As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some recipes may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
This Christmas chicken salad is an easy-to-prepare option packed with texture and flavour. Succulent pre-cooked chicken is combined with a medley of kale, baby spinach and/or rocket leaves. Adorned with zucchini spirals, cherry tomatoes, roasted quinoa, and crunchy hazelnuts, this salad is topped off with a burst of sweet pomegranate seeds.
The finishing touch is a delicious balsamic honey dressing that can be drizzled over the prepared salad or served on the side.
Ideal for any time of the year, it truly shines as a festive addition to your menu. This salad is anything but boring – just feast your eyes on the array of colours! Let’s not overlook its remarkable nutritional value either. Indulge in this sensational salad today!
Some tips for preparing the salad:
Selecting the chicken meat:
The chicken used in this salad is the tender, white meat from roasted or poached chicken. Removing the skin will give the chicken a delicate bite. Shred the chicken meat into bite-size pieces before adding it to the salad.
Follow the cooking instructions to make quinoa. This method is used also to make Tabbouleh salad.
To get that nutty, toasty flavour, roast the cooked quinoa with some olive oil, ground cinnamon and salt for no more than 15 minutes, mixing often to prevent it from burning, especially on the sides.
Roasting the hazelnuts:
In a dry pan, roast the blanched (skins removed) hazelnuts over the stove on medium heat, stirring often and never leaving it unattended. Nuts have a sneaky tendency to burn in seconds! Remove from the pan as soon as the hazelnuts appear nicely golden.
Need to remove the skin? Head to this recipe for steps on how to remove them easily.
How to make zucchini spirals:
Unless you are a highly skilled knife slicer, it is advisable to use a vegetable spiral/julienne peeler to get long strands of zucchini appearing like spaghetti.
I leave the skin on the zucchini providing it is organic. The dark green gives a nice contrast against the white, light green flesh.
How to remove the pomegranate seeds:
Before slicing the pomegranate in half, I recommend you wear disposable gloves and an apron, as the juice is temporarily staining and tends to splatter.
Once halved, use the back of a large knife or a rolling pin to smack the pomegranate shell while facing over a bowl beneath it to catch the ripe seeds that fall out. Don’t be tempted to pry the seeds out with your fingers as this will tear into the lining of the pomegranate shell, resulting in pieces of the membrane falling in the seeds as well. This membrane is sour and stringy, and not pleasant to eat.
About the balsamic honey dressing:
Like most dressings, this balsamic honey dressing can be made well ahead of time and stored in a glass jar or dressing dispenser. It keeps chilled for over a week and is a versatile dressing to add to different salads from a simple garden salad to this Christmas chicken salad.
There are many levels of flavour in this dressing. The woody, light molasses flavour of the balsamic vinegar, the acidic flavour from the lemon juice, the sweetness from the honey, the pungent notes from the Dijon mustard and the elegant flavour of the extra-virgin olive oil.
Occasionally, I add some fresh herbs depending on the salad, but for this salad, fresh chives or parsley would go well.
After the holidays, why not use up some leftover turkey meat to create this salad?
Christmas Chicken Salad
- Gravy or dressing boat jug optional
Christmas Chicken Salad Ingredients
- 100 g quinoa, either multi-coloured or plain
- 70 g blanched whole hazelnuts
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch of salt
- 100 g kale
- 100 g baby spinach or rocket leaves, or a mix of both, stems removed
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved or left whole
- 1 zucchini
- 250 g shredded cooked chicken (white meat part) either from a roast or poached chicken, skin removed
- ½ small red onion, sliced
- ½ pomegranate
Balsamic Honey Dressing
- 100 ml balsamic vinegar
- 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1½ tbsp lemon juice
- Freshly cracked black pepper & salt, to season
- Fresh chives or parsley, chopped finely (optional)
CHRISTMAS CHICKEN SALAD
Preparing the roasted quinoa:
- Rinse the quinoa under running water, drain and add it to a small pot.
- Cover the quinoa with water and a pinch of salt no more than 5mm above the grains.
- Place the lid on and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer on medium-low uncovered for 15 mins. Stir and fluff the quinoa occasionally with a fork.
- Remove from the heat and lay a sheet of kitchen paper towel or tea towel on top and cover with the lid. This step absorbs any excess moisture from the quinoa.
- Leave aside to cool. TIP: At this stage, the quinoa can be chilled and kept for 2 days before roasting the quinoa for the Christmas chicken salad.
- Transfer the cooled-down quinoa to a lined baking tray.
- Thinly drizzle the olive oil over the quinoa and sprinkle with the cinnamon & salt. Mix well and spread out the quinoa evenly on the tray.
- Roast the quinoa for 15 mins at 180°C/350° on the top oven shelf mixing often.
- Remove the quinoa from the oven and allow it to cool down in the tray. Leave to one side.
Preparing the hazelnuts:
- Roast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat.
- Toss the hazelnuts often so that they turn golden evenly.
- Remove the hazelnuts from the pan as soon as they appear roasted. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow to cool on a plate. Set aside.
Assembling the salad:
- Tear the kale leaves away from the stalk. Discard the stalk.
- Wash the kale and baby spinach/rocket. If available, use a salad spinner to thoroughly dry the leaves.
- If necessary, rip the kale leaves into smaller mouth-bite pieces and add them together with the baby spinach/rocket leaves to a large salad bowl.
- Wash the cherry tomatoes and zucchini. Drain and pat dry.
- If preferred, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add half of them evenly around the salad. Keep the other half of the tomatoes to one side.
- Using a vegetable spiral peeler with the zucchini will make long and thin spaghetti-shaped zucchini, otherwise very thinly slice the zucchini into long strips. Add even mounds of zucchini to the salad.
- Position the chicken meat around the centre of the salad on top of the leaves.
- Add the remaining cherry tomatoes, red onion slices, pomegranate seeds, roasted quinoa and hazelnuts.
- Cover and chill the undressed salad until serving time. Do not dress the salad ahead of time, otherwise, it will make the salad soggy.
- Serve the salad undressed with the balsamic honey dressing available on the side in a nice dressing jug or dispenser for each person to dress their salad individually.
BALSAMIC HONEY DRESSING
- In a measuring jug or a dressing dispenser, mix or shake all the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Re-mix before serving.
- Keeps for 2 days, undressed and chilled
- Not suitable to freeze
- Roasted quinoa and hazelnuts can both be made one week ahead and stored in an airtight container. The roasted quinoa stores better in the fridge and the hazelnuts at room temperature.
Balsamic Honey Dressing
- Keeps for 1 week chilled
- Not suitable to freeze