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Ultimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale Salad
Sometimes you’re just craving a healthy, jam-packed salad for lunch or dinner, especially during the warmer months and this Ultimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale Salad is it! Simply add a splash of color, flavor, and nutrients with a variety of ingredients like chicken, carrots, cucumbers, corn, edamame, nuts, etc. Entirely dairy-free + gluten-free. Vegan option.
This Ultimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale Salad is both elaborate and so easy to make. You can even prepare it ahead of time and store this salad in the fridge for an easy on-the-go lunch or weeknight dinner. This is one healthy recipe that will have you feeling your best and super filling.
If you're a lover of salads, then you'll definitely enjoy this one. Honestly, I wasn't the biggest fan of salad growing up or even in my early adult years because I hardly ever saw it eaten in my house. Usually, we'd have every side on the table outside of greens and so I was afraid that salads equated to being "boring".
Who wants just lettuce with tomatoes and a few slices of cucumbers---right? Haha.
Well, thanks to my love affair with chopped salads from Just Salad a few years ago and now my vision of salads have changed.
Now, I'm so proud of myself for the salads that I make for my family and I, including this Ultimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale Salad and despite the many parts----it's just SO GOOD, ya'll! I promise that it's worth it!
What is Chopped Salad?
OK, so if this is your first time hearing about chopped salad, then I've got you covered. Basically, the difference between chopped salad and regular salad is that all of the ingredients are chopped and incorporated versus it being layered.
It definitely creates the perfect bite that makes a real difference when eating it.
Why and How to Massage Kale
When it comes to massaging kale, it's usually recommended because kale is known for being tough and fibrous, which makes it sometimes hard to chew and digest. However, massaging the kale softens it a great deal and helps the flavors to be more pronounced which works hand in hand with the other ingredients.
My easy method to massage kale is to add the de-stemmed and chopped kale to a large bowl and then drizzling it with 1-2 tsps of lemon juice or Extra virgin olive oil and using your clean hands, rubbing the leaves together gently for about 2-3 minutes. They should look glossy and slightly reduced in volume when massaging is achieved.
How To Make BBQ Chopped Kale Salad
Ready to get in the kitchen to whip up this ultimate summer kale salad? Let’s get to the recipe.
The ingredients for this wintery salad are simple and easy to customize based on what’s in your kitchen:
Chicken breasts. You’ll want two whole organic chicken breasts for this salad.
Olive oil. Use a nice high-quality extra-virgin olive oil to roast the broccoli.
Nuts. Pecans and walnuts are my favorite pairing with maple syrup, but feel free to use any nut or seed you have on hand.
Maple syrup. You can also use honey if you’d like.
Kale. Be sure to chop your kale leaves well into bite-sized pieces. No one likes feeling like they have to chew for 5 minutes to get through a tough leaf of kale! If you prefer a different leafy green, you can use spinach, romaine, butter lettuce, or another favorite salad base. For an extra touch, I chose to roast my kale for a nice crisp!
Veggies. For this salad, I used corn, edamame, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Paprika, Oregano, Thyme, Garlic powder, Onion powder, Parsley, Salt and Black pepper add a hint of spice to the dish.
Croutons. Feel free to use your favorite gluten-free croutons if necessary! You can use store-bought or make your own croutons with a loaf of stale bread as directed.
Salad dressing. Use your favorite homemade or store-bought dressing to bring this salad to life! I made my favorite homemade creamy lemon garlic dressing which adds a great bold flavor.
Tomatoes. You can add as many tomatoes as will fit on your baking sheet.
Olive oil. Don’t skimp on the oil! It helps concentrate the tomato flavor and makes a nice jammy texture. You can use these roasted tomatoes like a dressing or sauce.
Dried herbs. I like a mixture of Italian herbs like oregano, basil and parsley. But you can mix up the seasonings with other fresh or dried herbs. Thyme, rosemary, marjoram and tarragon are all delicious with tomatoes.
Spices. Likewise, feel free to play with different spices in your roasted tomatoes. I like paprika, garlic powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes for a slight kick.
How to Make Homemade Croutons
This BBQ chopped salad is easy to throw together, but the highlight like many salads are definitely the homemade croutons. While you might think that it's so hard to make----I'm here to show you just how easy it is, using the following ingredients:
Rustic bread, cubed into ¾ inches
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt + Black pepper
Dairy-Free Lemon-Garlic Salad Dressing
This creamy and vegan salad dressing ties the salad together. It gives it body, heft and a silky-smooth texture you’ll love.
Here’s what you need to make dairy-free dressing:
Garlic. I amp up the garlic flavor by using both fresh and dried.
Veganmayonnaise. You can use any brand you like. If you’re not vegan, feel free to use regular mayo.
Almond milk. feel free to use a different dairy-free milk.
Lemon juice + zest. Make sure it’s freshly squeezed for the best flavor!
Dried parsley. A different herb like basil or oregano will also work.
Can I Make This BBQ Chopped Kale Salad for Meal Prep?
You can prep this hearty Ultimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale Salad up to two days ahead of time. The roasted tomatoes, chicken and chopped veggies can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The salad can be tossed up to 30 minutes before serving.
Can I Add Additional Greens to this BBQ Chopped Salad?
Absolutely! If preferred, you can always add greens like Arugula, Mustard Greens, Spinach or Collard Greens to this pasta dish for added flavor.
How to Make Chopped Salad with a Food Processor
For greater ease, you can easily chop your ingredients in a food processor for the perfect bite. I suggest first starting with solely the kale leaves once they are de-stemmed. Add them to your food processor and pulse for a few seconds before they are too minced. Then remove those chopped greens and place them into a bowl and work your way through the other ingredients (all processed separately).
Once all ingredients are chopped, add them together in a bowl and continue recipe.
How to Store BBQ Chopped Kale Salad in the Fridge
Leftover BBQ Chopped Kale Salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.
Can I Swap Any Ingredients in this Chopped Salad?
Sure! It’s easy to make this chopped salad your own. Here are some simple ingredients swaps and additions to try:
Use seeds or other nuts instead of pecans + walnuts
Swap out the corn or edamame for onions, avocado, or bell peppers
Use spinach or arugula instead of kale
Try a different salad dressing: something lighter and less creamy works too
Add crispy chickpeas for more crunch
Add a different protein like Salmon, Tuna, Bacon, Shrimp, or Beans
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
Clean and rinse the chicken breasts, pat dry, and season with garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, salt + black pepper. Place seasoned chicken unto the prepared baking sheet. Top each chicken with about ½ cup of BBQ sauce and save the remaining sauce for later.
Bake the chicken breasts for the first 20-25 minutes, before topping the chicken with the remaining BBQ sauce and bake for the remaining 10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked through when tested with a knife or fork. Once cool enough to handle, chop chicken into medium chunks or strips using a knife.
TO MAKE THE HOMEMADE CROUTONS:
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
In a bowl, add the cubed bread, olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, parsley, salt, and black pepper, tossing everything together until bread is fully coated. Add the bread unto the baking sheet (spreading it out evenly) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bread has become golden and are crisp. Remove and let it cool.
MAKE THE CANDIED NUTS:
In a bowl, add the chopped pecans and walnuts along with the maple syrup and cinnamon. Stir and toss until the nuts are fully coated. Transfer the nuts to a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and arrange into an even layer.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until the nuts are browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
CHOP + MASSAGE KALE:
Strip the leaves from 2 large bunches kale and discard the stems. Coarsely chop the leaves and add them to a large bowl. Drizzle about 1-2 tsps of lemon juice or olive oil atop chopped kale and using clean hands, rub together the kale gently for about 2-3 minutes to soften the leaves and help to infuse the 'flavors' of the kale.
TO MAKE DRESSING:
In a bowl or sealable jar, add the vegan mayo, almond milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper. Seal the jar and shake or whisk together until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:
To the bowl with the kale, add the chopped BBQ chicken, candied nuts, chopped carrots, cooked corn, edamame, chopped cucumbers, roasted tomatoes, and croutons, tossing everything together. NOTE: At this point, you can add the dressing to the salad and toss again to combine OR set aside until serving.
Serve and enjoy.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.
MAKE AHEAD: The roasted tomatoes, chicken and chopped veggies can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The salad can be tossed up to 30 minutes before serving.
GREENS: If preferred, you can always add greens like Arugula, Mustard Greens, Spinach or Collard Greens to this pasta dish for added flavor.
VEGAN OPTION: To make this salad vegan, simply omit the chicken and substitute with your favorite meat substitute (chickpeas, beans, tofu, quinoa, etc.) and ensure that the other ingredients (BBQ sauce and bread) are vegan-friendly.