enjoy
- Perfect to serve for something different on Taco Tuesdays
- Easy to make in minutes
The full printable recipe card with measurements and instructions is found at the bottom of the post.
- Chicken broth
- Whole black peppercorns
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Fresh cilantro
- Black pepper
- Chili powder
- Low fat cream cheese
How to Make Taco Chicken Salad
- Step One: Combine water, broth, peppercorns, garlic, celery, carrot, jalapeno, and onion in a large pot over medium heat. Place chicken into pot with other ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes or until chicken is done and has reached an internal temperature of 165F. Remove chicken and shred chicken using 2 forks; set aside. Discard liquid or save for later use as chicken broth (freezes well).
- Step Two: In a large bowl, mix chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Add shredded chicken and mix to coat chicken in spice mix.
- Step Three: Add cream cheese chunks into mixtures, and cut into the chicken until fully mixed. Stir in tomatoes.
- Step Four: Top with optional cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, hot sauce, or avocado.
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What to Serve with Taco Chicken Salad
Variations and Substitutions
- Add a can of rinsed and drained black beans for some extra fiber.
- Use 1 teaspoon of taco seasoning instead of the cumin and chili powder.
- Use a red onion instead of a yellow onion.
- Add a drained can of sweet corn or fresh corn to the salad mixture.
- Use full-fat cream cheese instead of the lighter version and make the salad extra creamy.
- Try cherry tomatoes instead of a chopped tomato
- Switch out the cream cheese for sour cream, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, ranch dressing, creamy cilantro lime dressing or creamy salsa dressing.
This salad needs to be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep for up to 3 days.
The key is to never have this salad out for serving longer than two hours, or you risk bacteria growing.
Can Chicken Salad be Frozen?
I don’t recommend freezing this chicken salad. It will separate once it thaws and you’ll have texture changes – and not for the best.
However, you can prep the chicken ahead of time and shred it. Then freeze it for later. Store the shredded chicken in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
How to Serve Taco Chicken Salad
Try one of these easy lunches!
- Wrap or pita
- Taco bowl
- On a bed of crisp romaine lettuce or in a lettuce wrap
- Side of crackers or tortilla chips
- Or plain
Can I Tame the Heat?
Can’t take the heat? You can follow these tips to tame the heat down so you can enjoy it vs looking for a tall glass of water.
- Jalapeno: Simply de-seed the jalapeno beforehand so you get the flavor and not the heat. Just make sure to wear gloves as the jalapeno oil can be hot. Rinse the cleaned jalapeno in cold water to help remove the heat factor.
- Cumin: You can use less cumin and even chili powder to help tame down the heat as well.
How Can I Kick Up the Heat?
Love hot and spicy? Kick up the heat factor a few notches with these suggestions:
- Add a chipotle pepper in addition to the jalapenos
- Increase the amount of chili powder and cumin used in the recipe.
- Add a can of green chilies to the salad mixture.
- Add a chopped jalapeno to the salad mixture.
- Fresh cilantro
- Green onion
- Lime juice
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
- Chopped avocado
- Chopped tomatoes
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Crispy tortilla strips
This Taco Chicken Salad is a great way to use up leftover chicken. I will sometimes cook extra chicken just so I can use it in recipes like this one. It saves a step and anything that saves time is a good thing in my books.
If you have a rotisserie chicken that has minimal seasoning, it is a great option to shred up leftovers and use for this recipe.
Of course! This is a great recipe to shred up leftover holiday turkey and use in replace of the chicken. They are both lighter meat so it won’t change the flavor that much. You can chop up the turkey if shredding doesn’t work well.
Don’t throw away the liquid you cooked the chicken in! You can use it for a soup stock. We freeze the leftover in 1 cup servings that way I can grab what I need and then toss in to cook.
Chicken Salad Recipes
Taco Chicken Salad
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups fat-free lower-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 5 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 large carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 jalapeño cut in half
- 1 medium onion cut in quarters
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cracked black pepper
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 4 oz low fat cream cheese very soft, cut into small chunks
- 1 large tomato chopped
- cheese, sour cream, greek yogurt, hot sauce, avocado garnishes
- Combine water, broth, peppercorns, garlic, celery, carrot, jalapeno, and onion in a large pot over medium heat. Place chicken into pot with other ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and shred chicken using 2 forks; set aside. Discard liquid or save for later use as chicken broth (freezes well).
- In a large bowl, mix chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Add shredded chicken and mix to coat chicken in spice mix.
- Add cream cheese chunks into mixtures, and cut into the chicken until fully mixed. Stir in tomatoes.
- Top with optional cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, hot sauce, or avocado.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.