Copycat Max and Erma’s Santa Fe Chicken Salad

There’s a Max and Erma’s restaurant right next door to the Premium Outlet Mall in Edinburgh, Indiana. We make it a point to stop by for lunch or dinner there whenever we can. Plus, you get to sit while you eat and after a few hours at the mall, you need that. Nine times out of ten I order the Santa Fe chicken salad. It’s a huge salad, with just the right toppings, and really, really good chicken. And when I’m not at the outlet mall, I can make a pretty darned good copycat of the same salad at home without a lot of fuss.
Copycat Max and Erma's Santa Fe Chicken Salad

You can substitute chicken tenders for the chicken breast if you wish. I like my chicken a bit spicy so I load up on the hot sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste. The chicken itself is outstanding.

To get the fancy dressing swirls on my copycat Max and Erma’s Santa Fe chicken salad I put some Ranch in a squeeze bottle with three nozzles and go to town on it. Hey, it’s fun.

Also try my Southern Fried chicken salad and my copycat of Olive Garden’s salad mix.

Copycat Max and Erma's Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Author Mike


For the salad

  • Your favorite greens iceberg, green leaf, and/or red leaf lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • Fried chicken, from below
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • tomatoes chopped or sliced
  • fried tortilla strips
  • Ranch dressing

For the fried chicken

  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 large
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Vegetable oil for frying


For the salad

  • Divide lettuce between two large plates. Add the chicken, cheeses, tomatoes, and tortilla strips.
  • Drizzle with Ranch dressing and serve.

For the fried chicken

  • Cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces or strips, as desired. Transfer to a bowl or pie pan.
  • Stir in the buttermilk and hot sauce. Let marinate for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
  • Combine the flour, salt, black pepper, chipotle chile powder, oregano and cumin and place into another pie pan.
  • Heat 2" of oil to 350 F in a deep fryer or Dutch oven.
  • Working in batches, remove chicken from the buttermilk. Shake off the excess and then coat well in the flour mixture. Return the chicken pieces to the buttermilk and turn to coat. Shake off the excess and again coat in the flour mixture.
  • Fry 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown, turning once.
  • Remove to a wire rack or paper towel-lined to cool slightly and drain.