I love a great salad. There is something so satisfying about a restaurant quality salad with homemade dressing. But I am tired of going out and spending $20 for one salad. I created this lime dressing recipe so that I could enjoy a fresh, delicious dish at home for a fraction of the cost.
Everyone knows that salads are healthy. However, this recipe is especially nutritious. It packs protein, greens, grains, and hydration. Plus, you will enjoy the flavors of blackened chicken, cilantro lime dressing, and spiced rice crisps.
Why You'll Love This Blackened Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Fast and Fresh - This recipe only takes 25 minutes to prepare! It is perfect for busy weeknights, or to prep for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Allergy Friendly - This salad with homemade dressing is super easy to make vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Prepare it with tofu instead of chicken, for a plant-based option. Swap the soy sauce for tamari or liquid aminos to make it gluten-free.
Ingredients for Salad
- Arugula - The peppery notes of Arugula make for the perfect green base for this flavorful salad. You will need one 5oz container.
- Rice - Rice helps make this salad hearty and filling. Wild, white, or brown rice will all work, and each have different benefits, so choose your favorite! You will need 1 ½ cups of cooked rice for this dish.
- Cabbage - Cabbage is so healthy, and the pop of color is gorgeous. Opt for red cabbage. Thinly shred 1 cup.
- Carrots - Carrots add nutrition, crunch, and the slightest touch of sweetness to any great salad. Matchstick carrots work best. 1 cup will do the trick.
- Cucumbers - Thinly slice 1 cup of cucumbers to complete your veggie prep!
- Optional Garnishes - You may also wish to garnish your salad with extra cilantro, sliced almonds, cashews, red pepper flakes, or lime wedges. You can also add some freshly ground black pepper if needed.
Ingredients for Cilantro Salad Dressing
- Cashews - I love cashew based dressings. They are healthier than mayo-based dressings, but creamier and more luscious than vinaigrettes. You will need ¾ cup cashews. Raw, unsalted work best, but roasted and salted are okay too.
- Agave - Salad dressing needs a little touch of sweetness. Agave is a great choice for nutrition, as well as consistency. You can sub out maple syrup or honey if needed. You will need 2 tbsp.
- Soy Sauce - You will need 1 tbsp soy sauce for your dressing.
- Sesame Oil - You will need 1 tbsp of oil for your dressing. I recommend light sesame oil, as it adds a really delicious flavor note, but you can also substitute olive oil.
- Rice Wine Vinegar - Rice vinegar adds a little acidity to this creamy dressing. Add 2 tbsp.
- Lime Juice - Since this is a cilantro lime dressing, the fresh lime juice flavor should be prominent. The best way to achieve this is to use good, fresh limes, rather than bottled lime juice. You will need 3 tablespoons lime juice.
- Red Pepper Flakes - Red pepper flakes can add a little zest and spice to your dressing. I use 1 tsp. You can always add a little more red pepper to the salad itself if you want more heat.
- Cilantro - Clean your cilantro and pluck off the leaves before you begin. You will need 1 cup of cilantro leaves, packed.
- Water - Have 2-4 tbsp of water on hand when you make your dressing. You will want to check the consistency of the dressing yourself and add as much or as little water as you prefer.
Optional Blackened Chicken:
- Chicken - You will need 1 ½ pounds of chicken breast tenderloins. You can also substitute rotisserie chicken, or tofu.
- Blackened Seasoning - Blackened seasoning adds a delicious, smoky flavor to your protein. It also makes for major plate appeal. You will need 1 ½ tbsp. You can find blackened seasoning near the creole and cajun spices in your grocery store. If you don’t see any, you can prepare your own blend easily at home.
Optional Spiced Rice Crisps:
- Puffed Rice Cereal - These puffed rice crisps are so fun and flavorful. You can make them out of regular rice cereal. You will need 2 cups.
- Soy Sauce - You will need 1 tbsp of soy sauce to season your rice crisps.
- Sesame Oil - A little oil will help your rice cereal get extra crispy. I recommend 1 tbsp light sesame oil, but olive oil works as well.
- Ginger Powder - You will need ½ tsp ginger powder to season your rice crisps.
- Garlic Powder - Garlic brings out the savory notes of this crunchy salad topper. Add 1 tsp garlic powder.
- Onion Powder - Onion elevates the other seasonings in the dish. Add 1 tsp onion powder.
- Smoked Paprika - Smoked paprika is the star of your rice crisp seasoning. You will need 1 tbsp.
- For a gluten-free option, double check the ingredients on your rice cereal, and swap your soy sauce for tamari or liquid aminos.
- To make it plant-based, prepare this dish with pressed, firm tofu instead of chicken.
- Add cubed avocado, sliced mushroom, or red onion if you want extra veggies in your salad!
Before you begin, spray a small sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350F. While your oven preheats, make your dressing. You can use a food processor or high-speed blender. Add your cashews, agave, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Blend until smooth.
Add your cilantro and blend again, until your dressing is creamy. Slowly add your water 1 tbsp at a time if your dressing is too thick. Chill the dressing in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
Next, make your spiced rice crisps. In a large mixing bowl, add your rice cereal, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, ginger powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika. Stir gently to combine. Pour your seasoned rice cereal into the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 4-5 minutes. Then, raise the heat and broil your rice cereal for 30 seconds. When it begins to brown, remove the cereal from the oven and set aside to cool.
Prepare your chicken! Add your chicken breast tenderloins to a bowl and coat them evenly with the blackened seasoning. Heat a pan over medium-high, and sear your chicken for 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes before you dice it for the salad.
Slice and chop all of your veggies to bite size.
Assemble your salad! Layer the rice, veggies, chicken, and spiced rice crisps.
Dress your salad or serve it with dressing on the side. Garnish as desired and enjoy!
• If you use salted cashews as your base, you may want to scale back on the soy sauce.
• When cooking chicken, you should always ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
- Salad is safe to eat if stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Dressed salad will begin to wilt after 1 day.
- Cilantro lime dressing stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- If you are cooking for one, keep the rice, chicken, and rice crisps separate from the veggies when storing. This way, you can warm your rice and chicken just before enjoying, and keep your rice puffs from getting soggy.
- Use leftovers as a filling for healthy lunch wraps!
- Use any extra cilantro lime dressing as a dip for french fries, spring rolls, pretzels, veggies, or even mozzarella sticks.
- Pack the veggies in a mason jar and place this dressing in a small container for a healthy lunch!
Blackened chicken is a great choice if you don’t want to compromise flavor or nutrition. Fried chicken usually packs more flavor and texture than grilled chicken. Blackened chicken offers both without the extra fat and carbs.
There are a few factors that can cause your cilantro lime dressing to turn out bitter. First, be sure you are using only the cilantro leaves. The stems can cause the dressing to taste bitter. Similarly, you will want to avoid getting the pith of the lime in your blender pitcher. Your choice of oil can also affect the flavor. I recommend light sesame oil for this dressing. Olive oil works in its place, however if you are using extra virgin olive oil, it may increase the bitterness of the dish.
Blackened seasoning did originate in Louisiana, so it is easy to confuse it with Cajun or Creole seasoning, however, they are different. While both include similar ingredients, blackened seasoning is specifically measured to create a coating that will char when seared.
I hope you love this recipe and if you do make sure you let me know below so I can make more salad dressing recipes! Looking for more salad recipes? Try These!
Cilantro Lime Dressing
- 5 oz cont. Arugula Greens
- 1.5 cups Wild White or Brown Rice, cooked
- 1 cup Red Cabbage thinly shredded
- 1 cup Matchstick Carrots
- 1 cup Cucumbers sliced
- Optional Garnishes- Cilantro Sliced Almonds, Cashews, Red Pepper Flakes, Lime Wedges
Cilantro Lime Dressing
- ¾ cup Cashews
- 2 tbsp Agave may sub honey or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Light Sesame Oil or Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
- 3 tbsp Lime Juice
- 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 2-4 tbsp Water as needed for consistency
- 1 cup Cilantro Leaves packed
- 1.5 lb Chicken Breast Tenderloins
- 1.5 tbsp Blackened Seasoning
Spiced Rice Crisps
- 2 cups Puffed Rice Cereal
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Light Sesame Oil or Olive Oil
- ½ tsp Ginger Powder
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
- Prepare a small sheet pan with non stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350F.
- Start by adding all of the dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender and processing until smooth.
- Add cilantro and blend until a creamy dressing forms. Add 1-2 tbsp of water as needed for consistency. Chill until ready to serve.
- In a mixing bowl combine the puffed rice cereal, soy sauce, oil. ginger powder, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika.
- Bake for 4-5 minutes and finish with 30 seconds of high broil to crisp. When crispy and beginning to brown, set aside to cool.
- In a bowl coat the chicken tenderloins and blackened seasoning.
- Pan sear the prepared chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, over medium high heat. Set aside to rest a few minutes before dicing.
- Prepare all veggies by slicing or shaving thinly and chopping into bite size pieces.
- Assemble the salad by layering the cooked rice, prepared veggies, spiced rice crisps, sliced cashews or almonds and chopped blackened chicken.
- Serve with cashew dressing or toss in salad prior to serving, along with any additional garnishes desired. Enjoy.
Salad can be stored up to 1 days before wilting will occur but can be stored for up to 3 days.