My love affair with this salad began 30 years ago at Michigan State University at a great Mexican restaurant, “El Azteco”, that remains an institution there. Called a Topopo Salad (Topopo means “Volcano”), it has often been described as a Mexican chicken salad on steriods. One look at it and you’ll understand.
It starts with a base of refried beans and then moves on to melted cheese, then guacamole. The salad is a combination of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, green onion, jalapenos, shredded chicken and green peas and it’s dressed with a light vinaigrette and topped with Parmesan cheese. At least I think it is and that’s how I’ve created our home version of it. And I’m pretty sure that this will fast become a favorite of your home too!
Mexican Salad Recipe – The Topopo Salad
Serves 4 (can be made as one huge salad on a platter or 4 large individual salads)
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. sugar
For Tortilla Chip Layer:
- 1 bag Tortilla chips
- 2 cans refried beans (I prefer black refried beans)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar (or a bit more)
- 2 cups guacamole*
- 1 iceberg lettuce head, finely shredded
- 4 cups shredded chicken
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
- 1 jalapenos, minced
- 8 oz. frozen peas, thawed
- 1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, very finely grated
- prepared salsa, for serving
Make Vinaigrette: Combine oil, vinegar and sugar in a bowl, mix well to combine. Set aside.
Make Salad: Combine lettuce, peas, 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, jalapenos, green onions and tomatoes in a large bowl. Set aside.
Prepare Bottom Layer:
- Turn on broiler.
- Heat the refried beans in a pan and add a Tbls. of water to thin them; combine well and heat until just barely simmering.
- On a large oven-proof platter, or on 4 individual plates, place a solid layer (some will overlap) of Tortilla chips. Spread the refried beans as evenly as possible over the chips. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until cheese melts. Remove from oven and assemble.
To Assemble the Mexican Salad:
- Mix the dressing until well combined. Then dress the salad mixture, starting with 1/3 of the vinaigrette and adding more as you feel needed.
- Top the melted cheese with guacamole. Then, mound the salad on top of the Tortilla layer. Sprinkle with the remaining finely grated cheese. Serve and enjoy! (pass the salsa!!)
*stores like Costco and Sams sells terrific guacamole in their refrigerated sections. I then store them in my freezer and take out as needed (usually it’s 4 pouches per package).