If you’re not spotlighting basil and tomatoes in your weekly menu, is it even summer? By combining fresh basil, ripe cherry tomatoes, and briny mozzarella with leafy greens, creamy avocado, and grilled chicken, Chicken Caprese Salad makes a meal of the classic side salad. Simple, fast, fresh, and light, it’s a perfect dinner for the whole family after winding down an active summer Saturday.
Did you think you were getting away this summer without at least one more tomato/basil recipe from me? Ha! Jokes on you. I may even have another one in me.
All kidding aside, there’s a valid reason I’m becoming a self-proclaimed Master of the Summer Vegetable. Ever since we’ve entered what I’m calling “the new normal of 2020”, lots of people (including myself) have really gotten back to basics. And by basics, I mean like Neolithic era basics. Stories have been cropping up all over mainstream media and lifestyle blogs highlighting a shift for a lot of families from gardening as a quaint hobby to a survival mechanism.
Including yours truly. I dug in (literally) this spring and got a small (okay, fine, it’s a little excessive) patio garden going so I’d have a somewhat reliable crop of edible resources – including (you guessed it!) more tomatoes and basil than even I can consume in one summer.
Whether faced with anxiety over spending time in public markets or stretching grocery budgets, it seems like lots of folks are now subsistence gardening in their own yards or community gardens. But regardless of the why, I think this movement is an absolute silver lining on the cloud of uncertainty hanging over us.
Responsibly-sourced food is an important part of my life. In fact, I think it should be an important part of everyone’s life. There’s a level of control we reclaim by gardening – produce that fits your family’s taste and budget, knowing how much of it you have to work with, and being able to craft menus based on that availability.
Growing on your own produce forces you to be conscientious about seasonality and regionality. (Trust me, I’m not growing bananas in Maryland.) Plus, you know exactly what you’re putting into your body because you know exactly what you’re using to aid the growth and protection of your food. Home gardening isn’t a cure-all for food or money woes; but it’s a sustainable step in the right direction.
And not to underplay the positive environmental, social, and economic impact of subsistence gardening – but to bring it all full circle – the basil and tomatoes I’ve grown at home with my own two hands taste sweeter to me than anything I’ve picked up in the freshest of farmer’s markets.
How to make chicken caprese salad
Chicken Caprese Salad is the perfect dinner to highlight the freshest of fresh ingredients and clean, classic flavors. It starts and finishes simple, and it doesn’t hurt that you don’t even have to turn on the oven. While your grill is heating up, prep the dish by pounding and seasoning your chicken breasts and slicing and dicing your veggies. Whisk together your dressing ingredients while the chicken is cooking and get ready to cut, plate, and serve once it’s fresh off the grill.
- Place a chicken breast between a sheet of folded parchment paper and pound to an even thickness. This both tenderizes the chicken and ensures it will cook evenly.
- Brush the chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle with seasoning.
- Grill over high heat on a grill or grill pan for 5-6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Rest the chicken on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes (so the juices can settle) then slice into 1/2″ strips against the grain.
While the chicken grills, then rests, prepare the remainder of the salad ingredients.
- Whisk extra virgin olive oil, honey, and balsamic vinegar to make the dressing.
- Chop a head of romaine lettuce. Toss the romaine with torn basil leaves and half the vinaigrette.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes and bocconcini cheese, and dice the avocado.
- Layer the greens in a large serving bowl (or divide between individual plates) and top with the tomato, avocado, and fresh mozzarella. Nestle the sliced chicken on top, then garnish with more fresh basil leaves. Dress with more dressing to taste, or a splash of balsamic reduction.
What in heck is bocconcini?
Lovely, wonderful soft balls of creamy fresh mozzarella, usually found soaking in a container of brine. They’re typically larger than bite-sized, but definitely a workable mouthful for adult cheese fiends. If you’ve got kiddos, you may want to pre-cut their portion to spare yourself the visual of them trying to cram one in their tiny mouths.
If you can’t find bocconcini, simply use a whole fresh mozzarella ball and dice into 1″ bite sized pieces.
Is chicken caprese salad healthy?
Like I always say – you’re your own best guide when it comes to what is, and isn’t healthy, for your body. That being said, here’s some guidance for your particular dietary journey. This salad is:
- Low carb and keto friendly: coming in around 18g net carbs, this will work for the majority of low carb diets and even works for some on a ketogenic diet. If you follow a strict keto diet, you’ll want to eliminate the honey in the dressing (it’s still delicious) and you may want to reduce the tomatoes by half.
- Naturally gluten free and grain free: this salad is a terrific alternative to a caprese sandwich for a satisfying meal.
- Super clean: nothing but real, whole foods in this classic summer dinner salad. And because it packs in most of the foodie rainbow, it’s also incredibly nutrient dense.
Tips for making this recipe perfectly
- Use the freshest and best quality ingredients you can source and afford.
- Use chicken breasts of even size and pound to an even thickness so they cook at the same rate.
- Do not overcook the chicken! Once you’ve pounded the breasts, they’ll only need a handful of minutes per side to both cook through and achieve a light char. Use an instant read thermometer to ensure your chicken is cooked to temperature (165°F).
- Don’t be afraid to veer off the path and try different varietals of cherry tomato in this recipe. If you prefer golden hues to red, go with what you love – just make sure they’re fresh!
More tomato and basil recipes you’ll love
- Caprese Chicken
- Italian Basil Chicken with Creamy Pan Sauce
- Caprese Pasta with Italian Sausage
- Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad
- Bruschetta Stuffed Avocados
Did you make this Chicken Caprese Salad? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below
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- Grill pan
- Rolling Pin
- 4 5-7 oz chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
- 2 tsp italian seasoning
- 2 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 c loosely packed basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 8 oz bocconcini
- 1 avocados, diced
Honey Balsamic Dressing
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- Prepare the chicken. Place one chicken breast onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the paper over the chicken. Using a rolling pin, pound the chicken breast to even thickness of a little less than 1". Set aside and repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.
- Combine the italian seasoning, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
- Brush the chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle with the seasoning blend. Flip the chicken oven, then oil and season the other side.
- Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Place the chicken breasts on the grill and cook 5-6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. Rest the chicken for 5 minutes, then slice into ½” strips against the grain.
- Toss the lettuce and basil leaves with half the dressing. Dive the salad between four plates. Top each salad with one-quarter each of the cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, and avocados, then top with the sliced chicken. Drizzled with additional dressing to taste and serve immediately.