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Santa Fe Salad with Spicy Dressing

There is a restaurant that I can walk to from my apartment that serves a dish they call a Santa Fe Salad, and it is something like 1500 calories! Wow! I don’t spend too much time counting calories because I believe that the calories are the least of our worries. We should be focusing on fat content (and type of fat), natural ingredients, nutrient count, and many other things. The calories sort of naturally play into those other numbers, but they aren’t what I focus on. To be honest, what I primarily focus on is how good something tastes and whether or not I had a good time eating it. This salad is quite yummy and I have ordered it a few times now. The most recent time I was enjoying this big salad, I had the realization that I was paying to eat something that I could very easily make at home for less money. The fact that it also has fewer calories is just an added bonus.

This is not a copycat recipe because I did not try to replicate the salad. I took the flavors that I like the most and put them into my own salad. The dressing is similar in that it is creamy and spicy, but I think the restaurant uses a ranch dressing base, and I use sour cream. The big restaurant salad contains tomatoes and red onions. I have omitted both those ingredients. I don’t love raw onions, and I especially don’t love tasting them for the rest of the evening. If you like those flavors, then by all means, add them into your salad!

I think this salad would be lovely with some grilled chicken or shrimp on top of it. That would make it even more of an entree salad, too. Another thing I wanted to do was make the tortilla strips healthier and easy to prepare. I think we can all agree that anything deep fried and sprinkled with salt is amazing, but it isn’t the healthiest way to prepare foods. If you want these tortilla strips salty then you’ll have to add a bit of oil to them, bake them, and then sprinkle with salt. I think there is enough saltiness and flavor in the salad itself so I don’t mind the tortilla strips lacking salt. I thinly sliced some corn tortillas, threw them on a baking sheet, and baked for 10 minutes. No extra fat or salt! They came out perfectly crunchy. A certain 5-year-old taste tester said, “you should have added salt”, but she was eating them straight from the bowl like chips instead of on top of this gorgeous salad.

Yield: 4-6

Santa Fe Salad Santa Fe Salad Dressing


  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1 pound (1 large head) romaine lettuce
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, if using canned be sure to drain and rinse well
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • Santa Fe salad dressing, recipe below
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut the corn tortillas in half, then cut the halves into thin strips.
  3. Separate the strips and place them in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  4. Tear or finely chop the romaine lettuce and place in a large bowl.
  5. Stem, seed and dice the red bell pepper. Peel, seed and dice the avocados.
  6. Add the bell peppers, avocados, black beans, corn and cheese to the romaine lettuce and toss to combine thoroughly.
  7. Top with the tortilla strips and serve the dressing on the side.
  8. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine well.

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