This Whole30 Summer Chicken Salad is nothing to sneeze at but it’s the cilantro vinaigrette that steals the show. It’s super easy to make and packs a powerful punch of flavour. Aside from your greens of choice, you can use the cilantro vinaigrette to dress just about anything from grilled meats, fish, shrimp or even some roasted potatoes!
The cilantro vinaigrette is best made in high-speed blender. You need something powerful to break down the cilantro and emulsify the oil, citrus and water without anything like mustard. You can try using an immersion blender or food processor if that’s what you have. Although you won’t necessarily achieve the same consistency, the flavours should be very similar. As a last resort, you could finely chop the cilantro and garlic and vigorously whisk it with the wet ingredients.
As for the chicken, I’ll be the first to admit (and have in the past) that white meat is not my favourite. Granted, chicken breast tastes better when it’s bone-in and skin-on. Even better is chicken thigh (personal favourite). Regardless of the cut you choose, the same pan-roasted technique will serve you well. If you’re grilling the chicken, even better!
A note on Salad Spinners…
I eat quite a bit of salad and, like most people I know, I was buying packaged, pre-washed and pre-chopped greens for a very long time. You know, the mixed greens in the plastic containers that cost an arm and a leg?
By some strange logic, I justified the added cost by factoring the time and energy I’d save by not having to wash, chop and dry the leaves. It’s really the drying part that was the big issue for me. It takes forever and a day for greens to dry thoroughly and by the end of the process you’re short one kitchen towel because it’s so waterlogged that it no longer serves any useful purpose. The only alternative is to wash and dry the leaves well in advance but (a) I rarely have the time and desire to prepare my salads ahead of time and (b) some greens can start to wilt if left out of the fridge for too long. Sure, you can let dry and store in a zip-top bag with some paper towel to absorb any moisture, but I tend to want salad as a quick fix and usually on a whim.
Then, one day, after watching Jamie Oliver make a perfect salad I made a singular purchase that would forever change the course of my life. I bought a Salad Spinner.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. First, I deliberated over purchasing what Alton Brown might call a “unitasker”, that is a gadget that serves a single function, and then, after at least a few weeks of deep soul searching, I saw one at a local housewares store and bit the bullet.
The first one I bought sucked. Big time. It didn’t work well and was bad quality. Naturally, I gave it to my brother. Pay back for all the hand-me-downs I got growing up.
I quickly upgraded to the OXO Salad Spinner you see here. I highly recommend it! The top pump allows you to effortlessly operate it with a single hand. It’s also large enough to hold enough salad to feed a small family.
This kitchen gadget has quickly become one of my favourite things in the world. I should mention that my wife was intensely skeptical of it at first. However, she’s finally come around to see its value. Not only has it saved us money in the long run, but it’s significantly reduced the amount of single-use plastic we purchase.
Loose-leaf greens cost far less than their pre-packaged cousins and since I could now rinse and dry in one fell swoop there was no longer any reason to pay a premium. It’s also allowed us to experiment with different greens that we didn’t normally purchase, such as chicory and escarole – both of which you rarely find in plastic-package form.
Having said that, I should mention that we do, on occasion and through no desire of our own, purchase certain packaged greens because that’s the only way their sold. I’m looking at you, my beloved arugula!
This Whole30 Summer Chicken Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette is very easy and requires only a few readily available ingredients. It's perfect for a summer BBQ or weeknight dinners.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts free-range, organic
- 1 head romaine lettuce cut into 1" strips
- 1/2 head raddichio cut into 1" strips
- 3-4 Persian cucumbers cut into 1/2" discs
- 4-5 large, cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- 3-4 radishes finely sliced
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves plus extra for garnish
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup avocado oil or sub Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup water
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy. Transfer to storage container, cover with a lid and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F. At the same time, preheat a med-sized cast-iron or oven-safe skillet over med-high heat.
Season both sides of chicken breast with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder and garlic powder.
Add 1 tbsp avocado oil to skillet. Gently lay chicken breast in pan and cook undisturbed 5-6 minutes. Flip and immediately transfer to preheated oven. Roast 6-8 minutes or until internal temperature of the breast reads around 160F with an instant read thermometer. Remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to a tray. Rest 5 minutes before slicing. Note: chicken will continue to cook while resting and should reach 165F before consuming.
Add romaine, radicchio, cucumber, tomatoes and radish to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 5-6 tbsp of Cilantro Vinaigrette. Toss to coat.
Transfer dressed salad to a serving platter (or leave in mixing bowl) and top with sliced chicken breast. Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro, sliced avocado and a bit more of the vinaigrette.
Feel free to use bone-in, skin-on chicken breast for a more flavourful meat. If so, be sure to account for the additional cooking time.
The Cilantro Vinaigrette will keep for 3 days if sealed and stored in the fridge.
This salad is best consumed immediately. Alternatively, you can prepared all of the ingredients ahead of time and dress the salad with the vinaigrette when ready to serve.