Ensalada de pollo or Mexican chicken salad has a creamy dressing and loaded with fresh vegetables. It makes the best quick meal and it’s delicious on tostadas, saltines or even on bolillo rolls for a Mexican-style sandwich.
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What Is Ensalada de Pollo
Ensalada means salad, and it can refer to either a creamy or green salad.
Pollo means chicken, as in chicken meat.
This Mexican chicken salad recipe is traditionally made with a creamy dressing consisting of mayonnaise, Mexican crema, mustard, jalapeño juice or lime juice. It’s combined with a mixture of cooked fresh vegetables and the chicken.
It’s quite the simple dish loved by Mexican mamás as a perfect easy lunch recipe any day of the week.
Growing up my mom made this ensalada for us quite often – specially during the warmer months, you can say it was her go-to fresh summer salad.
I’ll admit to you that it wasn’t one of my favorite things she would cook for us. Probably because she made it so often. But also because I really disliked the smell and taste of boiled chicken breast that she would cook to make ensalada de pollo.
As an adult, while I was still a carnivore, I learned to replace the boiled chicken with rotisserie chicken. I would make a Sunday dinner of pollo rostisado then save the leftover shredded chicken to make this Mexican salad sometime during the week. This is when ensalada de pollo become one of my favorite Mexican food.
A Vegan Twist on a Mexican Classic
Eight years ago when I went meatless, I didn’t want to give up one of my favorite leftovers, quick meal. So I knew I’d have to learn to make a vegan ensalada de pollo.
Once I discovered TVP for me it was a game changer. I quickly found out how easy it would be to use it in place of meat and, most important, how easy it would be to veganize so many dishes.
One such dish was ensalada de pollo, but with a vegan twist. So no more leftover chicken for me, it was now vegan TVP meat.
Amigos, I need to tell you that I love the vegan ensalada de pollo way more than I ever did the classic chicken salad recipe! Yes, it’s that good.
Ok let’s talk ingredients below and how I replaced the traditional ones for vegan options.
The main ingredients needed for this simple recipe are fresh, flavorful and are easy to get anywhere.
- Chicken: We’re going to swap out the chicken for rehydrated TVP (a plant-based protein) to achieve a similar texture and flavor.
- Mixed Vegetables: The traditional ones used in most recipes are potato, carrot, peas, green beans, and whole kernel corn. Some people use canned or frozen but I like to use fresh whenever possible.
- Sour Cream or Crema: Instead of dairy sour cream we’ll be using vegan crema. You can use store-bought or make my recipe.
- Mayonnaise: Use vegan mayo, I personally like the Hellman’s brand but you can use your favorite. If you have a homemade mayo feel free to use it.
- Mustard: I prefer a Dijon style but you can also use yellow mustard.
- Jalapeño Brine: This is the liquid that comes in a can of pickled jalapeno peppers. You could also add some chopped jalapeño pepper if you’d like.
- Salt: I use regular you could also use fine sea salt.
Substitutions: You can use any of the vegetables suggested. For the potatoes I used yellow potatoes and for the peas I used frozen and defrosted, the carrots were fresh.
I highly suggest using TVP in lieu of the chicken. But if you don’t have any soy curls would work well, chop them into smaller pieces or pull apart. Shredded extra firm tofu would also work, just marinate it in the creamy lime dressing for 15 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.
You could add ground black pepper too if you’d like. In a pinch if you don’t have jalapeño brine you could use lime juice and add a little bit of chili powder to give it a little bit of heat.
We don’t normally use onion for this recipe but if you wanted to I would suggest something like chopped green onion for flavor, texture and color.
What Ingredients Are Not Traditional In a Traditional Mexican Recipe for Ensalada de Pollo
There are a lot of recipes out there for this creamy chicken salad recipe, but not all are traditional.
For starters the seasoning is nothing more than salt, mustard and jalapeño brine or lime juice. Run away from recipes that call for the use of taco seasoning. Like, just no!
Black beans and kidney beans are other ingredients I saw used in recipes online. No amigos, frijoles don’t belong in this salad either. Neither does bell pepper!
How to Make Vegan Ensalada de Pollo
This vibrant and versatile recipe offers a delightful mix of textures and flavors that will surely tantalize your taste buds.
- Chop the vegetables and boil until tender. Drain and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Hydrate the TVP in the vegetable broth. You can follow the instructions from my recipe.
- In a large bowl combine the crema, mayo, mustard, salt, jalapeno brine and lime juice if using. Mix until well combined.
- Add the hydrated and squeezed TVP crumbles and mix until well coated with the dressing.
- Fold in the cooked veggies. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
How to Serve
You can serve like my mom would and call them Mexican chicken salad tostadas. It’s probaly the most common way to serve this easy dish.
Another way is with saltine crackers or crispy tortilla chips, and it can be either a main meal or as a snack or appetizer.
If you want a non-traditional but low carb way of serving Mexican ensalada de pollo, you could scoop some on a bed of lettuce to make low-carb lettuce wraps.
How to Store Leftovers
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days.
Because this just keeps tasting better after it’s made, it makes a great way to prepare and use as meal prep for your week.
Ensalada de Pollo Recipe
Amigos as you can see from this easy recipe, that uses simple ingredients, it’s a must try.
The salad is creamy, a little tangy and it doesn’t take much time to prepare. For me, it’s the best dish on a bright sunshiny day. It’s the perfect salad on hot days served with a watermelon agua fresca.
I also love this recipe because it’s a crowd pleaser. I’ve fed it to non-vegans and they couldn’t tell that the meat was TVP and not chicken.
This dish is versatile, delicious, and perfect for any occasion. Its bright flavors and vibrant colors make it a great addition to picnics, potlucks, or simply as a quick meal on a hot summer day.
Don’t forget to share your feedback in the comment section, with a star rating, and do spread the love for this delicious veganized Mexican ensalada de pollo on social media.
Looking for a Barro Plate Like Mine
Amigos so many of you ask me where I get my beautiful Mexican pottery from. The answer is Mexico. I know many of you can’t travel so I’ve put together a gorgeous collection from Amazon. Click the image below to go check it out.
Ensalada de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Salad Made Vegan)
- 1 cup TVP crumbles*
- 3/4 cup white potato peeled & cubed into small pieces
- 1/2 cup carrot peeled & cubed
- 1/4 cup peas frozen and defrosted or fresh
- 1/2 cup vegan crema
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1.5 Tablespoons jalapeño brine
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard or yellow
- Bring water to a boil in a medium pot, add the potato and carrots and boil until tender. In the last few minutes you can add the frozen peas to thaw and warm up. Drain and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Hydrate the TVP by following my recipe instructions here.
- Combine the crema, mayo, mustard, salt, jalapeno brine and lime juice if using, in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Mix in the hydrated TVP and mix until well coated with the dressing.
- Fold in the cooked veggies. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve on tostadas or saltine crackers or with corn chips.
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…