Fast and healthy chicken kale caesar salad recipe! Tender kale is tossed in light lemon-anchovy dressing and topped with homemade whole grain croutons.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think you can find a Caesar salad at just about any restaurant. That’s good news for my hubby because he always orders one to start the meal. It’s not a surprise that it’s so popular. Crunchy greens and creamy cheesy dressing, yum!
One thing I learned in culinary school was how to run recipe costs and markups. Salads get a lot of love because they’re light, fresh and feed the need of health-conscious customers.
To be honest, it’s one of those workhorse dishes that doesn’t cost much to make and brings in high profits. With that in mind, I wanted to create a homemade kale caesar salad recipe that is super satisfying and packed with even more nutrients. Let’s do it!
You’ve probably seen the different types of Caesar salad dressings, such as the thick and creamy version, or the light and savory style. To keep the flavor of this salad authentic, I went for the anchovy based dressing.
I know, anchovies are not very sexy. But guess what, they have this incredible ability to take your dressing from good to out of this world.
Anchovy paste is the way to go for a quick and easy add. It’s a combination of anchovies, oil, and salt, pureed and ready to use. It’s got lots of great savory notes, very little fishy odor and adds a depth to the dressing that you just can’t get without it.
This dressing is just thick enough to coat lightly each leafy green. No sloppy, or goopy stuff for this power salad. A quick whisk of Dijon mustard, olive oil, anchovy, and freshly squeezed lemon juice makes for a zingy kick. You can add less lemon juice if you find that it’s too zippy, but I like how it makes for a refreshing taste.
Adding a protein like chicken is an excellent way to make this salad into more of an entree than an appetizer. I simply sauteed lean chicken breast in olive oil, and then thinly sliced the pieces.
If you can grill the chicken, that would add even more flavor. It’s too cold right now to fire up the grill outside, so I stuck to using my stainless steel pan.
Have you ever made homemade croutons? It’s so easy! Don’t let bread go to waste. I had some nice rustic whole grain bread that I wanted to use to make these croutons. I sliced the loaf very thin, tore the pieces apart (the kiddos love helping with this!), tossed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper, then baked until crispy.
I start this first thing so they are ready right when the salad is to be dressed. It takes less than 20 minutes and adds an irresistible crunchy texture to the salad. Any leftover lasts for weeks, and can be broken up to be used for breadcrumbs. I like to add those breadcrumbs to make meatballs, oh yea!
So why kale instead of romaine lettuce? As much as I think romaine is the right choice for tender greens in this salad, kale has some impressive additional health benefits.
The dark green color means it’s packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. It’s also high in vitamin A, C, K, and minerals iron and calcium. Filled with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, eat bite make for an even healthier meal. Enjoy friend!
What are the different varieties of kale and how do you use them in cooking?
In grocery stores, you can typically find 4 kinds of kale: curly, red, dinosaur or baby kale.
- Curly and red kale both have hearty leaves with frilly edges. You can substitute one for the other, it’s more of a visual choice. They are best for cooked dishes like soups and hold sauces well. Avoid using it in raw dishes as it can be very chewy and fibrous.
- Dinosaur (aka Tuscan or Lacinato) kale is much more tender and less bitter tasting. You can thinly slice the leaves and use them in a salad like this Caesar recipe, or sauteed for a short time.
- Baby kale has a milder flavor, very tender leaves, and works great for salad or fruit smoothies.
Chicken Kale Caesar Salad with Croutons
- 2 cups rustic whole grain bread, torn pieces, (sliced to ¼ inch torn to 1-inch pieces)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, skinless, pounded to even thickness about ½-inch thick
- kosher salt, for seasoning
- black pepper, freshly ground, for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 cups kale leaves, thinly sliced, ribs and stems removed (Tuscan/Lacinato/Dinosaur kale recommended)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh
- zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil, extra-virgin
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Thinly slice bread into 1/4-inch slices and tear into smaller pieces and transfer bread to a large bowl.
- Drizzle with olive oil, tossing the bread to coat.
- Add salt and pepper and toss.
- Spread the croutons on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake for 5 minutes, toss and stir. Bake another 5 minutes and check for doneness.
- Depending on the size of the bread and how browned you want them, they may need another 5 minutes or so. Allow to cool.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pan or skillet.
- Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Place chicken breasts in skillet and cook for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until chicken are cooked through (165°F internal temperature).
- Allow to rest on a serving a cutting board. Slice into thin pieces.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Add more lemon juice as desired.
- Place the kale in large mixing bowl and toss with dressing.
- Add cheese, chicken and croutons. Toss and serve.