Grilled Chicken Salad with Candied Pecans and Balsamic Dressing

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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.

And it all starts with perfectly grilled chicken like we highlight here. Looking for other salad ideas? Try our Buffalo Grilled Chicken Salad or Grilled Romaine (you can add chicken).

Grilled Chicken Salad with Candied Pecans and Balsamic Dressing

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:

Two chicken breasts on the grill
  • 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.

Ingredients for a grilled chicken salad
  • 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.
Dressing poured over a grilled chicken salad recipe

Grilled Chicken Salad Recipe

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grilled chicken salad
5 from 1 vote

Grilled Chicken Salad with Candied Pecans and Balsamic Dressing

Candied Pecans for crunch, perfectly grilled chicken with a savory honey balsamic dressing makes this a grilled chicken salad with amazing flavor.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Salad Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people



  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Candied Pecans

  • 2/3 cup raw pecans
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, light is ok too if you have it


  • 4 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup poultry dry rub
  • 6 cups mixed greens (or romaine)
  • 4 slices crispy bacon, diced , (We use Snake River Farms)
  • 1 avocado, sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup candied pecans
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dressing, to toss



  • Add all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Whisk vigorously to incorporate the flavors using a large whisk. The oil will emulsify and give that nice texture. This can be made a day in advance, simply store it in a mason jar and keep in the refrigerator.

Candied Pecans

  • In a large cast iron pan over low-medium heat, add butter and brown sugar until slightly bubbling. Add the pecans and stir consistently until the pecans slightly toast and the butter and brown sugar incorporate with the pecans. This should take about 6 minutes after putting the pecans in the pan. They are done when the are fragrant and you can smell the toasting. This can be done in advance.

Grilled Chicken

  • Prepare grill for two zone cooking or direct/indirect heat. Coat the chicken with olive oil and generously season with the dry rub.
  • Over direct heat, grill the chicken for 6 – 8 minutes per side or until there is a nice crust on the outside. Then move to indirect heat. Cover the grill and then continue to cook on indirect until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Plan on one breast per plate. This is a great time to toss and dress the salad.

Making the Salad

  • Cook the bacon on a sheet pan in an oven at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes until crispy. Make the bacon prior to grilling the chicken so it's ready.
  • Combine all salad ingredients into a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss the salad. Plate and add slices of the chicken to each plate and serve.


Prep in advance to break this recipe down for ease.
  • Make the dressing the first, even the day prior. You can shake it up before dressing the salad.
  • 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.
This allows all the needed ingredients to be ready to go and you can simply plate the salad and eat right away.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Salad Prep: 15 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: dinner, Salad
Cuisine: American, bbq
Servings: 4 people
Keyword: grilled chicken salad, grilled chicken salad recipe
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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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