Quinoa Chicken Harvest Salad
Want a seasonally-inspired salad for fall? Something that won’t weigh you down, but will absolutely fill you up? This Quinoa Chicken Harvest Salad checks off all the boxes. With juicy seared chicken, fluffed quinoa, greens, crunchy apples and chewy, tart dried cranberries, your tastebuds will never get bored. Be sure to dress it with my favorite Champagne Vinaigrette to tie all the flavors together.
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A seasonal fall salad
This simple chicken and quinoa salad recipe is perfect for early fall. We’re still enjoying a few warmer days of Indian summer and knowing the comfort food season that’s coming, it’s good to mix in a salad, right?
This one is great because it takes the flavors of autumn (apples & cranberries) and blends them with protein-packed quinoa, pan-sauteed herbed chicken breasts, fresh greens and a tangy, light Champagne dressing (recipe link included).
Ingredients for fall harvest salad
- Chicken Breast
- Dried Tarragon
- Salt & Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Green or Red Leaf Lettuce
- Cooked Quinoa
- Toasted Almonds
- Dried Cranberries
- Chopped Apple
- Champagne Vinaigrette (optional, but recommended)
I like the contrast of warm chicken topping a cool salad. It makes it feel more “main plate” and less of an afterthought.
Searing chicken for harvest salad
- Make sure your oven is preheated to 400°.
- Liberally season the chicken breast on both sides.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat for about 45 seconds, then add the oil.
- When the oil slicks across the pan (without smoking) it’s hot enough. Add the chicken breast and LEAVE IT ALONE for about 1-2 minutes to give it a chance to sear and brown.
- Flip the chicken and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes, then transfer the whole pan to the hot oven and roast it for an additional 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Use a pot holder to transfer the pan from the oven to the stovetop. Remove the chicken breast and let it rest on the cutting board while you assemble the rest of the salad. (Letting the meat rest is wise, as it allows the juices to resettle within the meat — giving you a juicier and more tender piece of chicken. It also keeps the chicken warm.)
Assembling chicken quinoa salad
You can either assemble all the ingredients in a serving bowl, sprinkling with the cranberries and toasted almonds and tucking a few slices of crisp apple into the mix or just divvy them up amongst two plates. I like to slice the warm chicken, diagonally and place the thin slices on top of the salad for a presentation like you see in the restaurants. It makes it feel a little more refined. Drizzle a few tablespoons of vinaigrette over it and enjoy.
Best dressing for harvest chicken salad
I prefer a light vinaigrette for this salad. If you have a favorite recipe, feel free to use it here. I’ve used a champagne vinaigrette recipe for this. It has tarragon, champagne vinegar, a little white wine, shallots and dijon mustard. I like this one because it tastes light and fresh.
If you prefer a creamy dressing, try this Buttermilk Parmesan, Herbed Ranch or even Chunky Blue Cheese. They would all be equally delicious.
Some quick tips and swaps for your harvest salad:
- When I make any grains (quinoa, rice, farro, etc.) I usually make a little bit more than I need for the recipe – that way there’s leftovers at the ready to toss into simple salads like this one.
- If you’re making the quinoa specifically for the salad, be sure to remove the lid and let it come to room temperature before assembling. Hot or warm quinoa/grains will wilt the lettuce and absorb too much dressing, where cold or room temperature cooked grains are dry and won’t absorb the dressing.
- I seasoned the chicken breasts with tarragon (which mimics the tarragon in my homemade Champagne dressing), however, you don’t have to cook your own chicken breasts if you’re pressed for time. Feel free to use leftover rotisserie chicken or this simple Instant Pot pulled chicken. I make batches of this and keep them frozen to toss into everything from salads, to soups and sandwiches. It saves time.
- Trader Joe’s sells toasted sliced almonds, which can save you a step.
We love this simple chicken quinoa harvest salad as a light dinner or even as a pack and go salad for workday lunches. If you are going to take this to work — or if you’re making it ahead of time, don’t dress the salad with the dressing until the last minute to prevent it from wilting.
What to serve with Harvest Salad:
More fall salad recipes you might like:
- Pear Pomegranate Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing
- Farro Pomegranate Kale Salad
- Caramelized Pear Gorgonzola Salad
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Cranberry Quinoa Salad
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Chicken Quinoa Harvest Salad
FOR THE HARVEST SALAD:
- 1 large chicken breast
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon tarragon dried, crumbled
- 4 cups green or red leaf lettuce, torn or mixed greens
- 1 cup quinoa cooked, cooled to room temperature.
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1 apple sliced into wedges or cut into chunks
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Place the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted.
SEASONING AND COOKING THE CHICKEN
- Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and tarragon.
- Heat a small ovenproof skillet over medium high heat for 45 seconds or so. Add the oil, it should slick across the pan.
- Add the seasoned chicken and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, until it starts to brown. Transfer the pan to the hot oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest on a cutting board.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:
- Combine the lettuce, quinoa and apples in a large bowl. Slice the chicken crosswise and rest it on top of the salad. Sprinkle with cranberries and almonds. Drizzle about 4-5 tablespoons of dressing over the salad and serve.
Oh my, that chicken looks so juicy. My mouth is watering. Ah and that dressing. So yum.
Yes, the chicken really rounds out this salad, Kristina!
Oh my gosh this sounds GOOD. Fall salads are my favorite, for the very reasons you mentioned — they break up all the rich, hearty winter meals. I actually crave light vinegar dressings like this one around the holidays. And I love the contrast of the warm chicken and quinoa with the cold veggies. Pinning!
Thank you for sharing — I’m so glad you like it — this really is a tasty dish!
What a great idea adding the quinoa to the salad. This is a great way to add some healthy grains to your diet and adding texture to this salad. I don’t eat a lot of quinoa but love this idea to keep satiated.
I think grains in a salad just make sense – for all the reasons you’ve noted, but also because they just make it so much more interesting!
Lisa, I am always looking for healthy but fun salads and this looks amazing!
Glad you like it, Sandhya! This is a good way to start the year with a clean slate and healthy ambitions!
Lisa, I can’t wait to try this! I’m currently experiencing all the fun things that pregnancy brings (like nausea!!) and chicken salads seem to be the one thing that I can stomach – thanks for sharing!!x
Congratulations on your pregnancy! That’s so exciting! I hope this chicken salad helps you get through — saltines and chicken soup worked for me.
Seriously…I was just thinking about how I need to make your Tangy Black Rice Salad and was ready to add it into the menu plan this week…but it may have to move aside until next week as this recipe looks marvelous and I do have a big bowl of fresh apples from a recent trip to the apple orchard. The dressing on this sounds so good..out of curiosity have you ever subbed white wine vinegar for the champagne vinegar? it’s the only ingredient I don’t currently have in my pantry.
Use the white wine vinegar Betty – no need to make a special run to the store! LOL!
Love the added crunch and sweetness the apples add to this salad and that dressing sounds marvelous!
This looks good, I’m pinning it!
Thans for sharing Dahn! Glad you like it!
So many of my favorites all in one salad! This one is definitely going on my to-make list. Thanks for the awesome recipe!!!
I love finding new ways to use quinoa! This looks fantastic!
This is a great salad for this time of year PLUS it’s healthy.
That is a DELICIOUS dressing! I can’t wait to try it!
Yes what a hearty salad! I got hungry just scrolling down your post. I love salad and this is one salad I probably wouldn’t want to share! Looks so good!
This is my kind of salad.
I love pretty much any salad with chicken, almonds, and cranberries….thx for the recipe!
What a hearty autumn salad! The dressing sounds really good – I love mustard based dressings.
Yes, plus there’s a little Chardonnay in it too! #DoesntSuck!