Crispy Chicken Taco Salad

Summer in the south gets HOT. I love the heat and humidity and summer storms. Sunny days at the beach. Ice cream and popsicles and lazy school free days for the kids. I tend to cook a bit lighter and serve more big salads in the summer time. I love a good salad but it has to be satisfying and a meal to make me and my family happy. I love this recipe because it has lots little individual pops of flavor, but the whole thing combined together is delicious too. I probably do crispy fried chicken about 1/2 the time, and just pan seared chicken breasts marinated in taco seasoning and lime the other half.

For this chicken this time I marinated chicken tenders overnight in my own taco seasoning blend (what I use below), some lime, a bit of olive oil and plenty of salt. I wanted crispy fried chicken this time, and I usually use regular seasoned flour dredge for it, but I recently made this pretzel coated chicken that we loved, so I decided to use that as the breading again. It just has such a delicate, crunchy texture.

I coat my proteins for frying in the same way most of the time, although there are variations for different dishes. The most typical is a flour dredge, dip in egg, dip into breading. This really works to keep the breading stuck to your item and gives a really good crunch.

This salad can be completely customized to what you’ve got around, but I used romaine with tomatoes, corn, black beans, bell pepper, cheddar cheese, crushed doritos. I topped it with a creamy lime cilantro dressing. If you are looking for a filling and delicious salad for dinner, try this one.

Salad (enough for 4-5 main course salads):

  • 10 crispy chicken tenders (below)
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 5-6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 3-4 ears of corn shucked and charred slightly in a hot pan
  • 1 cup crushed doritos
  • 1 can black beans drained and seasoned with salt, garlic powder, coriander and smoked paprika
  • 1 small diced bell pepper
  • lime cilantro dressing (below)


  • 1 package of chicken tenders
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning mix (below)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 bag of pretzel twists
  • oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs whisked

Marinate chicken tenders overnight in the taco seasoning, salt, lime and oil. When you are ready to fry, remove from the fridge 30-40 min before cooking. This allows them to cook through without over frying the coating. Grind the pretzels up into mostly powder with some bits of pretzel in the food processor and put into a large bowl. Put the flour on a shallow plate, and whisk the eggs in another shallow dish. Line a cookie sheet with foil to put your dipped tenders on. Line another sheet with paper towels to drain them. Dip each tender into the flour, then into the egg, then into the pretzel crumbs, pressing to make sure they adhere well. Use one hand for dipping in flour and egg and the other for pressing the pretzels to keep your hands from being a total mess of breading.

Place tenders on the foil sheet and set aside. Heat your oil to 360 and drop 4-5 tenders in depending on the size of your pot. I use a shallow dutch oven for this. Don’t overcrowd the pan and watch your oil temp to keep it around 350. Fry until dark golden brown and quieting down. This is one of the best ways to judge that fried items are ready in my opinion. When meat is fully cooked it stops releasing as much liquid so the frying becomes quieter. You can also use an instant read thermometer to check, which I do. Drain on paper towels and season with a bit more salt. Cool slightly and slice into pieces for the salad.

Taco Seasoning mix:

  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano

Mix together and store in air tight container if you make more than you need.

Cilantro Lime Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 big bunch cilantro
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a small blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

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