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Southwest Salad with Sweet and Spicy Chicken

30 minute meal - No water - Stove top meal

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Chris and Shelby met in Bible School in the fall of 2010, where they became best friends and fell in love. They married in October of 2013, and began renting a 490 sq. ft. 1940’s house in Shelby’s hometown of Grandville, Michigan. Their home was cozy and their rent was cheap (only $430 a month), but their favorite thing to do together was to get away from it all, by traveling and exploring new places any time they got the chance. When they discovered, “vanlife,” on Youtube in December of 2015, their immediate response was, “Let’s do this!” They bought a 1989 Dodge B250 camper van the next month, and began to completely gut and remodel it from the inside out. The whole process took 2 years and 9 months in their free time, and on a very small budget. Finally, in October of 2018, they moved into the van, which they named Luna, and began to travel full time with their bearded dragon, Hagrid. Some of their favorite memories have been visiting Carlsbad Caverns, walking through the Redwoods, hiking Yosemite Falls, and swimming with manatees in Crystal River. They mostly boondock, and rely on their solar set up to power their electricity. Chris and Shelby currently both work remotely 4 days a week for Women At Risk, International, a non-profit primarily known for their work with human trafficking victims. They use email and phone calls to book parties where people volunteer to sell survivor-made products in their own homes, to support Women At Risk’s partnering safe-houses. There are so many more places they want to explore, and they hope to have a family someday. So, their newest project is renovating a school bus, turning it into their future home on wheels. But, that project will take a long time! So, they will continue to live in Luna until then. Chris and Shelby are both big fantasy nerds and love Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They enjoy hiking, paddle boarding, watching movies, and eating delicious food together. You can follow their journey on their Instagram account, @happy_vagabonds, as well as their Youtube channel happy_vagabonds. Chris & Shelby

This southwest salad with sweet and spicy chicken is a great vanlife recipe. It takes hardly any cooking, and if you use pre-cooked chicken it’s even quicker. A great way to use up leftovers.

I was playing with seasonings one night as I cooked chicken to put in a salad for dinner, and I loved the sweet and savoury heat it added to our salad! The tortilla chips and Ranch really compliment the flavors of this dish. You can modify this chicken salad to your own tastes! Perhaps you’re not a broccoli fan, or you hate black beans. That’s fine! The beauty of a salad is you can toss it together your own way! Play with it, and have fun! If you don’t have all of the ingredients, use what you do have! I often make a simplified version with no black beans, corn, tomato, or avocado-just a simple salad with chicken and tortilla chips on top.

Southwest Salad with Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Meat Based
This has been a go-to meal for years for us, and it has translated really well into Vanlife.
5 from 1 vote
30 minute meal - No water - Stove top meal
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Lunch, Salad
Servings 2
Diet Meat Based


  • 1/2 lb Chicken Shredded or Sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp Avocado Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2-3 tbsp Honey
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 Romaine Lettuce Heads
  • 4 Large Kale Leaves
  • 2 cup Spinach
  • 1 cup Broccoli Florets
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 can Black Beans
  • 1 can Corn
  • 1 Roma Tomato
  • 2 tbsp Ranch Dressing
  • 2 handfuls Tortilla Chips


  • Cook the chicken over medium heat with the avocado oil, seasoning to taste with the paprika, garlic powder, honey, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. The above measurements are estimates. I usually play with the amounts of spices and flavors, tasting as I go.
  • While the chicken is cooking, you can prep your salads. Chop up the romaine lettuce, kale, roma tomato, broccoli, cucumber, and avocado. We are big eaters, so I serve the salads in mixing bowls. I put half of the romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, cucumber, and broccoli in each bowl.
  • Top each salad with tomato, black beans, corn, avocado, the cooked chicken, and Ranch dressing. Here is a tip I often forget: To keep them crunchy, save the tortilla chips for last (after you add the dressing), and crush them over the tops of the salads. Enjoy!


You can use pre-cooked chicken in this recipe to make it even quicker! If the chicken is already cooked (like a Rotisserie chicken), I still fry it up in the pan with the oil and the seasonings so it really takes on that sweet, spicy, savory flavor.


Calories: 998kcalCarbohydrates: 148gProtein: 49gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 14gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 1606mgPotassium: 2495mgFiber: 28gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 17967IUVitamin C: 179mgCalcium: 494mgIron: 9mg
Keyword avocado, chicken, healthy, protein, quick and easy, quick cook, salad, Simple
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