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Santa Fe Salad

    santa fe salad

    A colorful explosion of fiery flavors and crunchy textures, this Santa Fe Salad is a quick and easy brunch. A mix of veggies, cheese, beans, and tortilla chips, the real secret to this salad is the simple and spicy vinaigrette.

    Quick to put together, this salad relies on many pantry and freezer staples, and a few extra ingredients you can often find at the grocery store. It’s an easy meal for two on the weekend and a fun twist on a tossed salad.

    This Santa Fe salad recipe puts the flavors and textures of the Southwest on a plate. This dish is more than enough for a full meal, or split it with a friend and have a cup of chicken tortilla soup or chili on the side.

    Try pairing the salad with a tart drink like a margarita or a limeade. If you want something a little more substantial, try a smoothie with a little zip, like avocado-lime, mango, or pineapple. 

    Santa Fe salad

    The most important part of this dish is the dressing—so don’t skip it! I also encourage you to taste the dressing as you make it and adjust the levels of acid (lime juice), oil, and heat (spices) to your liking.

    Making a vinaigrette may seem intimidating at first, especially if you are used to buying salad dressing at the grocery store. I promise it is worth making your own for this salad. I used a blender to emulsify the oil and acid, but you can also put the ingredients inside a mason jar and shake it vigorously or whisk the ingredients in a bowl until they emulsify. 

    An emulsion is when two elements that don’t typically come together are held in suspension with one another. This is what we create when we shake, whisk, or blend the oil and acid. If your vinaigrette separates after you make it, you will see a layer of oil on top, meaning you need to agitate the vinaigrette again.

    What You Need to Make Santa Fe Salad

    This recipe requires spinach (or other leafy green), frozen corn, black beans, sharp cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, jalapeno, red pepper, red onion, cilantro, ground cumin, sweet paprika, ground cayenne pepper, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, grape tomatoes, dried oregano, kosher salt, ground pepper, and blue tortilla chips. 

    Feel free to adapt the recipe. You can sub or omit ingredients you don’t like. Don’t like cilantro? Skip it! Jalapenos too hot? Forget them! You also don’t need blue corn chips. Use any kind of tortilla chips you like to have on hand for guacamole.

    ingredients to make Santa Fe salad

    Ingredients: 

    • Spinach (or other leafy green) 
    • Frozen corn 
    • Canned black beans
    • Sharp cheddar cheese
    • Avocado
    • Sour cream
    • Jalapeno pepper
    • Red pepper
    • Red onion
    • Cilantro
    • Ground cumin
    • Sweet paprika
    • Ground cayenne pepper
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Lime juice
    • Dried oregano
    • Grape tomatoes
    • Kosher salt
    • Ground pepper
    • Blue corn tortilla chips

    Equipment: 

    Santa Fe Salad requires a sharp knife and a cutting board. A citrus juicer is not essential but can be helpful when juicing the lime. You will also want one of these to make the dressing: a blender, a whisk, and a bowl, or a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. 

    How To Make Santa Fe Salad

    Prepare the greens: Wash and dry the spinach and/or lettuce. Wash and dry the cilantro. Set aside.

    Prepare the salad toppings: Strain and rinse one can of black beans, remove 1 cup of the salad, and store the rest. Remove the frozen corn from the fridge and thaw it on the counter.

    Dice the jalapeno, red onion, and red pepper. Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Cube the cheddar cheese, and slice and dice the avocado. Set these aside.

    chopped veggies

    Make the dressing: Place the olive oil, lime juice, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, ground pepper, cumin, and sweet paprika into a blender and blend until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

    blended olive oil, lime juice, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, ground pepper, cumin, and sweet paprika

    Plate the salad: Place a large bed of spinach or lettuce in the center of the plate. Then, working around the plate, add the different toppings: black beans, corn, red pepper, jalapeno, cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, red onion, and avocado. Garnish the salad with a dollop of sour cream and a cilantro leaf. Pour the dressing over top, season with salt and pepper, and serve with a side of tortilla chips. 

    Santa Fe salad poured with dressing

    Recipe FAQs

    What do I do with the chips?

    I like to think of the chips as the slice of bread or baguette that typically accompanies a salad. So, eat them! But you can also break them up and add them as a garnish to your salad, like croutons. If you do that, make sure to serve the salad right away so they don’t get soggy from the dressing. 

    Can I toss this salad if I make it as a side dish for more people?

    Yes. If you toss the salad, I recommend waiting to add the sour cream until after you’ve plated the salad, or you could add a dollop of sour cream to the vinaigrette before you blend it for a creamy twist.

    Can I make this in advance?

    You can prepare the salad up to one day in advance. Just be sure to cover it with plastic wrap in the fridge. Do not dress the salad until you are ready to serve. The salad dressing can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge. You will need to re-emulsify it before serving. 

    Can I use fresh or canned corn?

    Of course. For fresh corn, use a sharp knife and carefully remove it from the husk. If using canned, make sure it is very well drained before using.

    Santa Fe salad

    Santa Fe Salad

    Arielle Hess
    For a zesty and zippy brunch-time dish, try throwing together this Santa Fe salad. Bursting with bright colors, flavors, and textures, the star of this salad is the surprisingly simple, fiery vinaigrette. Serve this with a few margaritas or lime-forward smoothies for a little extra flair.
    No ratings yet
    Prep Time 10 mins
    Cook Time 5 mins
    Course Breakfast
    Servings 2
    Calories 653 kcal

    Ingredients
      

    • 4 cups of spinach or other leafy green
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn
    • 1 cup of black beans
    • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
    • ½ of one large avocado
    • 2 tablespoons sour cream
    • ½ jalapeno pepper
    • ½ of one medium red bell pepper
    • 1/4 of one red onion
    • 2-3 sprigs of cilantro
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 12-14 grape tomatoes
    • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon of ground pepper
    • 16-20 blue corn tortilla chips (for serving)

    Instructions
     

    • Wash and dry your spinach and/or lettuce, and cilantro.
    • Strain and rinse 1 15-oz can of black beans. Reserve 1 cup of beans and refrigerate the rest.
    • Remove the frozen corn from the fridge and allow it to thaw.
    • Dice ½ a jalapeno, ¼ of red onion, and ½ of one medium red bell pepper.
    • Slice 12-14 grape tomatoes in half.
    • Cube 4 oz of sharp cheddar cheese
    • Slice and dice 1/2 of one avocado.
    • Place ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, 2 teaspoons cumin, and 1 teaspoon sweet paprika into a blender.
    • Blend until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
    • On two separate plates, place 2 cups of spinach or lettuce.
    • Add half of the prepared toppings to each plate. These are black beans, corn, red pepper, jalapeno, cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, red onion, and avocado.
    • Garnish each plate with 1 tablespoon of sour cream, a cilantro leaf, and 8-10 tortilla chips.
    • Pour 2-3 tablespoons of dressing over top of the salad and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    • Enjoy!

    Notes

    The most important part of this dish is the dressing – so don’t skip it! You should also taste the dressing as you make it and adjust the levels of acid (lime juice), oil, and heat (spices) to your liking.
    Feel free to adapt the recipe. You can sub or omit ingredients you don’t like. Don’t like cilantro? Skip it! Jalapenos too hot? Forget them! You also don’t need blue corn chips. Use any kind of tortilla chips you like to have on hand for guacamole.
    If you toss the salad, wait to add the sour cream until after you’ve plated the salad, or you could add a dollop of sour cream to the vinaigrette before you blend it for a creamy twist.
    You can prepare the salad up to one day in advance. Just be sure to cover it with plastic wrap in the fridge. Do not dress the salad until you are ready to serve. The salad dressing can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge. You will need to re-emulsify it before serving.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 653kcalCarbohydrates: 63.07gProtein: 15.57gFat: 41.5gSaturated Fat: 8.159gFiber: 12.3gSugar: 16.23g
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    Arielle is a food and drink photographer based in Washington, D.C. She was previously a social science researcher before she fell in love with photography.

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