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McDonald's Southwest Salad

I've never liked any of the McDonald's salads...until now.

The salad ingredients are really fresh and the combination of flavors...grilled chicken, black beans, tortilla strips, the Paul Newman dressing...and the slice of lime on the side. I'm actually impressed! And at $4.59 and about 450 calories including dressing, I think it's a winner.

Has anyone else tried it?

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  1. It grosses me out that McDonald's uses artificial flavors in items like salads. As a result, their salads have always tasted completely weird to me, and I gave up on them a long time ago. Give me actual grilled chicken, not smoke flavored chicken, bleh.

    7 Replies
    1. re: silence9

      I, myself, have found McDonald's salads to be very fresh - at least at my local McDonald's, I've found nary a wilted piece of lettuce!!! : ) Don't know how they do it --
      I haven't tried the new Southwestern one yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

      1. re: aurora50

        Agreed, the lettuce is better there than at most "chain" sit down establishments. Both the caesar w/ grilled chicken and bacon ranch w/ grilled chicken are fantastic without the added calories of the croutons or dressing.

        Yes I eat them without dressing and they're great. Although admittedly I pick off the clumps of cheese on the bacon ranch salad.

        1. re: mruser

          The cheese and dressings have less fat than the grilled chicken. If you are picking out stuff for calories' sake, keep that in mind.

          1. re: mojoeater

            No, just avoiding fat calories... the calories from the chicken are protein, which, for me, the more the better. The chicken only adds 2 g. fat and .5 g. saturated fat but 24 g. of protein!

            I'm pretty sure the base 3.5 g of saturated fat is coming from the cheese and bacon.

            1. re: mruser

              All of McD's grilled chicken is coated in margarine before cooking. And each salad has a different glaze, which adds to the fat.

              1. re: mojoeater

                The bacon ranch and ceasar do not contain a glaze.

                1. re: mruser

                  ok guys, I've just finished the Southwestern Salad. It's very good!! : )
                  And I only used half of my dressing, because the salad really didn't need much of it, and as I said before, the lettuce is so fresh!

    2. McDonald's salads are by far the best thing they have. I actually prefer then to most salad bars. They are, astonishingly, almost always fresh (better than most grocery stores), all the ingredients seem to be of reasonable quality, and without the meat, cheap. They are only calorie laden if you get them with meat and use the high fat dressings and croutons. Southwest without chicken is 140 calories, the Asian salad is 150 calories and the Ceasar salad is 90 calories. The balsamic vinagrette, which I think is just fine, adds 40 calories. The salads ordered with judgment, are fewer calories than one of those puny cheeseburgers. If one salad doesn't fill you up (and it probably will), getting two is a lot less calories than a quarter pounder with cheese or a Big Mac or a medium fries or a small shake. A Big Mac plus a small shake and medium fries is the equal of nearly three of the highest calorie salads (bacon ranch) with the highest fat dressing.

      1. I tried it and thought it was horrible. The grilled chicken tasted great, but the greens were almost 100% white iceberg -- not even in the same galaxy as the (generally) excellent mix of greens they use in the $1 side salad. Won't be wasting my money on that again. . .

        9 Replies
        1. re: Covert Ops

          Whoa! Where do you live? I definitely did NOT get the same salad as you did. I work in West Covina, California, and all the McDonald's salads I've ever gotten have been a fresh mix of mescalun and various other greens - I mean, every single time I order one. Maybe talk to the management where you are? Sounds like they have the good greens, they just didn't use them on your salad for some reason --

          1. re: aurora50

            Mesclun at McD? I'm in L.A. and have probably eaten 3 or 4 McD's salads, ever. Each one was ALL iceberg. Except maybe that little side salad that had some sort of darker green lettuce thrown in. I haven't had one of their salads in over a year, though.

            1. re: slacker

              I'm tell'n ya - I get mesclun greens!!! (Unless I'm totally whacked out on that weed I've been smoking - JUST KIDDING) -
              Really, try it again, you just might be surprised!

              1. re: aurora50

                I agree - there is usually little iceberg in my experience.
                According to McDonald's their "Salad Mix", which is in all their salads, is defined as:
                "Salad Mix: Iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spring mix (may contain baby red romaine, baby green romaine, baby red leaf, baby green leaf, baby red Swiss chard, baby red oak, baby green oak, lolla rosa, tango, tatsoi, arugula, mizuna, radicchio, frisee)"
                I have heard from others that sometimes you get mostly iceberg. Wonder if they use iceberg when they run out of the Mix. Maybe from the burger assembly area?

                1. re: Griller141

                  The local McDonald's here makes salads with a sprinkling of mesclun mix (mostly baby red and green romaine, but I've seen a couple stray pieces of oakleaf, too) on top of a bed of iceberg lettuce. They're overwhelmingly iceberg, though. I suspect there may be regional differences, as here in the Midwest I suspect many people are still preferring iceberg lettuce.

                  In fact, I was in a sit down restaurant last night and overheard a male customer saying he like iceberg and romaine, but didn't want "any of that mixed salad greens" in his salad. To be clear, there are plenty of sit down places that serve mesclun, etc. salads here, but it's less common in fast food here. Wendy's does the same thing with their salads.

                  1. re: Griller141

                    I work for McDonalds and have made each salad that we sell. There are two seperate bags of salad mix, one of all Iceberg and carrots and a seperate bag with a mixture of" baby red romaine, baby green romaine, baby red leaf, baby green leaf, baby red Swiss chard, baby red oak, baby green oak, lolla rosa, tango, tatsoi, arugula, mizuna, radicchio, frisee". You mix the two bags together in order to assemble the salad but the iceberg bag is easily 5 times larger than the more premium smaller bag. If all you're getting when you get a salad is iceberg, it is the person assembling the salads at the store you are purchasing the salads at. ALL mcdonalds nationwide receive the same salad mix, any variation from one store to another is human error. Also if your side salads are all no iceberg/ a minority of iceberg then they aren't being prepared correctly either.

                    1. re: AnyaMind

                      Interesting! Where do you work, AnyaMind? What part of the country? (Just curious)

                  2. re: aurora50

                    You're not high, aurora, I always get great greens on the dollar side salads. (I live in Florida BTW.) Very little iceberg, sometimes none.
                    When I got the Southwest Salad, they also forgot to give me tortilla strips. (I didn't realize they must come separately, like croutons, until I finished half my salad and noticed they were gone.) So yeah, it might be that particular location. :-P

                2. re: aurora50

                  My salad also had mesclun - I'm in NJ. It had a couple of pieces of iceberg but was mostly composed of a very good mix of mesaclun and other greens. Incredibly fresh too. I was very impressed - I NEVER buy salads from fast food places and this one could convert me.

              2. I did not care for it either. Southwest salads never appealed to me but I thought I would give it a shot and that I may like it. Nope, didnt care for it. The tortilla chip strips were awful like the cheap flavored chips. I ate it but it took awhile to want to eat it all.
                I will stick to the salads I know I like....Bacon Ranch mmmm. I also loved the BK Ceaser salad but they only sell the garden salads now and I didn't like it as much.

                1. Slenderize Me: Just read a recent article about a guy who lost 40 pounds in 50 days by eating McDonald's salads for lunch and dinner. He had cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, then a salad with grilled chicken for lunch and dinner. I assume he drank either water or diet soda.

                  I was inspired to go get another Southwest salad for lunch today. Used extra lime juice and half the dressing. It's still good. Yes, iceberg in the mix but that's what makes it crunchy good. Like a taco. I've never seen anyone put frisee or arugula on a taco!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Jpan99

                    I love salad, but I can't imagine eating the same one twice a day, every day.

                    But I agree about the iceberg - it's not the demon lettuce people make it out to be. Crunchy and cool helps balance the rest of the ingredients. Just as long as you get darker greens as well.

                    1. re: piccola

                      I agree that different lettuce mixes may vary according to regional availability or other unknown factors. Do we all agree that all the lettuce is basically fresh?
                      By the way, I also tend to think their Caesar salad is tasty. : )

                      1. re: aurora50

                        One thing about McDonald's - they are so paranoid about the quality of their raw ingredients (being the obvious target of choice for food lawyers) that it really shows in the salad lettuces.

                  2. OK, so despite the big arguements about the greens, I must say that I tried it today based on what I read here, and I enjoyed it ... based on price and convenience I found it better than most.

                    1. I just tried the SW salad the other night and found it to be pretty good too. I like their Asian salad with the grilled chicken a lot more though. At least McD's is trying to meet more consumer's needs for healthier choices with these reasonably priced and tasty salads.

                      1. My wife picked one up for me on the way home from a late work night. I personally don't go to McD anymore, but it was convenient for her to go there, I just told her to bring me home whatever.

                        I was surprised, but maybe because I was expecting something worse. Good sized, mostly but not all iceberg, Paul Newman dressing, ample chicken and a lime wedge. It didn't suck.

                        1. I tried one of these yesterday for lunch. Hadn't had a McD's salad in quite some time. Thought it was better than previous I'd had(not all iceberg here in AZ) but if I"m going to pick up a fast food salad I'm going to to stick with the Jack in the Box Southwest Salad(skip the corn sticks and go easy on the dressing if watching calories/fat on the JITB salad as well!) The chicken on the McD's one had a strange texture and JITB adds grape tomatoes.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: ziggylu

                            McDonald's has grape tomatoes on their Caesar salad. And I guess I'm prejudiced against JITB because they've never had anything I like, and our reviewer here at my paper where I work, says their lettuce is always wilted. Just my two cents.

                            1. re: aurora50

                              really? I don't get them often but haven't had an issue with wilted lettuce on the ones I have had. Didn't know McD's offered grape tomatoes on any of their salads.

                              Nothing you like? Not even a taco?! :)

                              1. re: ziggylu

                                Uh - no, I don't like the cheese they put on it!! : (
                                I haven't been to JITB for a while, maybe I can try them again...

                                1. re: aurora50

                                  Aurora, can you pls email me regarding something non-chow-related? My email's on my profile. :-)

                            2. re: ziggylu

                              Do they come pre-made, or can you customize them (either McD's or JITB)?

                              1. re: enbell

                                At McD's, you can specify the type of chicken, and that comes warm, so it's obviously added at the last minute.
                                Tortilla strips and dressing are separate, so you can sub another dressing, or regular croutons I guess.
                                Other than that, it seems like the salads come premixed, so I don't think you can really say "no carrots" or whatever. Not sure about the roasted corn/black bean mixture, and when that's added.

                                1. re: Covert Ops

                                  I just tried the Southwest salad today based on raves from co-workers. I thought it was nasty. The tortilla strips (which were on the chicken) tasted like Doritos, and the lettuce was iceburg. The lime was half brown It could be the McDonald's I went to, but I was very disappointed.

                                  1. re: katiepie

                                    katiepie, I don't know why, but it seems that the McDonald's salads that come from the eastern side of the country tend to have poorer quality greens/produce in them, or is this a generalization? All I know is, I've gotten lots of McDonald's salads, and ALL of them have had fresh mesclun and other greens and fresh produce.

                                    1. re: aurora50

                                      Yes, that's what I was thinking as well. I need to move to California, lol!

                            3. I am going to have to try one after reading the reviews. I like their Asian Salad alot. I also find that their salads are real fresh and sometimes more filling and tastier then the ones I get at higher priced sit-down chains, such as Applebee's. I had a weight watchers salad there that couldn't fill a 4 year old up, a couple of small pieces of grilled chicken on the top.

                              1. The Southwest Salad is terrific! I don't usually like pre-prepared salads and I usually don't like southwestern flavors, but I just love the salad. It's always so fresh tasting!!! The calories are reasonable and the salad is filling and satisfying.

                                Any other fast food suggestions? Thanks!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: NSA427

                                  I had one and I agree, it was really good.

                                2. My daughter told me about this salad and I've got to say I think it's pretty good for a grab and go item. I'm in Florida and have always gotten McD salads with just a bit of iceberg and mostly mesclun mix. Just the right crunch / flavor ratio. This salad's nice because you don't need hardly any dressing - just a liberal squeeze of lime (fresh and juicy on my salad) and it's good to go. I've had worse in better restaurants.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Mothership

                                    My husband and I stopped out Mcdonalds after church to grab a quick meal. I am watching calories so I decided on the SW salad and Loved it!!!! I am in Kentucky and the salad was balanced with both type salads. I used a 1/4 of the dressing. I noticed it already had some sort of dressing in it as I started eatin it. Not sure what? I could make this the better choice on a regular basis going to Mcdonalds. I will eat it again!!!

                                    1. re: hotteacher1976

                                      I love it too! For fast food it is very tasty!

                                    2. I actually just finished a SW salad from MCD's and it was surprisingly good. Very fresh, a great mix of lettuces and lots of beans and corn. I'm in MA and love the light kick in the SW dressing. Didn't receive any corn chips with mine, and I didn't miss them. Next time I'll check to make sure I have them though. I've always found one MCD's next to another is not always the same.

                                      1. I want to try it because it seems like the healthiest thing on the menu.However, I'm scared that it will be filled with iceberg lettuce instead of some darker greens. The 45% chicken at McDonald's scares me with their added artificial ingredients and I don't want to add any dressing to my salad. (Though it's only 40 calories, look at the sodium: 730g!!) I'm going to try this salad sometime next week and give more feedback though.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: lilxhamstuh

                                          What exactly "scares" you about iceberg lettuce? All the salads I've gotten are mostly romaine + mixed greens anyway... Iceberg lettuce does not have as many vitamins and minerals as arugula, but there's nothing "dangerous" about it- the high fiber and low calories = healthy item. Also, what do you mean about 45% chicken? It's chicken breast- not processed chicken patty on the salads.

                                          I think of all the fast food places, McD's has the best salads as far as taste and quality. Is it better than a salad I'd make at home? No, but when I'm in a rush, or on the highway, or limited by other factors, I think McDonald's has some of the best options for drive-thru type places. I like the Southwest salad myself and wish the other chains had better salads. I've had worse salads that cost a lot more in sit down places.

                                          1. re: QSheba

                                            I have eaten Mcdonald's side salad's for 23 days straight as part of my news years resolution not to eat fast food except salads.. well today I found 2- three leaved clovers.. is this normal in a mcdonalds salad???