Grilled Chicken Salad does not need to be boring. Focus on flavor in every element of the dish, from the chicken, to the dressing, and the individual salad ingredients for this amazing Grilled Chicken Salad Recipe.
A dinner salad is such a great option for a patio meal, or light and healthy weeknight entree for the family. And chicken can take on so many flavors depending on the seasoning and cooking style. This salad is one of our favorites for savory and sweet flavors with an easy dressing that comes together in minutes.
It’s hearty enough for a full meal, and a very healthy option for the family full of protein and nutrients!
What is the Best Chicken for Salad
For grilled chicken salad boneless skinless chicken breasts are perfect for consistency and ease when grilling. Skin tends to fall off into the salad making for an unpleasant texture and shredding dark meat off the bone just takes a little more time.
If you enjoy the flavor of the darker meat, that is great too. The key is to not overcook the chicken.
For flavor, a simple coating of olive oil for the chicken and a great dry rub is all you need to flavor the meat.
Grilling Chicken For Salad
A grilled chicken salad is all about having juicy flavorful chicken. To get juicy chicken on the grill, you don’t need a marinade. Simply be sure to know how to grill it to the perfect temperature to keep it from drying out.
If you need a great guide for grilling chicken check out this summary. We walk through the specifics of the two zone method and the correct temperature to cook chicken. Here are some highlights on how to grill chicken breasts:
- Create a two-zone method of cooking using lump charcoal. Even if using a gas grill. This allows you to sear the chicken on the outside over the direct high heat and then move it to indirect to come to the right finishing temperature. This prevents the blackened exterior and under-cooked interior.
- Monitor the internal temperature of the chicken using a high quality instant read thermometer. We love the Thermoworks MK4 Thermapen for the speed an accuracy.
- When is chicken done? 160 degrees Fahrenheit with carry over cooking. That means that we pull the chicken off the grill as it hits 160 degrees F. As it rests it will hold that temperature and even rise 3 – 5 additional degrees. USDA suggests 165 degrees F for the minimum safe temperature, which we still achieve with carry over cooking and pulling the chicken at 160 degrees F.
Making the Grilled Chicken Salad
To make the salad as efficient as possible follow the steps below to break up the cooking and prep process. No one thing takes too long, but it helps to have everything ready at the right time so you can all enjoy together.
- Make the dressing the first, even the day prior. You can shake it up before dressing the salad. I like to make a large batch to keep in the fridge for a couple weeks.
- Candy the pecans before grilling the chicken.
- Prep the bacon as well, in advance of grilling the chicken.
- As the grill warms up for the chicken, prep the salad ingredients.
- Then grill the chicken, and assemble the salad.
How To Toast Pecans for the Salad
For the pecans, we toast them over a pan with butter and a dusting of brown sugar to give them a slightly toasted and sweet flavor. It adds a crunchy texture to the salad and a sweet and nutty flavor.
Using a cast iron skillet (or non stick if you don’t have cast iron) over low-medium heat, melt the butter and the brown sugar until it slightly bubbles. Add the pecans and stir/toss often until they slightly brown. This should take no more than 5 minutes. The reason we start with the lower heat is that the pecans can toast too quickly and burn, so a lower heat will allow for you to control and raise the temperature if they don’t brown as fast as you would like.
Variations For the Salad
Any grilled chicken salad recipe can be modified. Use some of these tips or recipe ideas to make it your own.
- Instead of the balsamic dressing, go for our awesome Chimichurri Sauce. Bright, citrus, and a touch of vinegar and heat. It makes for a great salad dressing alternative!
- Consider other nuts like walnuts or hazelnuts. The same process will caramelize them.
- Make it easy for the weekday by grabbing a store-cooked roaster chicken and shredding the chicken up.
- Grill the lemons for some added flavor to the dressing.
- Grilling the avocados.
- Smoking the bacon.
Grilled Chicken Salad Recipe
More Grilled Salad Recipes
- Grilled Buffalo Chicken Salad
- Flank Steak Salad
- Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
- Grilled Romaine with Basil and Tomatoes
- Beet Salad with Rosé Infused Cranberries and Smoked Bacon
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