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Salpicón de Pollo is a refreshing shredded chicken, radish and mint salad that’s popular in Mexico, Guatemala and much of Latin America. Enjoy it topped on crispy tostadas or tucked inside soft tacos for a party appetizer, picnic food or game day snack.
It’s incredibly easy to make with either fresh chicken breast or leftover rotisserie chicken.
What Exactly is Salpicón?
In French cuisine, the term salpicon is a dish of one or more ingredients diced finely and bound with a sauce. While there are many varieties of salpicon around the world — beef, seafood salpicón and even pork — the chicken version is probably my favourite. Its delicate flavour really allows the other ingredients in the salad to shine.
Every country seems to have their own version of salpicón de pollo. In Peru, it’s made with minced carrot, peas and corn while salpicón de pollo Boliviano usually contains potato, hard boiled egg and mayo.
This version of salpicón de pollo is based on the one my Guatemalan mother-in-law makes at the family ranch in Zacapa in eastern Guatemala. It contains chicken mixed with minced fresh radishes, mint, cilantro, onion and tomato in a lime vinaigrette.
Salpicón de pollo Mexicana is usually served on a tostada and often includes shredded lettuce or crema as a topping. Both versions are a fiesta of fresh flavours and crisp vegetables.
Why We Love Salpicón de Pollo – Mexican Chicken Salad Tostadas
- While this recipe is very similar to salpicón de res (shredded beef and mint salad), the chicken version is faster to make as you can purchase pre-cooked chicken or poach it quickly.
- It can be made ahead which will save you time if you’re hosting a party or want to get started on an early dinner.
- It’s a versatile appetizer in which the ingredients can be changed up a bit to match your personal tastes.
- Unlike mayonnaise-based salads that can be high in calories, this salad contains no mayo.
- The addition of radishes gives this salad a unique and satisfying crunch.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Tostadas – A tostada is a flat corn tortilla that’s deep-fried or baked until crisp. You can buy them at a Latino grocery store or easily make them at home.
- Chicken – Poached boneless and skinless chicken breasts, leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken, preferably white meat only.
- Jalapeño – This fresh hot pepper adds a touch of heat to the salad. It’s diced very finely but you can substitute fresh poblano pepper if you’d like less kick.
- Red Onion – Red onion gives a savoury kick that pairs well with the other fresh flavours.
- Radishes – Peppery, crispy and colourful, fresh radishes are a popular ingredient in Guatemalan and Mexican cuisine.
- Mint and Cilantro – These fresh herbs pair well with radishes, tomatoes and lime juice.
- Tomato – Ripe but firm tomatoes add fresh flavour and colour.
- Lime Juice – Provides a fresh pop of flavour and acidity to the vinaigrette.
- Naranja Agria – This juice made of bitter Seville Oranges is an important ingredient as it adds a hint of vibrant citrus flavour to the dish. But you can substitute unsweetened orange juice mixed with grapefruit juice (or apple cider vinegar) in equal parts. Or just replace it with unsweetened orange juice or lime juice. It will still be delicious!
- Light Tasting Olive Oil – Oil is needed for the vinaigrette. Be sure to buy an oil that is light tasting. You can also use avocado oil.
Step by Step Instructions for Tostadas de Pollo
Please scroll down to the recipe card for exact quantities and full method.
1. Place chicken breasts in a large pot with salt and enough water or broth to cover it by at least one inch. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is white throughout but still moist.
2. While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, radishes, jalapeño and herbs you’ll be using. The key is to chop them finely and make sure they’re completely dry. For the best texture, chop everything by hand rather in a food processor.
3. Seed the tomatoes and chop finely. You can vary the proportions of radishes, tomatoes, mint and cilantro according to taste.
4. Mix the lime juice, naranja agria (bitter orange juice) along with olive oil in a separate bowl for the dressing. If you don’t have naranja agria substitute unsweetened orange juice mixed with grapefruit juice (or apple cider vinegar) in equal parts. Or replace with more lime juice.
5. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the liquid (reserve the broth for White Bean and Spinach Soup) and allow to cool enough so you can separate the meat into long strands.
6. Shred the chicken using two forks. It’s the same method used when making the popular beef stew Hilachas Guatemaltecas. Once the chicken is shredded lengthwise, you can chop it into smaller pieces crosswise.
7. Combine the chopped chicken meat with the vegetables, stir in the vinaigrette dressing and toss lightly. Add salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
8. Cover and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to merge.
9. In the meantime, make the tostadas if you’re not using store-bought.
How to Make Tostadas – No Fry Method
- Preheat oven to 425. Brush both sides of a corn tortilla with vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
- Add enough tortillas to the pan without overlapping.
- Bake in oven for 4-5 minutes per side or until crisp and brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
10. Spread a scoop of salpicón de pollo on top of each tostada or serve it in a large serving dish with taco chips. Garnish with slices of avocado, slivers of red onion, sprigs of mint and/or cilantro.
How to Serve This Shredded Chicken, Radish and Mint Salad
- Serve tostadas of salpicón de pollo immediately.
- Accompany with a bottled hot sauce like Marie Sharp’s Habanero sauce or Mexican Salsa Huichol on the side. Or, a colourful homemade Salsa Verde or Mango and Black Bean Salsa.
- We love to serve these tostadas as an appetizer at a BBQ party with Grilled Steak in Beer Marinade and Black Beans and Rice.
Storing and Freezing
- Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve well chilled.
- Or poach the chicken a day ahead. Wrap and store in the fridge.
- You can also cook the chicken in advance and freeze it until ready to use. Then, just thaw and use it in the recipe as directed.
- Storing: Store chilled salpicón de pollo in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Spoon it onto the tostadas or serve in a bowl when ready to serve.
- Store baked tostadas (without topping) covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Salpicón de Pollo Variations
- You can also make this dish from leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. Simply remove any skin and excess fat from the chicken, then shred or chop it into small pieces. Then add the vinaigrette dressing, herbs and vegetables according to the recipe instructions.
- Add pickled jalapeños or green chiles.
- If you have extra radishes, use them up in this recipe for Chojin – Guatemalan Radish Salad.
- Swap out the jalapeños for green poblano chiles.
- Vary the proportions of mint and cilantro. Hate cilantro? Increase the quantity of fresh mint or substitute with fresh parsley.
- Add crumbled queso fresco, cotija or salty queso de Zacapa. Or drizzle some crema Mexicana overtop
- Tuck it inside a soft tortilla or wrap for a portable picnic.
Other Chilled Salads and Appetizers You’ll Love
- Guatemalan Shrimp Ceviche
- Tahitian Poisson Cru – Seafood in Coconut Milk Salad
- Spring Pea Gazpacho
- Apple Jicama Slaw
- Salpicon de Res – Chilled Beef, Mint and Radish Salad
Salpicón de Pollo: Shredded Chicken, Radish and Mint Salad
- large pot
- 3 cups chicken breasts boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Or 3 cups leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken, preferably white meat.
- 5 cups chicken stock or water or just enough to cover chicken by at least one inch
- 8 stalks fresh mint or hierba buena
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 Tablespoons Naranja Agria orange juice or substitute orange juice and grapefruit juice/cider vinegar in equal parts or increase lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil extra virgin light
- 1 large red onion
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and stemmed
- 4 tomatoes seeded
- 1 bunch radishes 5 to 7
- 5 stalks fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- slivers of red onion, slices of avocado, cotija cheese or queso de Zacapa, chopped cilantro
- 12 corn tortillas
- To poach the chicken, place raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large pot with salt and enough water or broth to cover it by at least one inch. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is white throughout but still moist.
- While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions. For the best texture, chop everything by hand rather in a food processor.
- Remove the mint leaves from the stalks and chop them very finely along with the cilantro and radishes. Discard the stalks. The key is to make sure the herbs are completely dry before chopping.
- Remove the seeds and pulp and then dice the tomatoes finely.
- Wearing gloves, remove the seeds and interior from the jalapeño pepper and mince the pepper into tiny pieces.
- Once the chicken has cooked remove it from the liquid (reserve broth for another purpose) and cool slightly. If you're using leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken remove any excess fat and skin. Shred it into thin strips using two forks or your fingers. Then dice it crosswise into small pieces.
- Combine the chicken and chopped mint, cilantro, onion, tomato, radishes and jalapeno pepper in a large non-metallic bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime juice from two limes, bitter orange juice, olive oil, plus salt and pepper.
- Pour the lime juice mixture over the meat and vegetable mixture and toss lightly with a fork.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more to allow the flavours to merge.
- Serve as a side salad or spread scoops of chicken salpicón on top of crispy tostadas and garnish. Options include slices of avocado, slivers of red onion, sprigs of mint and/or cilantro, crumbled cotija cheese, queso de Zacapa or crema Mexicana drizzled over top.
How to Make Tostadas - No-Fry Method
- Preheat oven to 425. Brush both sides of a corn tortilla with vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet. Make sure the tortillas aren't overlapping. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Bake in oven for 4-5 minutes per side or until crisp and brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
- Reserve the chicken broth for use as stock in another recipe.
- Vary the proportions of radishes, tomatoes, mint and cilantro according to taste.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
Read more about Michele Peterson.