Chicken Fajita Salad is a refreshing dinner salad for two with juicy chicken thighs, onion, and bell pepper served with avocado, tomatoes, and ranch dressing. Serve as an easy gluten free Mexican dinner or for cinco de mayo.
My cat J is OBSESSED with what I’m eating. Especially if it’s chicken.
You see, he’s the world’s pickiest cat. Only eats chicken. Only shredded or pate. Won’t eat chunky. Only certain brands.
And even then he sometimes refuses to eat, only to scarf down his food an hour later because his hunger strike is over.
Sometimes I ask him how in the world he even ate at the shelter before I adopted him.
(And no, he’s not sick because when he finally gives up, he eats all of his food).
My biggest mistake is giving J some of my fresh chicken for him to try. Now he’s constantly in my face when I eat.
If I’m eating at the dinner table, he’s in my lap. If I’m eating on the couch, he’s either on my chest or right next to me with one paw on my leg.
He sticks his face in my salad bowl, steals pizza rolls from my plate, and even tries to intercept my fork as I bring it up to my face.
If I’m slicing steak, he gets SO excited because he thinks it’s chicken. Everything is always chicken until it’s not.
If the air fryer beeps, he runs to the kitchen because he thinks it’s chicken.
If I eat a candy bar from my pantry, he comes running over for a bite because it might be chicken this time.
Twice I left my bowl with this Chicken Fajita Salad unattended then came back with salad all over the floor because he stole a few bites, decided he didn’t like it, then left.
Although it may not be cat approved, Chicken Fajita Salad is definitely human approved; I make it on a weekly basis.
Although to be honest I make it often with steak and not chicken, but because I already brought you my steak fajitas I wanted to give you directions on how to cook chicken fajitas.
That way, you can pick which protein you want to make then decide if you want to serve your fajitas on corn tortillas or as a taco salad.
Chicken Fajita Salad is a dinner salad for two served with chicken, onion, sweet bell pepper, avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro then topped with ranch dressing.
It’s similar to my Chicken Fajita Pasta but served over lettuce with ranch dressing.
It’s a refreshing dinner to make on a hot summer day. Especially if you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake.
What are fajitas?
Fajitas (pronounced fah-hee-tahs) are a Tex-Mex dish of grilled meat (usually beef or chicken) with fajita seasoning, colorful sweet bell peppers, and onions served in a tortilla.
As you can guess by the title, you can also serve fajitas as a taco salad.
Do you need to marinate chicken for fajitas?
For my chicken fajita salad, you do not need to marinate your chicken for fajitas.
Sometimes I’ll use a marinade for steak fajitas to help make the beef more tender, but it’s not necessary for tender chicken.
Instead, I rub homemade fajita seasoning on my chicken before cooking.
If you do want to use a marinade, you can use the same one from my steak fajita recipe.
Ingredients For Chicken Fajita Salad
The ingredients for this Chicken Fajita Salad recipe are:
- Boneless skinless chicken: I prefer using chicken thighs because dark meat is juicier and tastes better. However, you can also use chicken breast if you prefer white meat.
- Fajita seasoning: This is where most of your flavor will come from! You can make your own mix (recipe included) or buy a store packet to help save time.
- Oil: This is for cooking the chicken and vegetables. Flavor doesn’t matter, so I recommend vegetable, canola, or olive oil.
- Sliced onion: White or yellow onion work best.
- Sweet bell pepper: Use red, orange, or yellow bell pepper because they are sweeter than green. You only need one pepper, so you can pick one color or use a little of all three.
- Salt: Salt draws out moisture while cooking the vegetables. I prefer using kosher, but you can also use table salt.
- Lettuce: Confession – I hate lettuce. I did use red leaf lettuce to try and keep true to the recipe, but personally I eat mine with a spinach and arugula mix. You can also eat it with romaine.
- Avocado: Avocado is a healthy source of protein, which helps bulk up the salad so you’re not still feeling hungry afterwards.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes add a burst of acid and brightness to each bite. I used halved grape tomatoes, but you can also use diced tomato.
- Ranch dressing: Because chicken fajita salad is heavy on the prep work, I used bottled ranch dressing to give me a little bit of a break. I do have homemade jalapeno ranch dressing if you’re feeling ambitious.
- Cilantro: Every Tex Mex dish needs cilantro! Of course as long as you don’t find it soapy.
- Lime: Acidity is what makes the salad go from flat to great.
Do you cut chicken before or after cooking for fajitas?
Cutting your chicken before or after cooking for fajitas depends on what type of chicken you’re using.
If you’re using boneless chicken thighs like I did, they are usually really thin when laid out flat. Because they’re so thin, you can cook your thighs as is and cut your chicken after cooking.
However, if you’re using boneless chicken breasts, they are much thicker. If you were to cook them whole, the outside will burn before the middle is fully cooked.
Unless you’re using thin chicken cutlets or you butterfly cut your meat, you want to cut your chicken breast into strips before cooking for fajitas.
How To Make Chicken Fajita Salad
To make chicken fajita salad, heat your oil in a large 12 inch skillet. While that’s heating, rub your chicken with the fajita seasoning.
Once the oil is hot, add your chicken in a single layer, making sure there’s enough room. If your pan is overcrowded, the meat will steam rather than brown.
Cook for about 3-4 minutes then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes or until the middle reaches 165F and is no longer pink. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
In the same skillet, add your onion and bell pepper, scraping up all the brown bits left behind. There should be enough oil and seasoning leftover from the chicken, but if not you can add a little more.
Cook until softened and browned, about 8-10 minutes. If any juices from the chicken accumulated on the plate, add it to your veggies.
In a large salad bowl, add your lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and the cooked vegetables. Slice your chicken and add that as well.
Serve with cilantro, ranch dressing, and lime juice.
You can also add fresh garden salsa instead of tomatoes or guacamole instead of avocado.
Do you cut chicken with or against the grain?
Whether you cut your chicken before or after cooking, you want to thinly slice it against the grain.
The grain refers to the lines you see in the meat. Cutting against the grain means cutting perpendicular to the grain.
If you cut in the same direction as the grain, your meat will be tougher to chew.
Can you make chicken fajita salad ahead of time?
Yes, you can make chicken fajita salad ahead of time. Well, almost all of it.
Cook your chicken and vegetables then let them cool down. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to serve.
You also cut your lettuce and tomatoes ahead of time, although you may want to wait on slicing the avocado because it’ll turn brown shortly after cutting.
Don’t assemble your salad until ready to eat. Otherwise, it may become soggy.
What To Serve With Chicken Fajita Salad
Now that you’re ready to eat your chicken fajita salad, what do you serve with it? Try these recipes:
- 4 small boneless skinless chicken thighs, left whole or 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
- 1 tablespoon fajita seasoning (get recipe here)
- Salt, to taste (preferably kosher)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Half of a small yellow or white onion, sliced (roughly 1 cup sliced)
- 1 sweet bell pepper, sliced (red, orange, yellow, or a combination)
- 4 cups chopped lettuce (red leaf and romaine work well)
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Ranch dressing, for serving
- Rub together the chicken and fajita seasoning until coated. If your seasoning doesn't have a lot of salt, you may want to sprinkle a little bit of salt onto your chicken.
- In a large 12 inch skillet, heat oil. Once hot, add the chicken in a single layer (if using thighs, make sure they are laid out flat). Cook until brown, about 3-4 minutes.
- Flip then cook until brown and middle is no longer pink and reaches internal temperature of 165F, about another 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl and keep warm.
- In the same skillet, add the onion, bell pepper, and a big pinch of salt, scraping up any brown bits left behind. Cook until softened and starts to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
There should be enough oil and seasoning leftover from the chicken, but if not add more.
- Add any juices accumulated from the chicken to the vegetables then slice chicken thigh against the grain (cut perpendicular to the lines you see in the meat).
- In a large serving bowl, add the lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, cooked vegetables, sliced chicken, and lime juice. Serve with desired amount of ranch dressing.
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