The Ultimate Guide to Grilled Chicken Salads

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Chicken and salad are a classic pairing. The juicy, savory chicken complements fresh veggies and greens perfectly. Grilling the chicken adds delicious smoky, charred flavors that take these salads to the next level.

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about making incredible grilled chicken salads. You’ll learn:

  • Benefits of grilled chicken salads
  • Tips for grilling juicy, flavorful chicken
  • How to properly season and marinate chicken
  • Salad building basics
  • Creative salad ingredients that pair well with grilled chicken
  • 15 mouthwatering grilled chicken salad recipes

So get ready to become a grilled chicken salad master!

Benefits of Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled chicken salads have a lot going for them. Here are some of the best benefits:


Chicken salad starts with a base of leafy greens or vegetables, which pack a nutritional punch. Grilled chicken adds lean protein, providing staying power. You’re getting fiber, antioxidants, protein, healthy fats, and more in one flavorful meal.


Thanks to the protein from the chicken, grilled chicken salads are deeply satisfying. They keep you feeling full and energized.


Salads accommodate endless combinations of flavors and textures. You can get creative with crunchy and soft ingredients, sweet and savory flavors, different dressings, and mix up the greens.


Chicken cooks quickly on the grill. Putting together a salad is a simple assembly job. You can prep the ingredients ahead of time for easy weeknight meals.


A salad with grilled chicken is much lighter than fried chicken or most heavy protein options. You can skip high-calorie toppings like cheese or creamy dressings and still end up with a tasty, healthy meal.

Grilled Flavor

The smoky char and crispy bits from the grill take the chicken to the next level. Grilling infuses incredible depth of flavor.

With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why grilled chicken salads are so popular!

Grilling the Perfect Chicken for Salads

The star of these salads is juicy, flavorful grilled chicken. Follow these tips for cooking chicken that shines:

Choose Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are ideal for grilling. They cook evenly and quickly. The skin and bones would char too much before the inside is done.

Breasts also slice nicely for adding to salads. Opt for fresh, never frozen chicken for the best texture.

Pound the Breasts

Pounding the chicken breasts to an even 1/4 or 1/2 inch thickness helps them cook faster. It also allows seasonings to better penetrate the meat.

To pound, place chicken smooth side down between pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin, pan, or your hand to gently pound to the desired thickness.

Brine for Added Moisture

Soaking chicken in a saltwater brine ensures juicy, seasoned meat. The salt helps the chicken retain moisture.

Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in 4 cups water. Submerge chicken and chill 1 hour. Rinse chicken and pat dry before grilling.

Use Direct vs. Indirect Heat

Cooking over direct heat helps the chicken caramelize and char for amazing flavor. Place it directly over the heat source.

For very thick breasts, cook first over indirect heat, then finish over direct heat. This prevents burning the outside before the inside cooks through.

Grill 5-8 Minutes Per Side

For ideal doneness, grill boneless, skinless chicken breasts over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes per side. Use a meat thermometer to confirm they reach 165°F internally.

The timing depends on thickness. Thinner breasts cook faster. Let breasts rest 5 minutes before slicing for perfectly juicy meat.

Slice Thinly Against the Grain

After allowing the chicken to rest, slice it thinly across the grain. This makes it tender to bite into. Aim for 1/4 inch slices.

Now you’re ready to turn the grilled chicken into amazing salads!

Seasoning and Marinating Chicken for Salads

Seasoning is key for grilled chicken that pops with flavor. Follow these tips:

Season Just Before Grilling

Season chicken right before placing it on the grill. If you salt too early, it draws out moisture.

Coat both sides with olive oil first. Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, spices, and herbs. Press them in so they adhere.

Take Advantage of Marinades

For more flavor, marinate chicken for 30 minutes up to overnight before grilling. The acidic marinade tenderizes meat.

Try marinades like lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk, teriyaki, italian dressing, or vinaigrettes.

Make Quick-Marinades

Don’t have time to marinate? Make quick-marinades by whisking ingredients like olive oil, mustard, chopped herbs, garlic, chili flakes, etc. Coat the chicken just before grilling.

The sauce caramelizes beautifully on the meat, sealing in moisture and flavors.

Consider Dry Rubs

Dry rubs give great crusty char. Mix herbs, spices, salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, etc. Pat the rub all over the chicken before grilling.

Watch for Burning

Be careful with sugar and oil in marinades, which can burn quickly. Apply marinade sparingly if cooking over direct heat. Grill over indirect heat first.

With the right seasoning, the chicken gets a flavor boost that carries through the entire salad.

Salad Building 101

A grilled chicken salad starts with a foundation of greens or other vegetables. You then add mix-ins and toppings for contrasting flavors and textures.

Follow these best practices for building balanced, delicious salads:

Start with a Base

Select a base that matches the flavors of the salad. Opt for leafy greens, grains, roasted veggies, slaws, etc. Popular bases include:

  • Mixed greens or spinach
  • Kale, arugula, lettuce
  • Quinoa, farro, rice
  • Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts
  • Coleslaw, broccoli slaw, carrot slaw

Add Crunchy Toppings

For textural contrast to the tender chicken and greens, add crunchy ingredients. Good options:

  • Bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Croutons
  • Tortilla strips

Include Creamy, Tangy Ingredients

Ingredients like cheese, avocado, dried cranberries, and citrus brighten up salads. They add creaminess and tang.

Compliment with Seasonal Produce

Salads are the perfect place to highlight seasonal fruits and veggies at their peak. Try:

  • Spring – Strawberries, snap peas, asparagus
  • Summer – Tomatoes, corn, stonefruit, berries
  • Fall – Apples, pears, butternut squash
  • Winter – Pomegranate, blood orange, kale

Crunch It Up

Chop ingredients into bitesized pieces or thin slices. This makes them easier to eat in a salad and gives you flavors in each bite.

Dress It Up

Pull the salad together with a light dressing that complements the ingredients. Vinaigrettes, yogurt or tahini based dressings work well.

With the right combination of flavors, colors, and textures you can build incredible grilled chicken salads. Now let’s get to the recipes!

15 Grilled Chicken Salad Recipes

These creative recipes cover all the possible flavor combinations and ingredients you can use to make stellar grilled chicken salads.

1. Greek Grilled Chicken Salad

This salad packs a flavor punch with kalamata olives, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a red wine vinaigrette.

For the Salad

  • 6 cups mixed greens
  • 1 lb grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced

For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, toss together the mixed greens, chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta, and onions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper for the dressing.
  3. Drizzle the desired amount of vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

2. Buffalo Chicken Salad

Spicy buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and crunchy celery give this salad plenty of bold flavors.

For the Salad

  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 lb grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

For the Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp hot sauce
  • 3 Tbsp ranch dressing
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, celery, and blue cheese.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the hot sauce, ranch, and olive oil.
  3. Drizzle the desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss until coated evenly.

3. Southwest Chicken Salad

Black beans, corn, avocado, and a chipotle ranch dressing give this salad a fun Tex-Mex twist.

For the Salad

  • 1 lb grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • 3 cups mixed greens
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, greens, black beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes, and cheese.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ranch, lime juice, chipotle powder, and garlic.
  3. Drizzle the desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss to coat everything evenly.

4. Chicken Caesar Salad

Crisp romaine, parmesan, and creamy caesar dressing make this grilled version of the classic salad delicious.

For the Salad

  • 1 lb grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup croutons

For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, romaine, parmesan, and croutons.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper.
  3. Drizzle the desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

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