Meet the next edition of my giant salad challenge! This “Mexican” green salad recipe is quite possibly the prettiest salad I’ve ever had the chance to photograph, too. Romaine lettuce and mixed spring greens, purple cabbage and cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion combine to create one stunning and delicious salad.
The idea behind the salad challenge is that I’m challenging you (and myself) to make an enormous green salad and some homemade dressing to go with it. If you store the salad and dressing separately in the refrigerator, you’ll have salad to last you all week long. I find that I eat a lot more greens and veggies this way, and I’m more likely to grab salad as a snack than a regrettable handful of chips.
I’ve enjoyed quite a few renditions of this salad over the past few months. It was inspired by a local restaurant called Taco Republic’s “Al Verde” salad, which includes Tuscan kale, roasted golden beets, and mayo-based dressing. I always get their salad to balance out the queso and chips I inevitably-but-not-regrettably order beforehand.
I ultimately decided on some ingredients that are a little easier to find at a regular grocery store and prepare for my salad. Freshly toasted pepitas offer a savory, nutty crunch, and creamy feta and avocado make this salad irresistible. This salad isn’t the quickest salad you’ll ever make, but it pays off in sheer quantity and flavor.
I also made my dressing lighter, although it’s still deliciously creamy, thanks to an olive oil and lime juice emulsion plus a tablespoon of tahini (which is optional). The dressing is based on the jalapeño-lime dressing in my cookbook (page 53). In the book, I offered four of my favorite make-ahead salad dressings, plus a simple five-step guide to creating an epic salad. You might want a copy (wink).
I’m calling this salad “Mexican” since it seems to offer the best broad description of the ingredients and flavors inside. I can’t say I tried a salad like this when I was in Mexico six weeks ago, but it’s a huge country with a diverse and delicious cuisine. I might have to travel through all the regions until I find something similar. I’m up for the challenge!
For more giant salad recipes, check out my Italian chopped salad and colorful chopped salad with carrot-ginger dressing. I’ll be back with another giant salad soon, and be sure to check out my full salad archives in the meantime.
Mexican Green Salad with Jalapeño-Cilantro Dressing
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 6 medium salads
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Mexican
This healthy Mexican green salad recipe is the perfect fresh side for your favorite Mexican meals! It’s also a delicious, light meal on its own. Recipe yields 4 large salad servings, 6 medium or 8 side salads.
- ⅔ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5 ounces baby spring mix
- 6 ounces romaine lettuce, chopped
- 2 cups grated cauliflower (about ½ small cauliflower—you can grate it on the holes of a large box grater or finely slice it on a mandoline, then roughly chop)
- 2 cups finely chopped purple cabbage (about ½ small cabbage)
- 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 small cucumber, halved, seeded and thinly sliced (no need to peel)
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- ⅔ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 ripe avocados (thinly slice just before serving)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup lime juice (from about 4 limes)
- ½ cup lightly packed cilantro (mostly leaves)
- 1 small jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon tahini (optional, for a more creamy dressing)
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, for extra heat)
- First, toast the pepitas: combine the pepitas, olive oil, chili powder and a pinch of salt in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast the pepitas, stirring frequently (don’t let them burn), until they are turning golden on the edges and making little popping noises, about 4 to 7 minutes. Set the skillet aside to cool.
- In a large salad bowl, combine the spring mix, chopped romaine, cauliflower, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, onion, feta cheese, and toasted pepitas. Gently toss, then set aside.
- To make the dressing: Combine all of the ingredients but the red pepper flakes in a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste, and add extra salt if it needs some extra oomph, and or a pinch of red pepper flakes if you’d like more heat. Blend again, then transfer to a small jar with a spout, for serving.
- Divide the salad into individual bowls, top with slices of avocado, and drizzle dressing just before serving. If you intend to have leftovers, store the salad separately from the dressing, and toss individual servings with dressing just before serving. The salad will keep well this way for about 4 to 5 days.
Make it dairy free: Omit the feta cheese. You might want to add a dollop of cashew sour cream (see page 217 of my cookbook) in its place.
Make it vegan: See dairy-free instructions above, and use maple syrup instead of honey.
Change it up: Hate cilantro? Omit it! For a lighter salad, choose either the feta or avocado, instead of both. To make it extra crunchy and savory, add skillet-toasted tortilla strips or a small handful of crushed tortilla chips.
Recommended equipment: I used this mandoline to shred the cabbage and cauliflower. Mandolines are dangerous; watch your fingers at all times! (That’s an affiliate link.)