The Big, Beautiful Grilled Chicken Salad I’m Eating on Repeat All Summer Long

By Kelli Foster, TheKitchn.com
Kelli Foster, TheKitchn.com
Kelli Foster, TheKitchn.com
June 17, 2021 Updated: June 17, 2021

This bright and satisfying grilled chicken salad is the perfect easy summer dinner to add to your rotation.

You’ll start with a bed of sturdy romaine lettuce for crunch, then toss in a handful of fresh herbs to brighten it up. Mix in cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado, lightly pickled red onion, and tangy goat cheese crumbles, then top it off with lime-kissed slices of juicy grilled chicken and a punchy vinaigrette. The big, bold flavors and crisp ingredients ensure you’ll never tire of this tasty, feel-good combo.

A Punchy Marinade That Doubles as a Dressing

I’m all about efficiency in the kitchen and getting as much from my efforts as possible. In this case, that means making a bright, punchy marinade that doubles as the salad dressing.

Whisk together fresh lime juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, and olive oil; spoon out some for the marinade; and reserve the rest to be used as the dressing.

I recommend marinating the chicken for at least 30 minutes. This is just the right amount of time to chop and slice the veggies, heat up the grill, and clean up any dishes. Or, if you like to plan ahead, you can let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight.

The Best Grilled Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a main dish

For the Dressing

  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 to 3 medium limes
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1 1/2 pounds total), divided
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 large or 2 small romaine lettuce hearts
  • 1/2 cup fresh herb leaves, such as parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, or a combination
  • Vegetable oil, for the grill
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, or 1/2 medium English cucumber
  • 6 ounces (about 1 cup) cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) fresh goat cheese

Mince garlic cloves and place in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice from 2 to 3 medium limes until you have 1/4 cup, then add to the bowl. Add apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Whisk until the salt is dissolved. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil and continue whisking until emulsified.

Place 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast inside a gallon zip-top bag. Use the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin and pound until 1/2-inch thick. Repeat with the second chicken breast.

Make sure your zip-top bag doesn’t have any holes in it from pounding the chicken breasts. If it does, replace with a new bag. Otherwise, return the chicken to the bag and add 1/4 cup of the dressing. Seal the bag and massage to coat the chicken.

Place the bag on a baking sheet and arrange the chicken so it sits in a single layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Refrigerate the remaining dressing if marinating the chicken overnight.

Prepare a gas grill for direct, high heat, or prepare a charcoal grill for both direct and indirect high heat (pile the coals on one half the grill). Meanwhile, remove the chicken and let sit at room temperature.

Thinly slice the red onion. Place in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the dressing, and stir to combine. Core and chop romaine lettuce hearts crosswise into thin strips (about 10 packed cups). Place in a large salad bowl. Finely chop fresh herb leaves and add to the bowl.

When the grill is ready, scrape the grates clean. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade with tongs. Place on the grill, cover, and cook undisturbed until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes. If the meat sticks to the grill, continue to cook for another minute until it releases easily. Flip and cook the second side until grill marks appear, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium on a gas grill (or transfer to indirect heat on a charcoal grill) and grill until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a clean plate and let rest while you finish the salad.

When ready to serve, drizzle 1/4 cup of the dressing (rewhisk before using if needed) over the greens and gently toss to coat. Prepare the following ingredients, adding each one to the salad bowl as you complete it: quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces; halve the cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup); thinly slice the avocado.

Cut the chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips and transfer onto the salad. Top with the red onion (discard the liquid) and crumble goat cheese on top. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

The dressing can be made a day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

The chicken can be grilled a day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Kelli Foster is food editor for plan and prep content for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com. Copyright 2021 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Kelli Foster, TheKitchn.com
Kelli Foster, TheKitchn.com