This Basil Chicken Salad takes a summer favorite to a new level. With the tang of kumquats, the vibrant color of purple cauliflower, and the richness of extra virgin olive oil it will be your new go-to entree.
I love salads. Actually, let me rephrase that. I love salads that are unique and delicious and loaded with flavor? Is that too much to ask? Eating a salad that is literally just lettuce and dressing doesn't actually appeal to me at all. But when I can create something that still gives me healthy ingredients AND flavor? Count me in every time!
This recipe feels a bit like a Chopped mystery basket to me. Basil, kumquats, purple cauliflower, spinach, olive oil, and chicken breasts. Ready, go! But just like the recipes the chefs on Chopped come up with this ended up being delicious. Having some amazing ingredients and one simple recipe helps all the flavors to shine through.
Once assembled this simple summer salad has a restaurant-quality look to it. I would be happy to serve this to dinner company any day of the week.
Extra virgin olive oil - Make sure to use a good quality oil in this recipe. You can taste the quality of the olive oil in all three components of the salad. EVOO works well in dressings, marinades, for grilling vegetables, and seasoning meats. I wanted to explore how it worked so I used it in all of those ways within this one simple recipe.
Basil leaves - The color of the fresh basil leaves in the basil chicken salad marinade was beautiful. I love the colors of using farm-fresh ingredients.
Kumquats - Kumquats are so easy to work with. Since the peel is edible there is no need to juice or zest them. You can just add them whole to the marinade, and dressing, and put a few slices on top of the chicken. The sliced kumquats on top of the salad were our favorite parts.
Salt & pepper - To taste.
Chicken breasts - I like using boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe.
Purple cauliflower - My kids thought it was the coolest thing. It's not that often you get a truly purple vegetable. Eggplants are closer to black than purple and cabbage turn a bit redder when cooked. This purple cauliflower stayed purple.
Baby spinach - I love the bright green coloring that the baby spinach adds.
How To Make This Basil Chicken Salad Recipe
Step One: Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Step Two: In a medium bowl or large bowl toss the chicken with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Step Three: Preheat the grill to medium hot. Put the cauliflower on the hot grill. Grill the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes on each side to char. Transfer to a piece of aluminum foil and seal the edges into a packet. Return to the grill. This allows the cauliflower to steam and soften.
Step Four: Meanwhile, add the chicken to the hot grill.
Grill for 7-8 minutes on each side until it registers 160 on a meat thermometer. Cool for 5 minutes and then slice.
Expert Tip: The trick to grilling cauliflower is to get a nice char on it and then transfer it to a packet of aluminum foil to steam it. You get nice, tender cauliflower and a grilled flavor.
Step Five: Add the dressing ingredients to the small blender. Process until smooth.
Step Size: Divide the spinach between six plates. Add the julienned basil. Top with a sliced chicken breast and some cauliflower. Add a few slices of kumquat. Drizzle the dressing on top of the basil chicken salad and serve.
Add more fresh vegetables - You can easily add tomatoes, diced cucumber, or even top with some freshly squeezed lemon juice for more flavor.
Add toppings - Toppings are always a great idea. Add almonds, walnuts, pecans, red onion, pine nuts, fresh black pepper, bits of bacon, fresh parmesan cheese, diced avocado, or even some lemon zest!
Lemon - Swap out the kumquats for lemons and lemon juice for a lemon basil chicken salad.
Creamy dressing - Add half a cup mayonnaise to the dressing. A bit of mustard also enhances the flavor.
Garlic - Add some garlic cloves to the foil packet with the cauliflower for a garlic flavor.
How do you know when the chicken is fully cooked?
You'll want to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. After cooking the chicken on the grill, the internal temperature reading should show 165 degrees to be considered safe to eat.
What can you do with leftover chicken salad?
If you want to make a chicken mixture, you can create a wrap or even a sandwich with the leftovers. Just dice up the chicken, add in a little bit of mayo and Greek yogurt, and let it chicken for a little bit. (If you want some crunch, add in some diced celery as well).
You can then serve up and have a totally different chicken salad to enjoy!
Love this salad? Make sure you check out my Keto Spinach Salad in a jar soon!
Love grilled chicken? Try this Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breast.
Basil Chicken Salad
- 1 head of purple cauliflower cut into large pieces
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 6 thinly sliced kumquats
- 2 tablespoon basil julienned
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 large basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 kumquats
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth. In a medium bowl toss the chicken with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the grill to medium hot. Put the cauliflower on the hot grill. Grill the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes on each side to char. Transfer to a piece of aluminum foil and seal the edges into a packet. Return to the grill. This allows the cauliflower to steam and soften.
- Meanwhile, add the chicken to the hot grill. Grill for 7-8 minutes on each side until it registers 160 on a meat thermometer. Cool for 5 minutes and then slice.
- Add the dressing ingredients to the small blender. Process until smooth.
- To assemble: Divide the spinach between six plates. Top with the julienned basil, sliced chicken breast, and some cauliflower. Add a few slices of kumquat. Drizzle the dressing on top and serve.
Originally Published June 21, 2017. Revised and Republished June 9, 2022.