Chopped Salad with Chicken and Lemon Oregano Dressing
On evenings when I’m short on dinner inspiration, I typically solicit suggestions. I’ll poll whoever is lingering in the kitchen or shoot a quick note to the family group text. “What do you want for dinner?” I’ll ask. Often the reply is a single word: fresh. As in “I don’t care what we eat, I just want fresh.” We have a common understanding of what this means — the sort of lighter, brighter dishes that we collectively crave after an indulgent weekend, family vacation, or when the weather turns warm. Starchy casseroles, creamy pastas, and heavy meat dishes are out. Vietnamese spring rolls, sushi with veggie sides, and anything built on bed of greens is more the order of the day. This Chopped Salad with Chicken and Lemon Oregano Dressing qualifies. Indeed, it’s just the thing to pull out when the troops demand “fresh”.
Dressing Doubles as Marinade
If you take a gander at the recipe, it looks like a lot of ingredients. Don’t let that scare you. It’s mostly just because I love to pack salads with variety for color, crunch, and nutrition. I simplified the method by making one dressing that doubles as a marinade for the chicken. The dressing is infused with flavor from the oregano and lemon, along with a kick of heat from crushed red pepper flakes. I like to keep the garlic cloves whole for a mellower flavor, but if you’re big on garlic, go ahead and grate it into the dressing.
Make this Salad Vegetarian or Vegan-Friendly
It’s easy to adapt this recipe to make it suitable for meatless eaters. Here are a few ideas to swap out the chicken:
- Add one 15-ounce can drained and rinsed chickpeas to the salad.
- Hard boil four eggs, peel, chop, and toss with the salad. You’ll find my method for hard boiling eggs here.
- Soft cook four eggs, let cool for a few minutes, then peel. Cut the eggs in half, season with salt and pepper, and serve on the side of the salad. Here’s a recipe for soft-cooked eggs.
- Cube eight ounces baked or braised tofu to toss into the salad.
- Bump up the amount of nuts and/or add toasted pumpkin or sesame seeds.
Ideas for Salad Swaps and Additions
I tinkered with this salad several times and landed on the combination I love most. That said, there’s no reason you can’t adjust the recipe to suit your personal preferences and what is in your fridge and pantry. Below are a few starter ideas:
- Add 1/2 to 1 whole diced avocado.
- Use toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans in place of almonds.
- Swap my mom’s fabulously crunchy sliced almonds for the roasted ones in the recipe.
- Use virtually any crunchy vegetable you like, including thinly sliced carrots, diced kohrabi, and celery.
- Add shaved or grated Parmesan or Pecorino, or crumbled feta or goat cheese.
- Add more fresh herbs, such as chopped mint, basil, or parsley.
Easy to Make Ahead
Although this isn’t a labor-intensive recipe, it’s nice to know you do everything ahead of time, save for tossing the salad with the dressing. Here are some make-ahead ideas you can tackle a day ahead so that dinner is a snap when the time comes.
- Make the dressing/marinade. It can sit at room temperature for a day or two. The garlic flavor will deepen as it sits.
- Marinate the chicken and store in the fridge.
- Bake the chicken and store in the fridge. It’s good warm or cold.
- Wash and chop the lettuce and all the vegetables, cover, and store in the fridge.
If you like this Chopped Salad with Chicken and Lemon Oregano Dressing you might like:
Chopped Salad with Chicken and Lemon Oregano Dressing
If you're looking for something light, bright, and crunchy, this salad is the ticket. It's tossed with a lemony dressing seasoned with oregano and a little kick of heat. Make it vegetarian by swapping in chickpeas or eggs for the chicken.
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 11/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 large head Romaine lettuce or several heads Little Gems
- 1 cup diced Persian or English cucumber (about 2 Persian or ½ English)
- 6 thinly sliced radishes
- ½ cup diced fennel
- 1 cup diced sugar snap peas (about 3 ounces)
- ⅓ cup roasted almonds, chopped (I prefer salted)
- 3 tablespoons minced chives
- Optional: handful of baby kale or arugula
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon, honey, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper. Add the olive oil and whisk until blended. Add the smashed garlic cloves.
Put the chicken in a medium bowl or storage container and add 2 tablespoons of the dressing, including 1 of the garlic cloves. Smother the chicken with the dressing and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight (cover and refrigerate if longer than an hour or so). If you don't have time to let it marinate, not to worry. It will still be tender and tasty.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the chicken breasts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake until the chicken is just cooked through in the center, 13 to 18 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts. I aim for an internal temperature of 150 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast (the temperature will continue to rise as it rests). It's worth noting that this is lower than the USDA recommended 165 degrees.
While the chicken bakes, chop the crunchiest leaves of Romaine until you have 6 cups. Wash, dry well, and transfer to a large bowl with the cucumbers, radishes, fennel, and snap peas. Add a handful of kale or arugula for a boost of color and nutrition, if desired.
When the chicken is done, cool for at least 5 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Remove the garlic cloves from the dressing, whisk well, and dress the salad. Portion salad onto four serving plates, arrange the chicken on the side of the plates, and scatter the almonds over the top.