This fiesta salad recipe is filled with just a few simple ingredients, is easy to toss together and is so flavorful! A delicious bottled dressing gives it an unexpected kick and makes for quick & easy prep. Add shredded chicken or sauteed ground beef if you want a high protein, main dish salad.
I love making taco salads and wanted something similar to serve a crowd for holidays and parties. For Christmas Eve we always eat Mexican food, including tamales, enchiladas and posole. I needed a salad to accompany our Latin theme, and this Mexican fiesta salad was born!
It’s definitely a twist on what you typically think of fiesta salad, but that’s what makes it fun! It’s also so easy to recreate, is light but hearty, and is easily customizable. I love combining the two types of lettuce to create a healthy salad that makes the perfect side dish or can serve as a main course. Use the suggested bottled dressing or my spicy ranch dressing.
Why this recipe works
- This great salad is healthy yet hearty. It doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing flavor for nutrition, so no one feels unsatisfied.
- Highly customizable with different ingredients to suit your taste preferences.
- Simple, easy to source ingredients that are affordable for feeding a crowd for any family gathering
- Add your favorite protein to make this a main course that will fill up even the most ravenous crowd!
- Kale and spinach lettuce – I like adding the delicate spinach to offset the hearty kale. You can also sub in romaine lettuce for either the kale or spinach. Total personal preference here!
- Creamy avocado chunks blend in nicely with the hearty salad and almost function as another layer of dressing. It also serves as a great source of healthy fats!
- Red onion either thinly sliced or diced
- Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), preferably salted
- Cotija cheese
- Tortilla strips for a topping and bottled Girard’s Caesar salad dressing (I know this sounds strange but trust me on this!)
- Optional protein add-ins – either shredded chicken or seasoned ground beef would be delicious
Making this simple and colorful salad
The trick with eating raw kale is to massage it first. Massaging the kale makes it more tender and helps to break down the tough, fibrous characteristics of kale. This makes it easier to chew and digest, but doesn’t take away from its heartiness.
So begin by rinsing your kale, then stripping the leaves away from the stem. Chop or tear up the larger leaves into smaller but-size pieces, and add them to a large mixing bowl. Add about ¼ cup dressing to the bowl, and with clean hands, gently but thoroughly massage the dressing into the leaves for about 2-3 minutes. You will feel the leaves start to soften up as you are massaging.
After a couple of minutes, add in the lettuce, then layer in the remaining ingredients, except the tortilla chips onto your bed of lettuce. If adding in protein, do so here.
Gently toss the ingredients all together, adding in more dressing if desired, as well as a bit of sea salt and black pepper. If going for a pretty presentation, transfer to a colorful serving platter or salad bowl. Finish off the salad with corn chips and more cheese.
And there you have it, an amazingly simple yet delicious fiesta salad! Serve it for a light lunch or bring along to your next pot luck.
Other delicious ingredient swaps
If you wish to make this salad even heartier, you can add in a few different fresh veggies:
- Add in black beans and sweet corn kernels for some starchy carbs and heartiness. This is also a great way to add in some protein while still keeping it vegetarian.
- Make this salad even more colorful by adding in thin slices of yellow, green or orange bell pepper
- If red onions are too sharp for you, swap them out for chopped green onions.
- Swap pepitas for sunflower seeds
- While I prefer the mild flavor of Cotija cheese, you can substitute feta cheese in its place. Or you can even use shredded cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese.
Why use Caesar dressing?
I texted my friend Julie, who I always lean on for food-related questions, and asked her if she had found a good creamy avocado style dressing recipe she liked. Her answer was “no”, but she encouraged me to try Girard’s Caesar. “Trust me, it just works.”
I know it seems kinda crazy to use a Caesar dressing for this kind of salad, but hear me out. Caesar has an intense smoky, salty, tangy flavor that is unlike no other. And because we often associate it with simple romaine lettuce and nothing else, in a salad like this, it becomes unrecognizable and less distinctive. It really just works. The strong flavor stands up nicely to the kale and other ingredients.
Of course you can make your own dressing, either Caesar, or my spicy ranch is also a great option! But I always like having a couple of reliable bottle options on hand that taste delish. It’s a really nice convenience to grab a bottle when prepping for a party or just need a quick lunch when you’re hangry!
Because the kale holds up so well, this is one of those rare dressings that doesn’t get soggy by the next day. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, but I do recommend eating within 1-2 days, as the salad will eventually wilt if stored for too long.
Enjoyed this salad? Please consider leaving a comment and/or 5 star rating below. And so you don’t miss a post, make sure to follow along on Instagram or sign up for my once a week newsletter. Thanks for reading!
Nourishing Fiesta Salad
- 1 head kale either curly or Tuscan
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 avocado cut into cubes
- ½ small red onion diced or thinly sliced
- ¼ cup Cotija cheese crumbled
- ¼ cup pepitas
- ¼ cup Girards Caesar dressing plus more to taste
- ¼ cup tortilla strips
- optional protein – shredded chicken preferred
- Rinse and dry kale. Cut from stems and chop into small pieces. Add to a large salad bowl and using your hands, massage ¼ cup dressing into the kale for about 1-2 minutes.
- Toss in the spinach and combine till coated with dressing.
- Add remaining ingredients, except tortilla strips and toss till combined. If adding protein, toss that in as well. Taste, and add more dressing if desired.
- Top with tortilla strips and a bit more cheese. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Serve immediately.