Sometimes I think Mexican food gets a bad rap for being greasy and indulgent, especially here in Texas where enchiladas, chips, and queso reign supreme. And while those adjectives might hold true for a typical night out at your favorite Tex-Mex spot (hello, frozen margs), the real cuisine of Mexico is full of bright, nourishing, and veggie-forward fare. It’s these dishes—fish tacos, grilled meat with salsa verde, charred corn salad—that I make most often at home, and when I’m looking for the perfect light and satisfying side dish, I frequently turn to this Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Shallot Dressing.
These ingredients were inspired by one of my favorite lunches in Austin, the Jerez Salad at Fresa’s. With marinated chickpeas, spicy shredded carrots, and creamy queso fresco, it features layers of texture and flavor that make every bite so satisfying. My version of this Mexican chopped salad recipe is equally healthy and packed with protein. It’s hearty enough to be a vegetarian Mexican main course, or the best easy side dish for tacos & enchiladas.
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What goes in this Mexican Chopped Salad?
As with any chopped salad, it’s all about layering textures and flavors so you get a good mix of creamy and crunchy, spicy and sweet in each bite. Here’s what goes in this one:
- Fresh Greens. I like to buy a box of “power greens” featuring a mix of kale, spinach, and baby chard. Feel free to use any mix of your favorite lettuces, or just spinach or kale alone works great, too.
- Spicy marinated chickpeas. This is a great little recipe to always have in your back pocket. I make a big batch and store extras in a mason jar in the fridge. To make them, just combine a can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained) with 1 tablespoons honey, juice of a lemon, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of chili flakes, and a pinch of salt. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours, and up to a week. It’s a great plant-based protein to throw into salads all week.
- Spicy marinated carrots. Just marinate shredded carrots in the same mixture as the chickpeas (in a separate container.) Easy!
- Cucumber. Thinly sliced or chopped.
- Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I like a mix. Toast them in a dry skillet on the stove for a minute to release their fragrance.
- Crumbled queso fresco. Feta works great, too.
- Honey-Shallot Vinaigrette. More on that below.
Tips for Making Chopped Salad
The beauty of a chopped salad is that you can get all the delicious flavors you’ve combined in one perfect bite. Plus, when you toss it all together, you can evenly distribute the dressing so that each bite is coated in max flavor (without being the slightest bit soggy.)
In addition to greens, you always want to add other flavor-packed veggies for variety. This salad would also be great with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes or chopped bell peppers thrown in the mix. When I’m turning a chopped salad into the main course of my meal, I’ll often throw in cooked vegetables to make it a bit more satisfying—cubed sautéed zucchini or roasted sweet potato would be delish here.
And finally, balance out all those veggies with grains or beans (ie these chickpeas), nuts or seeds (like our pumpkin/sunflower seed mix here), and something creamy like avocado, goat cheese, or the queso fresco we used in this salad. These are the ingredients that add healthy proteins and fats, and will help ward off any post-salad hunger.
Ingredients in Honey-Shallot Dressing
If you’re tempted to skip this step and use a store-bought salad dressing, may I humbly convince you otherwise. This dressing makes the salad, and you’re going to want to have the leftovers to pour over your salads all week. It’s so good, and you zip it up in the blender for maximum ease. Here’s what goes in it:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
Scroll on for the recipe, and if you give this Mexican Chopped Salad a try, be sure to leave a rating and tag us on Instagram so we can see your version!
p.s. Looking for more inspired salad ideas? Here are a few that I’ve had on repeat lately:
for the spicy marinated chickpeas and carrots
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of chili flakes
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup shredded carrots
for the honey-shallot vinaigrette:
- 1 shallot, peeled and halved
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- Squeeze of honey
- big pinch of salt and pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
for the rest of the salad:
- 6 cups chopped fresh greens like spinach or kale (I like to use the power greens mix)
- 1 thinly sliced seedless cucumber
- 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- At least 2 hours before serving, marinate the chickpeas and carrots. Combine honey, lemon juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, chili flakes, and salt. Place the chickpeas and shredded carrots in two separate bowls or mason jars. Divide the mixture evenly over both of them, stir to combine, and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to a week.
- Make the dressing: combine all ingredients in a blender and combine until creamy.
- In a large serving bowl, add the chopped greens. Add cucumber, both seeds, cheese, and cilantro. Pour a little dressing over top, and toss to combine. Add the marinated chickpeas and carrots—either toss them into the salad, or let them sit on top if preferred. Drizzle a little more dressing over top and eat!
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