This gorgeous, restaurant-inspired Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad is loaded with Mediterranean flavors and finished with an easy-to-make balsamic vinaigrette. You can savor this impressive entree salad any time of the year, and prep the components ahead for lunch on-the-go.
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Balsamic Grilled Chicken Salad: Restaurant-Inspired Salad At Home
When I was a teenager, my mom and I often met up with her sister (my late Auntie El) for lunch and shopping on the weekends. We had a favorite lunch spot (Old Man Rafferty’s in New Brunswick, NJ), and my favorite item on the menu was the Balsamic Chicken Salad. I must’ve had it at least 50 times!
Years later, I started re-creating a version of the salad at home, and got my whole family hooked on it. With juicy balsamic chicken breasts, mixed greens, artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and homemade vinaigrette, this is an entree salad that satisfies.
(Not to mention that when you make it at home, you can snack on a few mozzarella balls while you’re putting it together. Cook’s treat!)
What Goes in Balsamic Chicken Salad
- Grilled Balsamic Marinated Chicken Breasts. I make this salad year-round, so during the cold winter months, I use either a grill pan on the stove, or an indoor countertop grill. You could also bake or air fry the chicken breasts, as outlined in the balsamic marinade recipe post.
- Spring Mix. Also called “mesclun,” spring mix contains an assortment of baby greens. The type of greens can vary, but it often includes baby spinach, arugula, romaine, frisée, and radicchio.
- Artichoke Hearts. I love to use grilled artichoke hearts in this recipe. My favorite are from DeLallo. If you’re unable to source them, you can use either marinated or brine-packed artichoke hearts. Drain all varieties well before adding to the salad.
- Kalamata Olives. To save time, I buy my olives pitted. If you’re using whole olives, you can either gently smush them on a cutting board with the back of a chef’s knife to remove the pits, or use a cherry and olive pitter.
- Tomatoes. When making this salad during the summer months, I use halved cherry tomatoes from my garden. The day I photographed this recipe, I used quartered Campari tomatoes (“cocktail” tomatoes). If using full-sized tomatoes, cut them into wedges.
- Fresh Mozzarella. I use ciliegine, which are about the size of a cherry. You could also use the smaller perlini (mozzarella “pearls”), or a larger ball of fresh mozzarella cut into cubes.
- Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette. Rich, tangy, sweet balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment to the Mediterranean flavors in this salad.
- Cracked Black Pepper. Just like in the restaurant, I top this salad with a few grinds of freshly-cracked black pepper table-side.
Occasionally, I’ve added roasted red pepper strips to this salad, as well as thinly sliced Vidalia onion, sliced cucumbers, or homemade garlic croutons for some crunch.
Tips for Assembling the Salad
As with most salads, this recipe is more of a guideline for inspiration than instructions to follow to the letter. Here are a few tips for assembly:
- Spring mix is delicate and wilts easily, so don’t dress the salad until you’re ready to serve it. I like to toss the greens with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette to coat, and drizzle a little extra over the top in my plate.
- Quantities of add-ins are a suggestion; feel free to increase or decrease to your personal tastes. Like more mozzarella in your salad? Toss in a few extra ciliegine. Not big on kalamata olives? Only add a few, use a different variety, or omit entirely. This salad is your canvas!
- While I don’t recommend assembling the salad in advance of serving, components can be prepped ahead.
- Make the vinaigrette up to 5 days in advance and store it in the refrigerator, re-whisking before dressing the salad.
- Marinate and grill the chicken breasts 2-3 days in advance, gently re-warming and slicing them when you’re ready to make the salad. (I’ve also made this salad with cold leftover grilled chicken, and it was delicious.)
- If using whole olives, pit them and store them in the refrigerator up to 3 days if dry and a week if in brine.
- As written, the salad serves two as a main course, or four, more petitely. That said, it can easily be adjusted up or down for a larger gathering or one-person meal.
Taking this salad on the go? I love to use a Bentgo Salad Container to keep the ingredients fresh and separated. With compartments for the greens, add-ins, and dressing, I can toss the salad in the base just before lunch.
More of our Favorite Salad Recipes
- Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad
- Salmon and Couscous Salad with Tomato Confit Vinaigrette
- Harvest Cobb Salad
- Fig Salad with Goat Cheese and Baby Arugula
- Pear Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad
- 4 cups spring greens ("mesclun"), washed and dried
- 2 balsamic-marinated chicken breasts , grilled
- 12 ounce jar grilled artichoke hearts , drained, and cut into quarters if halved
- ½ cup kalamata olives , drained and pitted
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls , "ciliegine" sized
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes , halved (or an equivalent amount of cocktail tomatoes, quartered)
- balsamic vinaigrette
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- Slice chicken breasts crosswise into ½-inch strips.
- In a large bowl, combine greens with artichoke hearts, olives, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Toss with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette to coat.
- Arrange salad on a platter with the grilled chicken strips on the top. Finish with a few grinds of pepper and additional vinaigrette, to taste. Serve immediately.