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Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad (Applebee’s Copycat)

I took the classic Fiesta Lime Chicken from Applebee’s and reworked it into a big ass salad. I also made it paleo and Whole30 friendly!

Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad | Whole30 recipes | paleo recipes |

This recipe has been updated (again) with paleo/Whole30 adaptations! Scroll down to find the adaptations in the recipe notes. 

Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad | Whole30 recipes | paleo recipes |

It’s almost a tragedy that one of my favorite recipes on Perry’s Plate was, up until now, represented by a couple of the most unappetizing photos on the site.


Wow, I was really selling it with those, wasn’t I?

Sometimes I look back at older posts and cringe, but I leave many of them alone. Why? It’s nice to see the progress I’ve made over the last four years, and it’s a good reminder that everyone has to start somewhere!

So, yes. This chicken is a copycat recipe from Applebee’s Fiesta Lime Chicken dish (formerly, Tequila Lime Chicken). It was my favorite dish back in my early college years, and I was thrilled when I saw a copycat recipe in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

My favorite part of the whole thing? That Mexi-Ranch sauce stuff mixed with the tortilla chips underneath the chicken. You know, the healthy part of the dish.

Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad | Whole30 recipes | paleo recipes |

After marinating in a smoky (literally) concoction, you grill the chicken, then top it with that sauce (swoon) and some shredded cheese. Pop it into the broiler to get things nice and melty.

So what’s with all the lettuce? Well, we like to swap grains for greens at our house, so instead of serving this with rice (more carbs), it gets lightened up with some Romaine lettuce tossed with that sauce.

And avocados, because we love avocados.

One of our (yes, the kids, too) most favorite meals is a great big salad with lots of hearty toppings. A little…. OK very messy looking, but I seriously want to put my face them and not come up for air until I’m finished.

If you make one of my recipes, be sure to post it on social media and tag me at @perrysplate or #perrysplate so I can send you some love!

Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad

Fiesta Lime Chicken Salad

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

I took the classic Fiesta Lime Chicken from Applebee's and reworked it into a big ass salad. I also made it paleo and Whole30 friendly!


For the chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken fillets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid mesquite smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Mexi-Ranch Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons buttermilk (or 2 Tablespoons regular milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced tomato (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash ground black pepper

You'll also need . . .

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar/monterey jack cheese blend
  • 3 cups crumbled tortilla chips or baked tortilla strips
  • 2 Romaine hearts, trimmed and chopped
  • Diced tomato or pico de gallo, sliced avocados, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges, for garnish


  1. Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise, so you have really thin cuts. Combine the chicken with the rest of the ingredients in that ingredient section in a large zip top bag. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or several hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the Mexi-Ranch sauce in a small bowl. Chill until ready to use. (This tastes better if it sits for an hour or so before you use it.)
  3. Prep the rest of the garnishes while the chicken is marinating. Turn on your oven broiler and preheat your BBQ grill (or stove-top grill pan) to medium-high heat. (Yes, you'll need both!) Grill chicken, flipping once, until cooked through, 10-12 minutes.
  4. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet. Spread about a tablespoon of Mexi-Ranch sauce on each breast and top with a few pinches of shredded cheese. Broil chicken for 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and begins to brown in spots.
  5. Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes before slicing it.
  6. Toss the salad greens with about 1/2 cup of Mexi-Ranch sauce.
  7. Assemble salads by placing a bed of lettuce on a plate and topping it with sliced chicken, tortilla strips, diced tomato, avocados, cilantro, and lime wedges. Add more dressing if necessary.


Paleo/Whole30 adaptation:

  • For the marinade: half the amount of water and use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce.
  • For the dressing: use 1 cup of paleo mayonnaise for the Greek yogurt and sour cream, almond milk or coconut milk for the buttermilk.
  • Omit the tortilla chips and use a couple of Tablespoons of nutritional yeast in place of the cheese.

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Thursday 26th of August 2021

Your new pictures are fabulous! That avocado flower is impressive, I can't wait to try this recipe out😍

Natalie Perry

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Thanks so much!

Mindy O

Monday 15th of April 2013

Had this tonight for dinner! YUM! Fantastic!


Monday 12th of November 2012

WE love this. Like love, love. We actually made it a few weeks ago and have been dying to make it again. SO smart to adapt it into a salad. That's the way we'll make this next.

Erin @ Texanerin Baking

Sunday 21st of October 2012

Copycat recipes are so fun! This month I've done Chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches, Chili's chicken crispers, and Panera mac and cheese. It feels so good to make something you can't even get otherwise. :)

And this looks lovely! Really fun dish. And nice that your kids love salad. I hope my kids don't inherit my evil vegetable hating genes...

Julia {The Roasted Root}

Tuesday 16th of October 2012

I have been re-photographing recipes I posted a while back and it does give me a goo crack up to see how poor some of the photographs were...I have to admit, I don't think your old ones of this salad are bad at all! I still have a ton to learn about photography, so one day hopefully my shots will be as beautiful as yours :) Your salad looks FAN-tastic...and the melty cheese...mmmm mmmm girl!

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