This cajun chicken salad is a delicious, winter-inspired side dish or entree full of seasonal flavors. Fresh citrus, creamy avocado, and hearty kale are tossed with an easy homemade vinaigrette and juicy, cajun seasoned chicken to make a delicious, healthy lunch or dinner.
I have always been a fan of seasonal salads, even in these colder winter months. Much like my summer salads, a winter salad like this one is absolutely delicious because I use the best seasonal ingredients I can find.
For my cajun chicken salad, the spice of cajun seasoning is balanced with juicy fresh winter citrus, bitter kale, and buttery avocado. Little additions of sharp raw onion and the crunch of fresh pomegranate seeds are the perfect touches that make every bite enjoyable.
Why you’ll love this salad
- Delicious as a filling entree, but simple enough to be a great meal prep recipe for lunch as well.
- The seasonal ingredients I recommend also have great seasonal substitutions!
- Very easy to prepare and holds up great in the fridge for several days.
- Healthy and nutritious thanks to lean proteins, healthy fats, and fresh veggies.
Each ingredient I chose here builds to create a balance of flavors and textures, making every bite delicious and satisfying. To make this salad you’ll need each of these ingredients, or one of my recommended substitutions.
- Chicken breasts – my preferred lean protein for this recipe, but you can use your favorite cut of chicken, so long as it can be sliced into the salad.
- Cajun seasoning – use your favorite brand, or whip up a quick homemade cajun seasoning really easily.
- Oil – we’ll be using avocado oil for our chicken, and olive oil for the rest of the salad.
- Kale – I used green curly leaf kale here, but use whatever variety keeps showing up in your CSA box! Kale is an abundant and delicious winter green in all its varieties.
- Avocado – This healthy fat is a key ingredient that provides creamy texture to contrast the other salad toppings.
- Oranges – Winter is a fantastic season for oranges, and I recommend you take full advantage of it. I used half orange and half grapefruit but use your favorites. Oranges, grapefruits, blood oranges, or tangerines are all great this time of year.
- Pecans – Feel free to swap these for your favorite nut. I can’t think of a single one that wouldn’t work here.
- Red onion – the thin slices of raw onion are a sharp, peppery bite that works really nicely in this salad.
- Pomegranate seeds – Bright red, tart, juicy, crunchy, pomegranates are simply beautiful in the winter and I definitely recommend enjoying the fresh seeds in dishes like this one, or my pomegranate chicken, whenever you can. If you can’t find them, dried cranberries are a great alternative winter flavor.
In addition to these ingredients, we’ll be making a quick and easy vinaigrette for our winter salad. You’ll simply be combining oil, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, garlic, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. With a quick whisk it’s ready to go!
Perfect for lunch
While you’re prepping all your ingredients for dinner, I highly recommend preparing extra as a lunch salad. My version of cajun chicken salad keeps really well and makes a perfect work lunch with just a few key tips.
- Massage the kale ahead of time so it’s ready to eat when you are.
- DON’T dress the salad ahead. Bring it in a small jar or container and dress it when you’re ready to eat.
- Avocado will hold up best before slicing, so if possible bring the whole avocado with you. Just slice and add to the salad when ready.
- Wait for the chicken to cool completely before building your salad in your lunch containers. Then cover and store for up to 4 days!
WIth easy prep you’ll have a couple of protein packed, nutritious chicken salads that’ll keep you going through the last few hours of work. These tips work well for storing any leftovers as well. Keep the dressing and avocado separate, and you can store leftovers for several days.
Honestly, no matter what meal of the day you make this for, I know you’ll enjoy every bite. That perfect forkful of green kale, spiced chicken, juicy citrus, and pomegranate will hook you from the first taste! Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out my other winter chicken recipes as well!
- Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta
- Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Noodle Casserole
- Chicken Cabbage Stir Fry
- Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breast
- Pomegranate Glazed Drumsticks
Cajun Chicken Salad
For the Cajun chicken:
- 1 lb. (450g) chicken breasts
- 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- sea salt and black pepper , to taste
- 1/2 clove garlic , minced
For the salad:
- 1 bunch kale , destemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil , for massaging kale
- 1 avocado , peeled and cubed
- 1 orange , peeled and chopped (I used ½ orange and ½ grapefruit)
- 1/4 cup pecans , toasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup red onions , thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
The Cajun chicken.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Drizzle the avocado oil all over chicken breasts. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning on the chicken and rub to coat. Bake for 25-35 (depending on the size of the chicken) minutes until the chicken is golden brown or internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C) on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the kale and massage it with the olive oil until tender. Add the avocado, orange, pecans, red onions, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently.
- Slice the chicken breasts into strips and arrange on top of the salad.