The inspiration for this Apple Pecan Chicken Salad came from my love of a salad at Panera. Every time I eat there I get the same thing, the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, and I love it! It has a perfect balance of crispy greens, tangy blue cheese, crunchy pecans, spicy red onions, and sweet apple chips. All of those components are included in this recipe too. However the vinaigrette I make is a smidgen different, but oh so good!
Now truth be told you can buy the Panera Fuji Apple Vinaigrette at the store. But at around $6 per bottle it is not in my grocery budget. However, if you buy a $0.95 can of frozen apple juice concentrate you can create a pretty darn good version of this apple vinaigrette! I bet you have most of the additional ingredients in your kitchen already: mayo, sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. You just saved yourself $5, now go reward yourself with a $5 Starbucks ; )
Those crispy little apple chips are one of the stars of this salad. I get mine at Aldi- see the pic below. I think they are around $2.00 per bag. So inexpensive, I love Aldi… ok maybe slightly obsessed with Aldi. If you do not live near an Aldi, I’m sorry, just kidding- kind of, you should be able to find a similar product at your local grocery. Maybe even look in the health food section. Just make sure you get the crispy ones, that are probably fried, not the spongy ones, that are probably healthy.
Apple Pecan Chicken Salad for Dinner
This is a salad that is filling enough to be served at dinner. But, I know my husband gets nervous if a salad, alone, is brought to the table. So I serve this with some kind of crusty bread like a ciabatta with extra virgin olive oil or a baguette with butter and garlic. If we’re souper hungry (lol) I will serve it with a broccoli cheese soup or my restaurant style potato soup, like the meal you would eat at Panera.
Make the salad your own
At our house this means taking my husbands salad out before adding the blue cheese, which is one of my favorite parts and I’m not going without! Some other ways to customize would be to sub feta cheese or gorgonzola for the blue cheese. Making the pecans candied would be amazing, this is a great recipe from Gimme Some Oven. Making it vegetarian would be a great options too- or taking the chicken out so it can be more of a side salad.
Apple Pecan Chicken Salad Tips
One thing that I HATE in a salad is cold flavorless tomatoes. When I have the time I cut my tomatoes 20 minutes to 1 hour before I assemble the salad. I sprinkle them with salt, pepper and garlic powder and let them sit at room temp. It makes the tomato a tasty part of the salad you actually want to eat.
Another great tip is to make sure your salad is completely dry before tossing it with the dressing. I like to wash my lettuce leaves whole. That way, if you do not have a salad spinner, you can easily wipe down the leaves before chopping it for the salad.
Dress your greens before adding all the yummy mix ins. For this salad I toss all the romaine with the dressing, then add the onions, apple chips, cheese, pecans and tomatoes and give it one last turn around the bowl. Then it is ready to serve and all the mix ins still look perty.
Toast your nuts! I toast the pecans in a dry pan for about 5 minutes over low heat, stirring once in a while so they don’t burn. It completely changes the flavor, for the better.
Rinse your onions. I know I have said this before, but it is such a great tip and so easy to do. By rinsing the onions you remove the enzyme that makes that pungent onion flavor stay in your mouth for hours. When you are eating onions raw rinsing them makes a huge difference.
- 1 large head of romaine, chopped
- 1 chicken breast, grilled, sliced (can also use rotisserie chicken)
- ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 1 medium slicing tomato, diced
- 2 sliced rings of red onion, rinsed
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1 heaping cup crispy apple slices
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
- ¾ tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Whisk all the ingredients together until it is smooth and the sugar is dissolved
- Sprinkle the diced tomato with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Let them sit as long as you can, 20 minutes to 1 hour.
- Toast the pecans in a dry pan over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop the pecans.
- In a large bowl toss the romaine with desired amount of the apple dressing.
- Add the chicken, pecans, tomato, red onion, blue cheese, and crispy apple slices- toss to coat in the dressing.