Chicken Caprese Salad with the most incredible balsamic marinated chicken, fresh tomatoes, melt in your mouth mozzarella, grilled asparagus, creamy avocado and crispy bacon all drizzled with Creamy Balsamic Reduction Dressing = Out of this world!
This Caprese Chicken Salad will have you craving salad, dreaming about salad and not being able to stop eating salad! It is one of my favorite salads of all time and soon to be yours!
Easy Chicken Caprese Salad Recipe
I got my grill on with my Teriyaki Chicken Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Pear Salsa, and now I can’t stop! And you won’t want to stop forking down this Caprese Chicken Salad. This salad is fresh, savory, tangy and comforting all wrapped up in each crunchy, creamy bite. Its one of my favorite salads ever.
So just like I couldn’t stop posting slow cooker recipes this past winter, you are going to be seeing a lot of grill recipes this spring/winter. And if you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can still make all the recipes on an indoor grill pan or even a kitchen skillet, just adjusting cooking times as needed. I love the grill not only for its ease and virtually zero cleanup but for the way it lends itself to fresh, healthier meals that just make you feel good. I try and eat mostly healthy but I don’t consider Carlsbad Cravings a “health blog” — more of a smart cooking blog making smarter choices without sacrificing flavor. And this Chicken Caprese Salad is loaded with flavor.
The star of this Chicken Caprese Salad ensemble is the tender, juicy, Balsamic marinated chicken. After grilling my chicken and sampling a little piece, I kept sneaking more and more until I had to slap my own hand or there wouldn’t be any chicken left for the pictures. I couldn’t take the photos fast enough. The chicken is soooo good, I almost made a separate recipe just for the chicken – but I refrained hoping this salad would be enough to entice people to make this juicy flavor fireworks chicken.
After you whisk up your Balsamic Chicken Marinade with hints of Dijon, lemon juice, garlic and basil, you toss one tablespoon with your asparagus and tomatoes to marinate for more layers of flavor. The fresh asparagus gets grilled for about two minutes per side for crisp tender perfection then its time to toss all your ingredients together – grilled asparagus, marinated tomatoes, so-addicting-you-will-want-to-eat-it-all-by-itself mozzarella, creamy avocados, crispy bacon, fresh basil and Earthbound Farm Spinach with the crowning creamy Balsamic Reduction Dressing.
If you are familiar with balsamic reduction, then you know its one of the best things on earth. If you aren’t familiar with it, you simply boil your balsamic vinegar until it reduces and thickens to a sweet, full bodied flavored reduction. I thought the balsamic reduction itself was too strong as a dressing and it separates like the plague when whisked with oil, so I created a creamy balsamic dressing by whisking in a couple tablespoons mayonnaise, lemon juice, milk and a touch of Dijon. So silky, so full of flavor, so elevates this salad to better than the finest salad at the finest restaurant and bonus, its just so pretty too.
Caprese Chicken Salad with Asparagus, Avocado and Bacon. Because it’s grilling season, because every cart counts and because you deserve an insanely delicious salad!
What is Caprese?
Caprese refers to something from or in the style of Capri, an Italian island. Culinary speaking, “Caprese” refers to its namesake – Caprese Salad of fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. I loooooove fresh and bright Caprese flavors and have celebrated them in my Caprese Avocado Chicken Wraps, Caprese Pasta with Balsamic Chicken. Caprese Pasta Salad and Sheet Pan Caprese Chicken and Veggies.
Chicken Caprese Salad Ingredients
This chicken and avocado caprese salad has three main components: the salad itself, the chicken marinade, and the balsamic dressing. Here’s what you’ll need to make the salad:
- Chicken breasts: Marinated chicken cooked on the grill for an explosion of flavor in every juicy forkful.
- Spinach: You’re welcome to use a spring salad mix instead, if desired.
- Basil: Measure the basil by pressing the leaves into a measuring cup and then mincing.
- Tomatoes: Please use ripe cherry tomatoes for the best texture. Cherry tomatoes are inherently sweeter than grape tomatoes, so aim for cherry if you can.
- Mozzarella pearls: You’re looking for mini balls of fresh mozzarella, not the low-moisture kind that’s pre-shredded.
- Asparagus: Can be omitted if out of season.
- Avocados: Slice or chop a large avocado for satisfying creamy bursts to complement the crunchy textures.
- Bacon: Adds a grounding earthiness to the salad with its salty bacon flavor and bonus, it’s shatteringly crispy.
- Balsamic vinegar: Use a quality balsamic vinegar.
- Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Dijon mustard: Adds tanginess to the dressing.
- Lemon juice: Fresh is best but you may use bottled in a pinch.
- Brown sugar: You need a pinch of sugar in the marinade to balance out the vinegar and mustard.
- Herbs and spices: I used dried basil, garlic powder, and onion powder in this recipe.
- Mayonnaise: Makes the dressing ultra creamy.
- Milk: Just a splash of milk helps thin things out.
How to Make Chicken Caprese Salad
- Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Remove 1 tablespoon and add to a large bowl along with tomatoes and asparagus. Toss evenly to coat. Refrigerate.
- Add remaining marinade to a large Ziploc bag along with chicken. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat grill, then grill chicken until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)
- Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
- Grease grill and turn to high heat. Grill asparagus to desired tenderness. Let cool then cut on diagonal into 1-2-inch pieces.
- To make the Balsamic Dressing, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring often. Cook until reduced in volume by half. Whisk in remaining dressing ingredients.
- Assemble salad and dig in!
Tips for Making Chicken Caprese Salad
- Marinate Chicken. You can get away with marinating the chicken for as little as 30 minutes if it is pounded thin, but the longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become. I recommend at least 4 hours.
- Pound chicken to an even thickness. Pound the thickest part of the chicken so it’s even with the thinnest part to ensure the chicken cooks evenly. You don’t want one side to be cooked perfectly and the other side to be raw or overcooked/dry.
- Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking. Transfer the marinating chicken to your kitchen counter 30 minutes before grilling. Room temperature chicken cooks more evenly and quickly which translates into juicier chicken because there is less time for moisture to be released while cooking.
Recipe Variations to Try
- Alternative proteins. The chicken marinade would also be delicious on shrimp, salmon, pork or steak, so feel free to mix it up!
- Salad Bar. if you have picky eaters or want a fun entertaining idea, then consider a salad bar where everyone can pile on as much or as little of their favorite toppings. Everyone is a winner with a salad bar!
- Customize ingredients. The balsamic chicken salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions. You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies and fruits as long as you maintain a balance of sweet, tangy, and crunchy; if you swap out an ingredient, replace it with something with a similar flavor profile and texture.
HOW TO PREP AHEAD Chicken Caprese Salad
This easy caprese salad recipe is simple to make but does require some chopping. The good news is you can prep your ingredients while your chicken is marinating. To prep ahead:
- Chicken: can be marinated 4 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also cook the chicken completely ahead of time.
- Chop vegetables: can be chopped 24 hours in advance except the avocados and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. I will add the vegetables to separate paper towels, fold up the paper towels around the contents and place in sandwich bags – this keeps excess moisture away from the veggies to keep them fresh.
- Cook bacon: can be cooked up to 3 days in advance, crumbled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Dressing: Can be prepared and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
HOW TO STORE Caprese CHICKEN SALAD
If you plan on storing chicken and avocado caprese salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the lettuce will become soggy and wilted. Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The avocados and bacon should also be removed from the salad or better yet, not tossed with the salad initially and instead added to individual servings.
The chicken caprese salad without dressing will stay nice and fresh for about 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH Chicken Caprese Salad
This caprese chicken salad is practically a meal-in-itself – the only thing left to add is carby bread! We love it with a side of cornbread or buttery breadsticks. It’s also fabulous with favorite backyard barbecue sides such as Baked Mac and Cheese, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, and Corn Casserole.
LOOKING FOR MORE CHICKEN SALAD RECIPES?
- Buffalo Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Cilantro Ranch
- Fajita Chicken Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing
- Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch
- Teriyaki Chicken Salad with Pineapple Sesame Dressing
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad with Fiesta Catalina Dressing
- Greek Chicken Salad with Tzatziki Dressing and Pita Croutons
- Garden Caesar Salad with Lemon Basil Chicken
- Grilled Chicken Salad with Lemon Basil Chicken
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Grilled Caprese Chicken Salad with Avocado, Bacon and Asparagus
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- 1 pound chicken breasts pounded to even thickness
- 1 5 oz. pkg. baby spinach
- 1 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped or chiffonade
- 1 pint grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
- 6 oz mozzarella pearls
- 8 oz asparagus, tough ends trimmed/snapped
- 1-2 Avocados, chopped or sliced
- 4-6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
- salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic Chicken Marinade
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 tsp EACH dried basil, garlic pwdr, onion pwdr,
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Balsamic Reduction Dressing
- ¾ cup quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Whisk together all of the Balsamic Marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Remove 1 tablespoon and add to a large bowl along with tomatoes and asparagus. Toss evenly to coat. Refrigerate.
- Add remaining marinade to a large Ziploc bag along with chicken. Marinate 30 minutes up to 4 hours.
- When ready to grill, let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting). Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F. Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.) Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
- Grease grill and turn to high heat. Grill asparagus for 2 minutes per side or to desired tenderness. Let cool then cut on diagonal into 1-2-inch pieces.
- To make the Balsamic Reduction Dressing, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring often. Cook until reduced in volume by half, about 8 minutes and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in remaining dressing ingredients, adding additional milk a teaspoon at a time iif desired for a thinner dressing.
- Toss spinach, basil, asparagus, tomatoes and mozzarella in a large bowl. Top with chicken, bacon, and avocado. Drizzle individual servings with Balsamic Reduction Dressing.
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