Mediterranean Chicken Salad – with a dressing that doubles as the marinade – is vibrant, hearty, healthy and 5 star delicious!
This Mediterranean Chicken Salad is a hypnotic, fresh, bright, satisfying symphony of SO many bold alluring flavors and textures that will have everyone swooning – my husband was obsessed! It’s loaded with succulent pesto marinated chicken, smoky salami (or bacon), juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, tangy pepperoncini, fruity Kalamata olives, punchy red onions, buttery mozzarella and creamy avocados all tossed in a vibrant pesto dressing. This Chicken Salad recipe is endlessly customizable, so you can add or swap in any of your favorite ingredients that you have on hand. And the best part- the marinade doubles as the dressing – no double work! This Mediterranean Salad is also prep ahead friendly for a hassle free lunch, light dinner or entertaining. Add a side of fruit salad and raspberry bars and you have the perfect summer meal!
We are loving chicken salads lately – all the fresh flavors and textures without turning on the oven! Some of our go-to recipes include Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Mango Chicken Salad, Lemon Basil Chicken Salad and Greek Chicken Salad along with this Mediterranean Chicken Salad – you will have them on repeat!
HOW TO MAKE Chicken Salad Recipe VIDEo
chicken Salad Recipe Ingredients
This Mediterranean Chicken Salad is loaded with flavors and textures galore. If you find green salads boring, this recipe will change your mind! The below ingredients are what we love in our chicken salad recipe, but feel free to omit or swap in ingredients that you love. (Full recipe with measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.)
How to Make Mediterranean Chicken Salad
Juicy chicken is marinated in an Italian-inspired marinade before being grilled (or pan-fried) to perfection. It’s then tossed with an abundance of vegetables, briny olives, and Genoa salami before being topped with homemade croutons and sliced almonds. This chicken salad recipe requires some advance planning so the chicken can bathe the marinade before it can be cooked; otherwise, it’s a straightforward recipe that tastes fabulous every time!
Step 1: Make the Marinade / Dressing
- Whisk all of the marinade/dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl or freezer bag. Use whatever container you plan on marinating the chicken in.
- Remove some of the marinade to a jar to use as the dressing later on.
Step 2: Marinate the Chicken
- To the remaining marinade, add the chicken and turn to coat.
- Marinate at room temperature while you prep the salad ingredients (up to 30 minutes) OR refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
Step 3: Make the Croutons
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or a nonstick silicone baking mat.
- Add the cubed bread, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with spices, then toss to coat.
- Spread the cubed bread into an even layer and bake until golden.
Step 4: Cook the Chicken
- If you marinated the chicken in the fridge, be sure to take it out about 30 minutes before you plan on cooking it. This ensures that the meat cooks evenly once it’s on the grill or in a pan.
- You have two options for cooking the chicken: on the grill or in a hot skillet (or grill pan) on the stovetop.
- Whichever method you choose, I recommend cooking the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Then, remove it to a plate or cutting board and let it rest for about 5 minutes. The heat will carry over and finish cooking the chicken to 165 degrees F.
Step 5: Assemble the Salad
- Add all of the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl.
- Chop or thinly slice the chicken and add to the salad.
- If not expecting leftovers, drizzle salad with the dressing. If expecting leftovers, add dressing and croutons to individual servings.
possible Mediterranean Salad variations
This Mediterranean Chicken Salad recipe is a rainbow of light, fresh ingredients, comforting, hearty ingredients and zippy, tangy ingredients and of course creamy, crunchy and crispy textures. Feel free to swap in your favorite ingredients, but try and keep the playful layers of texture and flavor.
- Alternative proteins: the chicken marinade would also be delicious on shrimp, salmon, pork or steak, so feel free to mix it up!
- Alternative vegetables: add any vegetables your heart desires! Asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, snap peas, etc. would all be tasty.
- Alternative cheese: swap the mozzarella for chunks of provolone, feta, goat cheese or gorgonzola.
- Swap salami for pepperoni: American pepperoni would give the salad a different flavor while still imparting that spiced salami flavor.
- Different nuts: I used sliced almonds to make this Mediterranean salad recipe, but pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, and so on would also be delicious.
- Alternative onions: use bright, tangy, punchy pickled red onions recipe instead of raw. They’re ready in 30 minutes! fF red onions aren’t your thing, you can swap them for chopped green onions.
- Add capers: a common addition in Dodecanese islands. Capers are actually flower buds that have been brined to mellow their bitterness. The resulting brined capers are tangy, salty, lemony doses of flavOR.
- Add radishes: thinly slice radishes for a spicy, crispy, zesty kick.
- Add artichokes hearts: tender, slightly sweet and nutty additions.
- Add roasted red bell peppers: for a complex roasted sweetness. You can roast bell peppers yourself or pick up a jar at the grocery store located near the jarred sandwich fixings such as pepperoncini. Make sure to drain the jar of bell peppers very well before using.
- Add sunflower seeds: can be added in addition to the almonds or instead of. Make sure to purchase roasted and salted sunflower seeds for the best flavor.
- Add some heat: spice up your chicken salad with jalapenos! Remove the seeds and the white veins of your jalapenos because these pack the fieriest heat. You can add the seeds back to the salad after you taste it and still want more heat.
- Add hard boiled eggs: for a Cobb-salad flair. You may need to google “How to Make Hard Boiled Eggs” as I have found some methods that work for some, don’t work for others. For me, I fill my small pot rim to rim with eggs so there is no wiggle room for the eggs to rattle around and break. I then fill the water so it is almost covering the eggs. I bring the water to a boil then reduce the temperature to low for 10 minutes. Next, I remove the eggs from the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. At this point, I sacrifice an egg to see if it’s done, if not, then I cover the eggs for another 5 minutes or so. Once done, immediately rinse eggs in cold water to keep from cooking.
Tools Used in This Recipe
Mediterranean Chicken Salad
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- 3 medium chicken breasts (approx. 20 ounces)
- 5 ounces spring salad mix
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 4 oz. Genoa salami, chopped (may sub bacon)
- 1 pint cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 3 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini
- 8 oz. mozzarella pearls
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
EASY CROUTONS (OR STORE-BOUGHT)
- 1/2 loaf French bread (preferably day old), cubed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 tsp EACH dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder
- freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk all of the marinade/dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl or freezer bag (whatever you are going to marinate the chicken in). Remove a heaping ¾ cup to a jar to use as the dressing. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat.
- Marinate at room temperature while you prep the salad ingredients (up to 30 minutes) or refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Refrigerate the dressing separately. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray or use a nonstick baking mat. Add cubed bread to the baking sheet and drizzled with olive oil then sprinkle with spices; toss until evenly coated. Spread bread into an even layer and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden, stirring halfway through.
TO GRILL CHICKEN:
TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE STOVE:
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes, or until deeply golden on one side.
- Flip chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked to 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, then allowed to rest for 5 minutes to carryover to 165 degrees F.
- Add all of the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl. If expecting leftovers, serve the croutons and avocado on the side.
- Chop or thinly slice the chicken and add to the salad.
- Whisk in a couple tablespoons olive oil to the dressing if it seems extra thick (it will naturally be on the thick side due to the pesto).
- If not expecting leftovers, drizzle salad with the dressing. If expecting leftovers, add dressing to individual servings. Serve with freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.
Tips and Tricks
- Customize ingredients: The salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions. After you load a large salad bowl with lettuce, you can pile on your ingredients in whatever ratios your taste buds desire. Some will like less meat, others will like less cheese – your call! See post for all sorts of add-ins such as artichokes, roasted bell peppers, capers, corn, asparagus, etc.
- 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’s a winner with a salad bar!
- Storage: The salad without dressing will last about 3 days in the refrigerator, although the wet ingredients such as the pepperoncini and tomatoes can soften the crunch of the lettuce a bit. The chicken will last up to 5 days and the croutons will last for up to 2 weeks.
Meal PrepThis Chicken Salad recipe is great to prep ahead for meal prep. You can prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time or just the dressing, croutons or salad ingredients. To prep ahead:
- Fully assembled: This salad can be fully assembled ahead of time if you layer the ingredients in the correct order and store the croutons, avocados and dressing separately. The salad should be layered with the wettest ingredients on the bottom (tomatoes, pepperoncini, olives, cucumbers) and the driest on the top (salami, mozzarella, almonds, lettuce) to prevent soggy salad. Cover, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Salad ingredients: can be chopped 24 hours in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. I add the vegetables/olives/pepperoncini 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.
- Croutons: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and stored in a resealable plastic bag with as much air removed as possible or in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Marinade/dressing: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If making ahead, take care not to use fresh garlic or herbs because they will only last a day or so in the refrigerator.
- Chicken: can be added to the marinade up to 12 hours ahead of time. Or, it can be frozen in the marinade up to 3 months in advance. You can also cook the chicken and store it separately in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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