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Santa Fe Salad with Cilantro-Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette

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Santa Fe Salad Salad (Cheesecake Factory Copycat) |

Salads make me smile. :)  Fresh salads, pasta salads, fruit salads, and even my grandma’s jello salad all hold a special place in my heart. But I must confess — this has not always been so. In fact, up until just about ten years ago, I was anti– salad! (I know, I know…picky eater…didn’t know what I was missing.)  Thankfully one trip to the Cheesecake Factory changed all of that. A persuasive friend insisted that I try a bite of her Santa Fe salad, and the rest was history…

To this day, it still remains one of my favorite salads ever. The ingredient mix is fun and fresh, but the magic, of course, is in the dressing. Oh my word – it is delightful, and oh-so-rich. The blend of the peanut butter, lime, and cilantro is brilliant, and is complimented well by my beloved favorite ingredient – sesame oil. I’ll often whip up a double batch of the vinaigrette just to have some extra on hand, or to use in another recipe as a marinade or sauce.

My confession and disclaimer, of course, is that this is only my attempt at a copy of this recipe. The original is still my favorite, but I definitely enjoy this as a close second. Also love that you can feed four at home for what one individual salad costs at the restaurant! Still…props, kudos, cheers, hurrah, and bravo to the original creative chefs at the Cheesecake Factory for not only introducing this yummy creation, but for helping a picky 16-yr-old finally go “green”. :)


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Santa Fe Salad with Cilantro-Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.3 from 3 reviews
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 80 minutes
  • Yield: 4 -6 servings 1x


This Santa Fe salad with cilantro-lime-peanut vinaigrette is so savory and refreshing — perfect for lunch or dinner!


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki marinade
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head romaine or leaf lettuce
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, stems cut off
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups toasted corn tortilla strips
  • Cilantro-lime-peanut vinaigrette (see below)

Cilantro-Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I prefer natural)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. lime zest (approx. zest of one lime)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil


  1. To make vinaigrette, mix the first eight ingredients in a food processor. Then slowly add olive oil to mixture, and blend until smooth. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  2. To prepare salad, marinate chicken at least 1 hour in teriyaki marinade in gallon-size plastic bag or bowl. Once it is ready, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts and cook 7-10 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear. Remove and let cool, then slice into thin strips.
  3. While chicken is cooking, wash and dry the lettuce, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Mix in cilantro, corn, beans, and tomatoes. Divide the mixture between the four plates, and top each salad with chicken, then cheese, then tortilla strips. Dress with vinaigrette, and finish with freshly-ground black pepper.


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20 comments on “Santa Fe Salad with Cilantro-Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette”

  1. Absolutely delish!! As my husband said “this is restaurant quality”. Funny story/cooking mistake I thought a salad for a meal (plus cornbread) wouldnt be substantial enough for him…so I made chicken tortialla soup too! Soup and salad, why not…ya, the soup is in the freezer for later, haha. Anyhow, great recipe, thanks. Now on to the peaches and cream..:)

  2. This salad is my absolute favorite! The recipe for the dressing was excellent and delicious. I’m making the dressing again tonight. This is an awesome blog – so glad I found it. Thanks!

  3. I tried this and the peanut flavor overpowered the vinaigrette.

  4. The actual recipe is posted on their website. Here is the web address:

  5. I’m so excited to have this recipe. This is my favorite salad at the Cheesecake Factory. I didn’t have the recipe for the dressing and can’t wait to try it!

  6. I love this salad it is my absolute favorite. Thank you for posting it!!!

  7. I added 1 T of garlic chili paste to the dressing to give it a little kick…..delish!!!!!

  8. I’ve been looking for a copycat dressing and yours nails
    it! I make this weekly ? Thank you!!

  9. I really don’t like teriyaki flavour, does anyone have another marinade recommendation that would work well for this?

  10. I am only commenting on the dressing recipe. Amazing!!! My kid said a little to much peanut butter but after it sat for a couple days and I mixed it back up it was amazing. I feel like I am eating a legit Cheesecake Factory salad but at way less cost because I had all the ingredients already except for Limes and Cilantro! YUM!!!!! Thank you so much!

    • We’re glad you enjoyed it, Stephanie — thanks for letting us know! :)

  11. I make this salad quite a bit but use the cilantro and peanut vinaigrette mixed together from Trader Joe’s..
    It’s yummy.

  12. OMG. Do you know what it’s like to have a restaurant make something you love and then discontinue it? I mean love it so much that you think about it all the time? Constantly trying to make it and crack the code? It’s hapoened to me twice. A peanut cilantro dressing was one of them. I’ve come close To cracking the recipe before. It’s been years since I’ve had the original. Then I saw this! This dressing is almost spot on. (I might Tweak a little) but it’s so so so close, I almost Cried! When I read The dressing recipe I thought. OMG! That’s it… Our dinner was over. Everything was cleaned up. We were watching TV and I got up to make this dressing. When I gave My husband a spoonful (he had no idea what I was Making) he said “it’s that dressing!!!!”. Tomorrow I will Imitate that salad I remember. Thank you thank you thank you. It’s amazing.

  13. Absolutely delicious dressing. I made a Santa Fe Quinoa salad. And used this dressing . It was perfect.

  14. Sounds pretty close… Only thing that’s missing in the dressing is cumin. I just had their Santa Fe salad yesterday and the flavor is fresh in my mind and taste buds…