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Chicken Salad Recipe With Kale

A Kale Salad Worth Writing Home About

As someone with countless salad pet peeves, there's a surprisingly short list of salads in San Francisco that I've deemed worthy of ordering, but one I've had a continued romance with is the dino kale salad with chicken from The Plant Cafe downtown. We met, exchanged numbers, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Every time I've ordered this dish as takeout, I've pondered what makes it so memorable. The key, I believe, to the salad's greatness is twofold: one is its mix of colors, textures, and other components (crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado, leafy kale, and comforting quinoa), and the other is the extremely bright, lemon-forward dressing, which, thanks to a few added spices, tastes exotic, like it's from a faraway land.

After attempting to re-create this recipe at home countless times, I think I've pretty much nailed it. Don't believe in salad love at first sight? Then make this recipe and see for yourself.

Chicken and Kale Salad With Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

Inspired by The Plant Cafe, San Francisco, CA


To make the cucumber extracrispy, plunge it into an ice bath after prepping and before serving.

Chicken Salad Recipe With Kale


  1. 1 large bunch (4 tightly packed cups) dino kale, stems and tough veins removed, thoroughly dried and torn into bite-size pieces
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. For chicken:
    1/2 onion, quartered
    1 celery stalk, cut into 3-inch pieces
    1 carrot, cut into 3-inch pieces
    1/2 lemon, cut in half
    2 cloves garlic, peeled
    1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
  1. For dressing:
    1 lemon, juiced
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    1/2 tablespoon mustard
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  1. For salad:
    1 cup cooked red quinoa, cooled
    1/2 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks
    1/2 cup English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
    1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
    1/2 avocado, sliced
    1/4 cup whole roasted unsalted almonds, roughly chopped


  1. Massage the kale: Transfer kale to a large mixing bowl. Add in 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and, using your hands, massage the kale for several minutes or until leaves become glossy and tender. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to sit for four hours or up, ideally overnight.
  2. Poach the chicken: Place onion, celery, carrot, lemon, garlic, peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a straight-edged deep pot; fill with 2 inches of water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken, keep uncovered, and return to a boil for 3 minutes; turn off heat and allow chicken to sit, turning over halfway, until cooked through, about 18 minutes. Let cool; using a fork, shred chicken into bite-size pieces.
  3. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, add lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, cumin, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste.
  4. Serve the salad: Divide kale evenly between two bowls. Layer each with 1/2 cup quinoa, then top bowls with 4 ounces chicken, 1/4 cup carrots, 1/4 cup cucumbers, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1/4 avocado, and 2 tablespoons almonds.
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