Have you ever eaten a salad that you just couldn’t get enough of?
There’s a restaurant not too far from my house that has the best salad ever. And it drives me crazy.
If you just read the description on the menu, you’d think it’s just another combination of greens and chicken with some fruit, nuts, and cheese. Nothing revolutionary.
But then you take a bite. And another.
Then, before you know it, it’s two days later and you’re still dreaming about those creamy bites of cheese, perfectly contrasting with the crunchy nuts and chewy dried fruit.
But what really syncs it all together is the balance between the savory roasted chicken and the fruity vinaigrette.
This salad is the closest I’ve gotten to replicating the restaurant version at home.
As a dietitian, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that salads aren’t filling enough to be an entree.
My answer: if you’re still hungry, chances are you aren’t making it right.
Leafy greens provide fiber in addition to a wealth of vitamins and minerals. However, if you gave me just a bowl of mixed greens with croutons and a drizzle of dressing, then I’d be complaining about being hungry, too.
To feel and stay full, you need protein, fat, and fiber.
As I just said, the leafy greens have (most) of the fiber covered.
Roasted chicken is a lean option for adding filling protein. Whether you buy it or roast your own, to keep the saturated fat and calories lower, remove the skin from the cooked chicken before adding it to your plate. Making this recipe is a delicious way to put a new spin on leftovers, or a rotisserie chicken from the store.
And it doesn’t have to be roasted. You can use pan-seared chicken, or any leftovers from our Crock-Pot Whole Chicken recipe.
Almonds and goat cheese come next, providing a mix of fat and protein. Plus, the nuts also supply some heart-healthy fiber.
But the true healthy fat heavy-hitter in this recipe is the extra virgin olive oil in the dressing.
I cringe anytime I see someone buying fat-free salad dressing, thinking that they’re making a healthier decision.
Despite what the low-fat craze of the 90s would have you believe, fats can be incredibly healthy for us, especially extra virgin olive oil.
In fact, there are numerous studies showing diets high in this Mediterranean oil are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Another benefit of including fat in your dressing (besides texture) is that the fat is needed to absorb the vitamin K from the mixed greens, and vitamin E from the nuts.
For this recipe, we’re pairing olive oil with another nutrition superstar: fresh cherries.
Cherries are extremely high in vitamin C and antioxidants, which can help to protect us from chronic diseases, inflammation, and possibly cancer.
Plus, cherries have been shown to help reduce muscle soreness when consumed after a workout.
I know what I’ll be eating for lunch after my next hike.
So, skip the line at that trendy lunch place and make your own addicting meal at home, complete with a beautiful fresh cherry vinaigrette!Print
Chicken Lunchtime Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
Brighten up your lunch with this salad, featuring roasted chicken, creamy goat cheese, and a fresh cherry vinaigrette.
For the Dressing:
- 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1–2 teaspoons honey (optional)
For the Salad:
- 6 cups mixed greens
- 8 ounces chopped roasted chicken
- ¼ cup slivered almonds (or any other nut)
- ¼ cup dried fruit (dried cranberries or raisins work well)
- 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
To Make the Dressing:
- Place dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust to your preference. Honey may be added for extra sweetness.
To Make the Salad:
- Divide mixed greens, chicken, nuts, dried fruit, and goat cheese between four salad bowls.
- Drizzle dressing over salads and enjoy!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Salads
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Lunch
Keywords: cherry, cherry vinaigrette, roasted chicken, leftover chicken
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Pit Cherries and Measure Ingredients
Rinse the cherries and remove the pits with your cherry pitter, or do it manually by slicing each in half and manually removing the pits.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients.
Not a fan of goat cheese? Try feta or blue cheese crumbles instead!
Step 2 – Make Dressing
Place the pitted cherries, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, thyme, and mustard in your food processor. Pulse until smooth.
Taste and adjust salt, vinegar, and/or mustard per personal preference.
For a less tart, sweeter dressing, add 1-2 teaspoons of honey.
Step 3 – Assemble
Divide the mixed greens, chicken, nuts, dried fruit, and goat cheese between four salad bowls. You can use any combination of greens you prefer. Consider including some frisee or arugula for a fun, bitter bite!
Drizzle the dressing over the top of each and enjoy!
Dress Up This Dish
The best part of this salad is how easy it is to switch up the flavors simply by using a different dressing.
Still want fruity flavors? Try our Strawberry Vinaigrette. In an indulgent mood? Go with this Chocolate Balsamic Dressing. Or add some heat with a Cayenne-Honey Vinaigrette.
Looking for more salad recipes that feature fruit? Try out some of our favorites:
- Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Pickled Grapes, and Crispy Prosciutto
- Honey-Glazed Peach Spinach Salad
- Apple and Radicchio Salad
Let us know how you dress up your lunchtime salads in the comments below. Tried this recipe? Give it a rating to let others know how good it was!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Adapted from a recipe originally published by Shanna Mallon on April 23, 2010. Last updated: October 31, 2022 at 11:35 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.