Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad
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It’s finally getting chilly here. I am equal parts sad and excited about this meteorological development. On the one hand, I’m glad to be not continuously sweating. And I’m chuffed to make friends with my hoodies again. But on the other hand, I know what fall leads to. It leads to winter and because I live in Canada, that is a less-than-appetizing thought. I saw someone on Instagram describe autumn as the seasonal equivalent to the “Sunday Scaries” and I think it fits. But there’s nothing I can do to keep the winter at bay, so I can at least find solace in the cozy comfort foods I love. Now, obviously, today’s Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad doesn’t fall under that category. But I thought I’d squeeze one last summer-friendly meal in before I bid adieu to summer.

Red onion cut in half on a cutting board.

This Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad borrows the format from the iconic dish but switches up the casting. This salad features shredded BBQ chicken, creamy avocado, sharp cheddar, juicy cherry tomatoes, jalapeño slices, pickled red onion, fresh cilantro, and blue corn tortilla chips served on a bed of baby gem lettuce. The salad is accompanied by an addictive spicy Chipotle Sour Cream Dressing.

Pouring vinegar over sliced red onion in a bowl.

This isn’t the first time I’ve played with the Cobb salad format (remember this California roll situation?) and I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I think I’m drawn to the Cobb because it’s obviously visually appealing, but it also puts all the salad toppings exactly where I can see them. When you toss every ingredient together in a bowl, the heavier items tend to fall to the bottom, so you wind up with a plateful of lettuce and have to go on a deep dive to find the bit of avocado. But with the Cobb, you can load up your plate with your preferred lettuce-to-topping ratio, whatever it may be.

A spatchcocked chicken in a cast-iron skillet covered in a BBQ dry rub ready for the oven.

While I did dub this salad as summer-friendly, you can easily make it all year long. It mostly relies on vegetables that can be grown in greenhouses. And when do you not have a face for Mexican flavors? I generally tire of flavor combos if I have them more than twice in a row. But you could feed me Mexican food morning, noon, and night and I would not complain. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Sliced cherry tomatoes on a cutting board.

Although this Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad doesn’t look like a complicated affair, it does take two days to make. Yes, I know. How can a salad take two days? Well, it can take two days. There is a workaround for those of us who aren’t into delayed gratification. I say this without an ounce of disapproval. The last place you should be feeling stressed is in your home kitchen. If you’re a 30-minute or less kind of cook, live your life, queen. But if you’re like me and take great pleasure in the joy layaway system, this next part is for you.

Roast chicken on a cutting board covered in a BBQ rub

This recipe starts with a dry rub. You’ve seen it before. It’s my favorite all-purpose dry rub. I make a giant batch and keep it on hand for moments like these. I originally developed the rub for pork but I prefer it on chicken. Rub this legendary rub all over a spatchcocked chicken. If you’re unfamiliar, spatchcocking is removing the backbone from a chicken before opening it like a book. Season the chicken thoroughly front to back. Place it on a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and leave it to chill uncovered for a minimum of 8 hours. Overnight is better. Is the two-day thing starting to make sense?

Sliced jalapeño on a cutting board.

You can of course skip this dry brining interlude but there are benefits for taking your time here. Dry brining does give you a more flavorful bird with crispier skin, so I want you to think long and hard before making any rash decisions. If you’re not keen on waiting, dry brining, or even roasting your own chicken, that’s why they invented the grocery store rotisserie chicken. And you know what? There is no shame in that game. 

Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

While the chicken is dry brining, we can get a few other things out of the way. I mean, you’re standing up in the kitchen – we have to make the most of this visit. Let’s pickle some red onion. Now, these fuchsia beauties pack a punch and I can’t find a red onion that isn’t huge, so I typically only use half of one for this. Slice your onion into thin half-moons. Place the slices in a bowl and add salt, sugar, and dried oregano. Cover the onion with water and white vinegar. Normally, I would say you can use whatever vinegar you prefer here and you can. But I would urge you to use white vinegar. White vinegar will not impact the color of the finished pickle at all. And when pickled red onions look as good as this, you want them as unadulterated as possible. 

Leave the onions to pickle overnight, which is perfect because you’re already waiting on the chicken. Again, if you’re in the “no waiting” camp, you can either skip the onions or leave them to pickle slightly at room temperature. You will have to wait a minimum of one hour to have anything you could reasonably call a pickle. But it’s still faster than the alternative.

Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

Another thing you can make on day one is the dressing. And the dressing is far from a chore. Pop all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to a week. And if you dry brine the chicken, pickle the onions, and make the dressing on day one, day two is pretty much cake. All you have to do is roast and shred the bird, chop some veg, and plate as carefully or haphazardly as you please. See? You do get an easy weeknight meal in the end.

And that’s everything you need to know about this Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad. It’s bright, light, and completely satisfying with enough spice to keep you warm even as the nights get a little cooler and longer.


Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

This Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad features shredded chicken, sharp cheddar, pickled red onions, blue corn tortilla chips, and a host of fresh veggies served on a bed of baby gem lettuce alongside a chipotle sour cream dressing.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Brining/pickling Time 12 hours
Course Salad
Servings 4


  • 1 Large Cast Iron Skillet
  • 1 meat thermometer
  • 1 Food Processor


Spatchcock BBQ Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper

Pickled Red Onion

  • ½ large red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup water

Chipotle Sour Cream Dressing

  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • cup sour cream
  • 1 lime juiced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Chicken Tostada Cobb Salad

  • 4 heads baby gem lettuce torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 BBQ chicken shredded
  • 1 batch Pickled Red Onions
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 avocado cut into chunks
  • 2 jalapeñoes sliced
  • 100g (3.5oz) sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro torn, for sprinkling
  • 1 batch Chipotle Sour Cream Dressing see above


For the BBQ Chicken

  • Remove the backbone from the chicken and open it like a book. Flip it so the breast is facing up. Apply pressure to break the breast bone, so it will lie flat. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
  • In a bowl whisk to combine all the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the rub all over the chicken and place it on a cooling rack inside a baking sheet. ** Transfer to the fridge and let dry brine for 12 hours. 
  • The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken in a cast-iron skillet, breast-side facing up. Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes or until the juices run clear and the breast registers an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Set the chicken aside to cool for 30 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and set aside until ready to serve. ***

For the Pickled Red Onion

  • Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Transfer to the fridge and let pickle overnight ****

For the Dressing

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a small pitcher or gravy boat and chill until ready to serve. 

For the Salad

  • Pile the lettuce onto a large platter. Arrange the chicken, pickled red onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese in a series of rows on top of the lettuce. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with the dressing on the side. 


** This recipe makes a lot of the rub. Don’t use it all. Store it in a resealable container and use it as needed on chicken, fish, pork, and/or beef. 
*** A whole chicken will likely give you more meat than you will need for the salad. Any leftovers can be cooled to room temperature before being transferred to a resealable container and stored in the fridge for up to 1 week. 
**** I like to start my pickles right after I season the chicken. That way when the chicken is ready to roast, my pickles are all set to go. 
Keyword baby gem lettuce, chicken, cobb salad, tortilla chips

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