Southwest salads have become a popular menu item at many restaurants due to their flavorful mix of ingredients like romaine lettuce, black beans, corn, tortilla strips, cheese, and southwest dressing. Adding crispy chicken brings extra protein to make it a more filling meal. But with all these tasty ingredients piled on, many people wonder just how many calories are in a Southwest salad with crispy chicken.
Calories in Southwest Salad Base
The base of a Southwest salad without any add-ons contains the following ingredients:
- Romaine lettuce – 10 calories per 1 cup
- Black beans – 114 calories per 1/2 cup
- Corn – 72 calories per 1/2 cup
- Tortilla strips – 104 calories per 1 ounce
- Cheddar cheese – 113 calories per 1/4 cup
- Southwest dressing – 73 calories per 2 Tbsp
Just the salad alone with these standard ingredients adds up to around 300-400 calories depending on exact quantities used. Romaine lettuce is very low calorie, while ingredients like the beans, corn, tortilla strips, cheese, and dressing all add higher amounts of calories.
Calories in Crispy Chicken
Crispy chicken can have a wide range of calorie counts depending on how it is prepared. Here are some common calorie amounts:
- Deep fried chicken breast – around 150 calories for 3 oz
- Baked chicken breast – 140 calories for 3 oz
- Breaded and pan-fried chicken breast – 170 calories for 3 oz
Most Southwest chicken salads use around 6-8 oz of chicken. So that alone adds another 300-500 calories depending on the cooking method.
Putting it all together, a full Southwest salad with crispy chicken will have approximately:
- 300-400 calories for salad base
- 300-500 calories for 6-8 oz chicken
- Total: 600-900 calories
So in general, a Southwest salad with crispy chicken will contain 600-900 calories. This makes it a satisfying meal full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The exact calorie count can vary based on:
- Ingredients used in salad
- Type of dressing and amount
- Cooking method and amount of chicken
- Addition of any other toppings like avocado or bacon
When dining out, check the restaurant’s nutrition information or ask your server for details to get a more specific calorie amount. Comparing a few common chain restaurants can give a good idea of the range:
|Restaurant||Salad Calories (without dressing)||Crispy Chicken Calories||Total Calories|
|Chili’s||410||360 (6 oz)||770|
|Applebee’s||370||460 (8 oz)||830|
|Cheesecake Factory||490||290 (4 oz)||780|
As you can see, even at different restaurants the total calories tend to be in the 700-900 range for a standard chicken Southwest salad.
Tips for Lightening Up Your Salad
If you’re looking for ways to cut back on calories in your Southwest chicken salad, here are some tips:
- Request the dressing on the side and use sparingly
- Choose grilled or roasted chicken instead of crispy fried
- Skip the tortilla strips, bacon, or other higher calorie toppings
- Ask for a smaller portion of 4-6 oz chicken instead of 8 oz
- Substitute mixed greens for some of the higher calorie romaine lettuce
- Order on the side any ingredients you want less of like cheese
Making these simple adjustments can save you 200 calories or more and still let you enjoy the flavors of a Southwest salad.
Healthy Homemade Version
To get maximum nutrition and flavor while controlling calories and ingredients, consider making your own Southwest salad at home. Here is a delicious 500 calorie recipe:
Southwest Chicken Salad
- 3 cups mixed greens
- 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup corn
- 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
- 1 Tbsp scallions, sliced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 (6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 Tbsp Southwest seasoning
- Coat chicken breast with Southwest seasoning
- Grill or bake at 375 degrees until cooked through, about 15 minutes
- Toss salad ingredients together and divide onto two plates
- Whisk together dressing ingredients
- Slice grilled chicken and divide on top of salad
- Drizzle dressing over each salad
Nutrition Info (for 1 serving)
- Calories: 250
- Fat: 8g
- Carbs: 17g
- Protein: 29g
This homemade version uses lighter ingredients like mixed greens, keeps the dressing on the tangy citrus side, and uses a sensible 6 oz portion of chicken. Feel free to add a sprinkle of shredded cheese or crunchy tortilla strips for an extra touch of Tex-Mex flavor.
Benefits of Southwest Chicken Salads
While the calorie count may be higher than some other salads, Southwest chicken salads provide many important nutrients:
- Protein – Chicken provides lean protein to help build muscle, curb hunger, and keep you full longer.
- Fiber – From the beans, vegetables, greens, and corn in the salad.
- Vitamin C – The bell peppers, corn, and citrus dressing provide this immune-boosting vitamin.
- Iron – The beans give a good dose of iron to support healthy blood and energy levels.
- Calcium – Cheese on the salad provides some bone-building calcium.
The variety of flavors and textures also makes this salad filling and satisfying. Just balance out the rest of your meal if enjoying a higher calorie Southwest chicken salad. For example, enjoy it with a lighter side like fruit or a broth-based soup rather than fries or chips.
A Southwest salad with crispy chicken typically contains around 600-900 calories. Exact amounts vary based on the ingredients, toppings, and portion sizes used. While higher in calories than a plain garden salad, the Southwest version provides far more flavor, nutrition, and satisfaction. With some simple tweaks and healthy homemade recipes, you can still enjoy these tasty salads while controlling your daily calorie intake. Balance it out with lighter sides and activity to make this full-flavored meal work within your diet.