By now you know how much I love a sweet treat, but believe it or not, I equally love and appreciate a good, solid, salad. Have to keep things balanced, right? I just love how a few simple, quality ingredients can come together so easily, bringing all the colorful, crunchy flavor and nutritious benefits. I’m convinced you’ll agree with me that this Greek Chicken Salad with Feta Pesto checks all of those boxes – a true multi-tasking moment, FTW!
You also probably know how much I love Greece. Bridger and I went there for our honeymoon a couple years ago and explored and ate our way through each island we visited, and it was just so amazing. I’m not kidding when I say I ate a Greek salad with every single meal there. It’s kind of the way to my heart. As soon as we got home, I created a version that would take me back anytime I made it. That one is included in my cookbook, Rachael’s Good Eats, but because I just can’t get enough, I had to make another version that ended up being this incredibly easy and delish salad with a feta pesto dressing… are you ready for it?
A SENSATIONAL SALAD
When it comes down to it, a salad is only as good as what you put in it, so trust me when I say you don’t want to skimp on any of the add-ins so you can create the most balanced, sensational salad of your Grecian dreams. For the greens in this one, I went with little gem lettuce which is equal parts refreshing, crunchy, and loaded with vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamins A, B and C. To incorporate the always-important protein macronutrient, I used grilled, organic chicken breast.
Like I said, one thing I love about salads is how easy it is to incorporate color – which immediately equates to more nutritious benefits, making my dietitian-heart happy. For one of those pops of nourishing color, the sun-dried tomatoes (an antioxidant powerhouse) add that chewy and tangy-yet-sweet flavor that tastes so good with the crunchy lettuce and sourdough croutons. The crumbled feta adds a smooth, creamy texture, along with the avocados that we all know and love for providing some healthy fats, another important macronutrient. Although I know olives aren’t for everyone, what’s a Greek-inspired salad without them?! The kalamata olives in this recipe bring in a little pop of purple, and that smoky, salty taste to round it all out.
DRESS IT UP
Now that we covered the base of this salad, we have to talk about the dressing. IMO, the key to achieving a truly great salad is to dress it up accordingly. And I can’t tell you how proud I am of this super creamy, feta pesto dressing. It’s truly packed with all the best flavor and good-for-you ingredients, it’ll have you wanting to use it on everything – which I definitely recommend you try, it works great over pasta too!
The olive oil and pine nuts of course provide some healthy fats, but did you know that pine nuts can also increase your energy levels due to their protein, magnesium and iron? The basil leaves in this pesto not only add an herbaceous aroma, but are high in vitamin K (which helps strengthen your bones) and bring that sweet but slightly spicy flavor. I love adding a healthy amount of garlic into this recipe because of the zest it brings and its ability to fight bacteria and viruses, which we can all benefit from year-round. And for even more flavor and immune-boosting vitamin C benefits, can’t forget about the lemon juice.
This creamy feta pesto totally gives luxuriously, rich dressing vibes, and I am here for it. Paired with the deliciously, crunchy, colorful, flavorful base, this salad is exactly what you need at any time of the year to really feel like you’re taking care of yourself from the inside out. I’d love to hear what you think if you give this a try!
If salad isn’t your thing, but you’re in the mood for a healthy, Greece-inspired meal, I got you! Try my Greek Burgers & Fries. They’re on major rotation in our house.
INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pine nuts
- Fresh basil
- Lemon, juiced
- Minced garlic
- Crumbled feta (I used @athenosfeta)
- Sea Salt
Little Gem Salad
- Little gem lettuce
- Organic chicken breast, cooked to your preference
- Sun-dried tomatoes, (jarred in extra virgin olive oil)
- Kalamata olives
- Sourdough croutons
- Crumbled feta
HOW TO MAKE GREEK CHICKEN SALAD WITH FETA PESTO
Add ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Note: the recipe makes enough for leftovers. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Little Gem Salad
Toss little gem lettuce with pesto (however much you prefer), seared organic chicken seasoned with salt + pepper, sundried tomato, Kalamata olives, sourdough croutons, additional crumbled feta, and avocado. Enjoy!
RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS & QUESTIONS
I love that salads are completely customizable, so essentially you can add/omit any ingredients to your liking. If steak is more your vibe than chicken, that works for the protein element. You could also try making my Greek Burgers and crumbling those over top of the salad. I love using little gem lettuce in this recipe, but you can swap that out for romaine or iceberg, based on preference. Feel free to use grape or cherry tomatoes (really any tomato works here) instead of sun-dried if you’d like. I prefer sourdough croutons because I’m sensitive to gluten and am able to digest sourdough a bit better – but feel free to use your favorite.
The pesto is also super customizable. Since this is a Greek-inspired recipe, I went with feta, but you could also use parmesan or pecorino cheese. Nutritional yeast works as a great replacement for cheese, if you prefer to make a vegan pesto. Instead of or in addition to pine nuts, walnuts, or almost any kind of nut can be used. To accommodate a nut allergy, you could easily swap in sunflower seeds for the pine nuts. And for the greens, I use basil in this recipe, but feel free to use a mixture of basil with another green like spinach, arugula, and/or kale (note: depending which greens you go with, you may need to play around with the amount of other ingredients to ensure the flavor profile is nicely balanced).
There’s also the option to buy store-bought pesto, especially if you’re in a time crunch, but making it at home is the best part! If you opt for store-bought, I recommend reading the ingredient labels closely to ensure you’re getting one with minimal to no processed ingredients, added sugars or seed oils.
WHAT LETTUCE HAS THE MOST HEALTH BENEFITS?
All lettuce offers its own nutritional benefits, so it’s more about the texture of each lettuce and how that pairs with whichever style salad you’re making. Little gem lettuce, used in this recipe, is a cross between romaine and butter lettuce – both of which are packed with folate and vitamins A, C, K, and minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
IS IT WORTH MAKING YOUR OWN PESTO?
While you can buy store-bought pesto, which can be helpful if you’re in a pinch, nothing compares to the incredibly fresh smell and taste of homemade pesto. It’s super customizable (I noted some substitutions and recommendations above), and in some cases may be less expensive to make at home vs. buying in the store. Ultimately, it’s all about personal preference and what makes the most sense for you.
SHOP THE RECIPE
LOOKING FOR MORE SENSATIONAL SALAD RECIPES? TRY THESE:
Looking for more healthy recipes? Check out my New York Times Best Selling Cookbook, Rachael’s Good Eats. 110+ easy, laid-back, nutrient-rich recipes.
Click here to watch the reel I made of this recipe 🙂
Greek Chicken Salad With Feta Pesto
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/2 tbsp minced garlic, (about 2 cloves)
- ~4 oz crumbled feta, (I used about 3/4 of a 6 oz container)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups cubed sourdough bread
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Little Gem Salad
- 5-7 cups Little gem lettuce
- 2 Organic chicken breast
- 3 tbsp Sun-dried tomatoes, (jarred in extra virgin olive oil)
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 1/4 cup Crumbled feta
- 1 Avocado, sliced
- Add ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed.
- Serve over salad (like this Little Gem salad), with pasta, or as a sauce with your favorite meal. Enjoy!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add the cubes of bread to a baking sheet.
- In a small pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp minced garlic, and 1/2 tsp sea salt on low heat for 3-4 min. Pour over the cubed bread and toss well. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven, flipping once towards the end. Set aside to cool.
Little Gem Salad
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the little gem lettuce with the pesto until well coated. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until evenly mixed, or add everything in sections to the top of the salad for more of a pick-and-choose type of meal for guests. Enjoy!