Tex Mex Salad
Published Oct 10, 2023
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This Tex Mex salad is a crunchy, healthy, veggie-packed salad that is tossed in a tastebud-tingling Southwestern-inspired dressing that has tons of flavor. With forkfuls of sweet corn, veggies, tender black beans, and crispy tortilla chips, each bite of this salad is pure joy!
Fresh, flavorful, and popping with color: Tex Mex salad is a “works anytime, anywhere” kind of meal. The plump corn, the crunchy vegetables, the creamy avocado, and the Southwestern-inspired dressing are equally at home during busy weeknights, or casual weekends when the temperature outside is so hot, you’re craving a light meal that’s also satisfying.
What’s great about this easy salad, besides the amazing mix of flavors and textures, is there are so many ingredient swaps and substitutes you can make. Try different variations all summer long with this crowd-friendly dish.
What is Tex Mex food?
Tex Mex food is a style of American cuisine that was developed by combining influences from Mexican and Tejano cuisines. Tejanos are descendants of people who lived in Texas before Texas became a US state. This type of food is known for its use of flour tortillas, shredded cheeses, beans, and meats like chicken, pork, or beef. While Tex Mex food is widely popular along border states in the Western part of the United States, its appeal has now spread all over the country. Items like fajitas, queso dip, nachos, and enchiladas are some of the most popular dishes found on Tex Mex menus.
How to Make It
- Whisk the lime juice, honey, paprika, cumin, salt, and oil.
- Heat the corn and beans in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and pour some of the dressing over top to cool.
- Add the bell pepper, cheddar cheese, romaine, green onions, avocado, and tomatoes to the bowl. Gently toss everything together.
- Top with tortilla chips / strips right before serving.
For the dressing:
- Lime Juice – Zippy lime juice is the acid component in the dressing. Give your lime a firm roll on the kitchen counter before juicing to loosen up the flesh.
- Honey – Honey creates the ideal balance of tangy, spicy, and sweet flavors.
- Paprika, Ground Cumin, Kosher Salt – Paprika and ground cumin are the foundation of traditional taco seasoning. The warm spiciness of this dynamic duo is enhanced by a touch of salt.
- Cooking Oil or Olive Oil – You can use any oil for the salad dressing. Neutral olive oil, avocado oil, or traditional vegetable oil are all you need.
For the salad:
- Cooking Oil or Olive Oil – For warming the corn and beans and releasing all of that extra flavor. Use whatever oil you have in the pantry.
- Corn Kernels – Plump corn kernels add a pop of bright yellow color and a bit of sweetness. If using canned corn, drain all of the water before adding. If using frozen corn, defrost it in the microwave so the kernels are ready to go.
- Kosher Salt – To bring all of the tastes and textures together in a symphony of flavor.
- Black Beans – Tender black beans add texture to the salad bowls, and add healthy protein and fiber.
- Red Bell Pepper – For flavor, crunch, and color. Orange and yellow bell pepper also work.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese – A little cheese in a Tex Mex salad is a must. If you don’t have shredded cheddar cheese, you can also use a Mexican cheese blend, Monterey Jack, or Cotija.
- Romaine Hearts – Romaine hearts are the super crispy leaves in the center of a head of Romaine lettuce. You will find these with the bagged lettuce.
- Green Onions – Green onion stalks have a sharp, peppery taste to them that really complements the fresh veggies, sweet corn, and acidic tomatoes.
- Avocado – Creamy pieces of cubed avocado give the salad a guacamole-like element.
- Tomatoes – Compact and hearty Roma tomatoes are recommended in this recipe because their low water content makes them easy to chop, but any kind of tomato will work.
- Tortilla Strips or Crushed Tortilla Chips – Salty, crunchy tortilla chips are the “secret sauce” in this recipe. Add these just before serving so they stay nice and crispy.
Tex Mex salad is best enjoyed the day it’s made for optimal crunchiness, but you can prep a few of the ingredients before you need them. The salad dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance, and stored in an airtight container. Mason jars work great. Heat the corn and the black beans the day before you use them.
- To quickly make the salad dressing, combine all of these ingredients in a well-sealed jar and shake to combine.
- Serve Tex Mex salads in a tortilla chip bowl for a fun presentation, and an excuse to enjoy extra tortilla chips!
- Add protein – Boneless, skinless chicken, seasoned ground beef, or pieces of sliced steak give this Tex Mex salad lots of extra flavor, and a taco-like feel.
- Try a different dressing – If you like creamy dressings, try ranch dressing or chipotle dressing.
- Make it spicy – Add a dash of chili powder to the dressing for a little kick of heat.
Tex Mex salad bowls are still delicious as leftovers the next day, but like most salads this hearty, veggie filled meal is best enjoyed the days it’s made.
Tex Mex salad can either be the star of the show, or served as a side dish. Serving this salad as a side dish alongside fajitas, enchiladas, or tacos allows everyone to sample lots of different Tex Mex flavors. If serving as a main dish, bring out the chips and salsa, guacamole, or a plate of grilled shrimp.
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Tex Mex Salad
- Mixing Bowl or Mason Jar
- Heavy Bottomed Skillet
- Sharp Knife
For the dressing:
- 1/3 cup lime juice (from 2 to 3 large limes)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cooking oil or olive oil
For the salad:
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil or olive oil
- 2 cups corn kernels (if using frozen corn, defrost it in the microwave before using)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 hearts romaine, finely chopped
- 3 stalks green onions, chopped
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 3 cups tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
- Make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, honey, paprika, ground cumin, and salt. Add ½ cup of oil and whisk well until evenly combined. (Alternatively, you can just combine all of these ingredients in a well-sealed jar and shake it well.)
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the corn kernels in a single layer. Let the corn cook, without stirring, until deep golden brown on the bottom, 4 to 6 minutes. (If it starts to pop and jump out of the pan, it’s probably ready.) Season the corn with ½ teaspoon of salt and stir it once. Add the beans and stir until heated through.
- Transfer the corn and beans to a large mixing bowl. Pour about ¼ cup of the dressing over top and stir everything together. (This will help cool the corn and beans down.)
- To the mixing bowl, add the bell pepper, cheddar cheese, romaine, green onions, avocado, and tomatoes. Gently toss everything together.
- Crumble the tortilla chips / strips over the top of the salad or fold them in right before serving. They’ll add some great crunch, but be sure not to let the salad sit for long after adding them or they won’t stay crispy.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.