Summertime!! Like many of you, summer is my family’s favorite season! It means more road-trips, hiking, picnics and a ton of fresh, delicious and colorful salads. My husband and I have a salad for lunch almost everyday. Since we both prefer chicken as our protein, we get creative with seasonings, mix-ins and salad dressings to avoid monotony. Cajun Chicken Salad is one of our most loved salad.
Cajun Chicken Salad:
I start with grilling Cajun spice rubbed chicken, to toast those earthy spices. I use a cabbage spring mix for this salad, which provides a nice cool contrast to the Cajun seasoning. But, you can use any lettuce mix you like. I add toasted almond chips, which provide a nice crunch, and strawberries, which compliment and balance this salad with their sweetness. The chicken is so moist and flavorful that I don’t even use a salad dressing most of the time. But when I do, I like to have an Apple Cider-Honey Mustard Vinaigrette with it. This salad is perfect for any weather really, and the best part is, it’s Low-carb.
Cajun Spice Blend:
Cajun Cuisine, which is best known for it’s spicy and earthy flavor tones, is a regional cuisine from the southern part of Louisiana. The first time I had Cajun chicken was in New Orleans, the real deal. I fell in love immediately. It was more than a decade ago, when my husband was attending a conference in New Orleans, and I tagged along. I visited the flea market at the famous French market, where I bought my first Cajun Spice blend. I was so eager to try it, that the first thing I did when we returned home was to grill some chicken and shrimp using this spice blend. It was UNBELIEVABLY good. Based on the ingredients on that spice pack, I started putting together my own blend.
The spice mix that I put together, tasted authentic and most of all, I was able to adjust the heat level in the mix. When I make a new batch, I store it in an air-tight container, and keep it in my spice drawer, away from heat and light.
When I make it from scratch, here’s what I use:
And, for days when I need short-cuts, here is a brand of Cajun Spice Blend that I really like: Frontier Organic Cajun Seasoning
It’s got the perfect balance of spices and heat for my family’s taste. It’s salt free, which I love, because I can customize it. I use 1 tablespoon of seasoning per pound of chicken. For fish and seafood, I would reduce that to 2 teaspoons per pound of meat.
Wet-Rub for the Chicken:
I make a quick and easy wet-rub for the chicken by combining olive oil, Cajun seasoning, salt and juice of lime. Rub the chicken and if I have time, I pop it in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. If I am running short on time, I put it in the refrigerator while I prepare the salad and the dressing. That still gives it time to absorb the spice blend.
Cook it anyway you like: Oven, Skillet, Grill, Instant Pot
This Cajun chicken can be cooked in many ways; in the Oven, on an Outdoor grill, on the stove-top in a Skillet, or, in the Instant Pot, the electric pressure cooker. If you scroll down, the Instructions for each method are mentioned in the Recipe/Instruction card.
Baked chicken breasts are a terrific make-ahead entree that you can use throughout the week for sandwiches, salads, or even pair with a master Indian curry sauce or master pasta sauce to create a complete dish.
Customize this Chicken Salad Recipe
This salad is like a blank canvas! You can change the base of this salad to pretty much anything you like. Use your favorite kind of spring-mix. Add sliced peppers, granny smith apples, blueberries or cucumbers. Don’t like salads, no problem! Make a burger out of it! Melt some pepper jack cheese on the chicken, sandwich it between two toasted buns with mayo and honey-dijon, and enjoy a Grilled Cajun Chicken Burger!
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Cajun Chicken Salad
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (can use thighs too)
Salad (this is one bowl/single serving, multiply as needed)
- 2 cups lettuce of your choice (I use a cabbage slaw salad mix)
- 1-2 small radish sliced thin (optional)
- 4 strawberries sliced thin
- 1 tbsp toasted sliced almonds
Salad Dressing: Apple-Cider Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette (makes enough for 2 salads, you can store in refrigerator for up to a week)
- In a large ziplock bag, or a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, salt, lime juice and Cajun Seasoning. Add chicken to the bag, zip it, and shake to coat the chicken with the wet-rub. Refrigerate it for 20 mins-4 hours
Oven Broiler Method
- Turn on the broiler. Place chicken on a lined baking sheet and cook for 6-8 minutes on 'each' side, flipping half way through, or till chicken is cooked through. Rest 10 minutes before serving.
- Pour 1 cup water in the inner pot. Place a trivet. Stack the seasoned chicken on the trivet. Close the lid. Set vent to "Sealing" position. Pressure cook on Manual (or Pressure Cook) for 8 minutes for Chicken Breast, and 6 mins for Chicken Thighs. Wait for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure manually (NPR10), and open the lid after the pin drops. Remove chicken and rest 5 minutes before slicing.
- As an optional step before slicing the chicken, you can heat a skillet and sear the chicken on both sides for a minute, to add a grilled flavor to this chicken. You can do the same by placing it under the broiler too.
Grill Pan, Skillet or Outdoor Grill
- Heat the grill-pan on medium-high heat. When hot, place chicken and cook for 6-8 minutes on 'each' side, flipping half way through, or till chicken is cooked through. Rest 10 minutes before serving. When using an outdoor grill, place the chicken on a medium-high heat zone and follow the same time as the grill pan.
Assemble the Salad
- Combine all the ingredients for salad in a large bowl. Using a mason jar, or a small mixing bowl, combine and whisk together all ingredients listed under "Salad Dressing". Mix well to combine the dressing well. Pour over the salad mix and toss gently. Slice up the chicken and serve on top of the salad. Enjoy!