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Cowgirl Salad (vegan option & gluten free)

Cowgirl Salad - a Santa Fe inspired salad topped with either cajun tofu or chicken and filled with healthy ingredients topped with a perfect peanut lime salad dressing

This Cowgirl Salad will forever change your salad game!  I know that’s a big statement, but I’m prime time in LOVE with this one and I know you will be too!

Confession: I’ve always loved the Santa-Fe Salad from Earl’s. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about it.  The combination of sweet and salty and spicy has me weak in the knees. I’ve wanted to re-create it for years… why it took me so long to make this copycat version is beyond me!

Growing up I used to think that salads were just a bunch of iceberg lettuce with a couple slices of cucumber and tomato and store-bought salad dressing.  It was just the era I grew up in.

I remember the first time I went to France and ordered a green salad.  I was a bit confused… it was ONLY lettuce!?  Huh? But wait.  The salad dressing.  Now that was a different story.  Where had this been all of my life?  That was it, I HAD to try making my own salad dressing.  And of course, once you start doing that you simply can’t go back.

But back to this salad, Charles and I love salads that double as a meal, especially in the summer time.  Mind you, I’m writing this in the dead of winter with a fresh layer of snow on the ground, so never mind. We like meal salads in the winter too:). It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with dinner or with salads in general, so consider this a new contender for your regular line-up!

This Santa-Fe inspired salad is loaded with veggies and packed with protein – you can make it completely vegan by substituting tofu for the chicken and vegan feta for the feta cheese (or simply leaving out the cheese).  I’ve made it both ways as pictured in this post and loved them both!

We don’t eat a lot of meat, but when we do we try to buy locally sourced products that are from farms that care about how the animals are treated.  We’ve recently tried out the TruLocal subscription box [1] and like that I know the farms that they source the products from (the chicken is from Salmon Arm in the Okanagan) and that everything comes frozen which helps us reduce food waste (I also find that the products are fresher this way). If you are interested in ordering make sure that you use the code FRAICHE20 at checkout [1] to get $20 off of your first box.

You can make it gluten free easily by simply using gluten free versions of all of the ingredients (ie: soy sauce).  It’s 100% satisfying and so gorgeous, especially when served in a shallow platter to really show off the ingredients.

If you’re looking for other similar salad recipes try out this Grilled Peach Salad with Spicy Prawns [2] at the height of peach season (that’s a bit unfair of me given that I’m writing this in March), my Falafel Salad with Garlic Tahini Dressing [3] or this Ultimate Power Salad [4] for a nutrient-packed satisfying meal that will leave your body saying ‘thank you’.

As always, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below if you make it!  If you’re making it gluten free be sure that all of your spices, chips etc. are indeed gluten free (not all are).



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Cowgirl Salad

This Santa-Fe style salad is brimming with flavour, fibre and colour and is such a showy dish to impress guests!  You can double the chicken or tofu if you're making it for a bigger (or hungrier) crowd.  

Course Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6
Author Fraîche Nutrition


Salad Dressing

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons natural smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Cajun Chicken or Tofu

  • 1 350 g. package extra firm tofu OR
  • 2 free range chicken breast halves
  • avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cajun spice mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 heads (10 cups) torn romaine lettuce (bite size pieces)
  • 1 540 ml can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn, cooked and cooled (use frozen or from 2 fresh cooked cobs)
  • 2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta or vegan feta (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 avocados, sliced or diced
  • tortilla chips for serving (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges for serving



  1. Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Set aside.


  1. To prepare the chicken, preheat a grill to medium.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil or avocado oil over each chicken breast, rub it in, sprinkle each with the cajun spice mix to coat and season with salt.  Grill on a barbecue or in a grill pan on medium heat on the stove on both sides until the internal temperature reaches 165F.  Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest.

  2. To prepare the tofu, cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes and pat dry.  Drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil or avocado oil, toss to coat, sprinkle the tofu cubes with the cajun spice mix to coat and season with salt.  Heat 1 tablespoon of avocado or olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add the tofu cubes, and fry on all sides until just golden brown, about 2-3 minutes a side.  Remove from the heat and set aside.


  1. Place the torn romaine lettuce in a large bowl or in a large platter with sides.  Top with the black beans, corn, peppers, dates, feta and onion.  Slice the avocado on the salad just before serving, top with the grilled chicken or tofu, garnish with the lime wedges, and serve with the tortilla chips and salad dressing on the side.  Alternately, you can toss the salad with the salad dressing before adding the avocado, chicken or tofu and lime wedges. 

Recipe Notes

Make it vegan: use tofu and replace the feta with vegan feta or leave out the cheese

Make it gluten free: use certified gluten-free ingredients (ie: soy sauce)