Hey Frugal Friends – are you looking for a sensational main dish salad that’s perfect for these hot, steamy summer days? I’m here to help you whip up a Grilled Chicken Salad that combines affordable ingredients in a versatile summer feast.
Quick cooking chicken cutlets, flavored with a rub of your choice and grilled to perfection (use gas or charcoal – or your grill pan) anchor this salad and complement the other items beautifully.
About Grilled Chicken Salad:
Not only does the star-studded cast include that succulent grilled chicken as the lead player, but the remainder of the players are juicy mango, ripe cherry tomatoes, sweet crunchy corn, and creamy avocado. Talk about eating the rainbow, and in a fun combo. Best of all this is a salad that’s gonna be substantially filling, refreshing, and cool on any hot summer day.
Let’s look at these flavors. You’ve got mango which means you could easily go with a tropical vibe on that chicken, but consider using a jerk seasoning, either mine or homemade. The avocado corn combo immediately makes Mexican and/or Southwestern flavors come to mind, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that chicken turning Cajun or Barbecue with the right rub.
Check out my menu of Spice & Herb Blends for inspiration and recipes or pick a fave play of flavors of your own. Whatever you choose go to town on that chicken and be liberal with the spicing. The flavors need to stand up to the rest of the ingredients in the salad.
All that’s left to think about is the dressing. I’ve chosen a simple, bright vinaigrette with just a touch of sweetness, a smidge of tanginess, and a hint of heat. The Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette will make a bit more than you’ll need for the salad but that’s a happy-making thing! Yeah, it’s that good! It will keep a week or two in the fridge so it’s likely there will be another opportunity to finish the jar.
About the Chicken Cutlets:
Chicken cutlets stand as an unsung hero of anyone who has no time to cook and especially a budget-minded one. I know because for years that was me. We had chicken cutlets so often when my folks had us over for a steak dinner, my daughter said, “This is the best chicken I’ve ever had…What kind of chicken is this?”
This quick-cooking cut offers an array of culinary possibilities. Let’s explore what chicken cutlets are, learn how to prepare them, and how to season them. In the recipe, below, we will delve into the art of grilling them to perfection on either a gas or charcoal grill.
Chicken cutlets are boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been trimmed of any fat and cut in half horizontally to make two thinner pieces. They can be bought precut and packaged at the grocery but it’s more cost-effective to buy sales-priced boneless breasts and do the deed yourself.
Often, the cutlet is also placed between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounded on the thicker side to make it more uniform in thickness. This allows a chicken cutlet to cook quickly, taking about 2 to 3 minutes per side, while remaining juicy and tender. For this recipe, the cutlets are prepared in this way.
With a maximum amount of surface area, cutlets are an ideal canvas for a variety of flavors and seasonings. They can be quickly marinated or treated as in this recipe with a dry rub. Prepare the cutlets first, then let them sit, soaking in those spices as the rest of the ingredients for the salad are prepped.
Making the Grilled Chicken Salad:
The preparation of the fruits and vegetables in this salad is easy, peasy if you follow along for a few hints and helps, below.
Mango: To cube the mango, slice off the sides. Hold the mango upright and using a sharp knife, slice off one side lengthwise, starting from the top and running alongside the flat, oblong seed in the center. Repeat on the other side. You now have two large mango cheeks. Lay them flat, skin side down, and score the flesh in a grid pattern to but not through the skin. Using a glass, slide the mango piece down the rim, separating the flesh from the skin. Use a knife or spoon to carefully remove any remaining fruit from the seed or skin of the mango.
Avocado: The avocado is prepared much the same way. Cut in half, remove the seed, and score through the flesh to the skin in a grid pattern. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon and you’ll be left with nice cubes. Squeeze a little lime over the cut avocado to prevent browning – you’ll be using lime in the dressing and to serve so just appropriate a smidge of it for this.
Corn: If using canned corn, rinse and serve. Fresh corn will need to be cooked and removed from the cob. Frozen corn should be cooked according to package instructions. Cool cooked corn before adding to the salad.
Tomatoes: If anything can be a pain, it’s cutting a lot of small roundish items, whether it’s tomatoes or olives, or baby potatoes. I always dump them into a lid, usually a yogurt, cottage cheese, or sour cream lid, placed upside down on the counter; add another lid on top and use a long, sharp knife to cut horizontally through the center as you hold the top lid down with your other hand.
All that’s left is to dice a little red onion and a smidge of parsley to sprinkle over the salad when finished.
Unfortunately, this salad is not a great option to make ahead or use as leftovers. Your best bet is to make just enough to use for the meal.
If anything, if the salad is made with most of the components separate and spread out, as shown in some of the pics, rather than all mixed together, it’s possible to “salvage” the chicken, corn, and tomatoes if necessary.
The vinaigrette will keep for a week or two with no problem.
Saving Money on Grilled Chicken Salad:
- Chicken: Chicken regularly goes on sale so make it a habit to know the lowest price and what’s a good buy in your area. Break it down into packages and freeze.
- Mangoes: One of the best ways to save money on Mangoes is to buy them in season. Depending on where you live, you may see different varieties coming in season at different times of the year. See the chart at Mangoes dot org for more information.
- If you buy too many mangoes and can’t get to them in time to use them up, simply cube them, lay them flat on some plastic wrap on a sheet tray or plate, and freeze until hard. Once frozen, divide them up into Ziploc bags for use in lassis or other smoothies.
- Don’t waste the “skin”, the seed, or any flesh hanging onto your Mango. Drop them in a jar or pitcher of water and let it infuse. Your water will be flavored almost immediately but leave it overnight to get a little more bang for the buck. See my post on “Spa Water” on a budget for more info.
- Corn: You can use any kind of corn you wish in this recipe. When in season, fresh would be fabulous! And fresh corn in season almost always beats the price of frozen or canned. If using frozen or canned, watch for great sales in the fall when the warehouses are loaded. Regardless of the time of year, there are usually enough sales on both canned and frozen that it can almost always be picked up at a discount. Drain frozen if there is a lot of moisture and rinse canned thoroughly to remove some of that “canned” taste.
- Tomatoes: There’s no doubt that cherry or grape tomatoes can be a little pricier than standard tomatoes. Watch for specials! If you can grow your own, and many cherry tomatoes grow beautifully in pots, that’s usually a great way to go. For the most part, but do your research, some cherry tomatoes have a high yield and produce tomatoes voraciously! Whole tomatoes and also be chunked up, instead and that’s a great budget option.
- Avocados: They can often be pricey but sometimes the smaller, discounted ones are inferior. Try to buy good ones when you find them on sale and choose a variety of ripeness. That way they can be used during the current week and the next.
Grilled Chicken Salad
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 - 6 servings 1x
- Category: main dish salad
- Method: grill
- Cuisine: American
For the Salad:
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally if thick, pounded as needed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of seasoning mix of choice
- 1 small mango, cubed in bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups corn, cooked as desired (leftover is fine)
- 1 or 2 avocados, cubed
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (optional)
- Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette (recipe below)
- Additional Lime for Serving
For the Salad:
Sprinkle cutlets generously on both sides with spice blend or rub, allow to rest at room temperature while preparing the rest of the ingredients as well as the vinaigrette (recipe for vinaigrette is below, at bottom of the page.)
Arrange or toss the salad ingredients as desired. Grill and rest the cutlets. Cut into smallish bite-sized pieces and serve with the salad. Toss salad with vinaigrette or pass the vinaigrette at the table.
Grilling Chicken Cutlets on a Gas Grill:
- Preheat the gas grill to medium-high heat.
- Brush the grill grates with a neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, to prevent sticking.
- Place the cutlets on the preheated grill and close the lid.
- Grill for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the cutlets. Flip them only once, as excessive flipping can cause the chicken to lose juiciness.
- Check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the cutlet. The internal temperature should reach 162°F (74°C).
- Once cooked, remove the chicken cutlets from the grill and let them rest, lightly covered, for a few minutes before serving.
Grilling Chicken Cutlets on a Charcoal Grill:
- Prepare the charcoal grill for direct grilling by arranging hot coals on one side of the grill.
- Season the chicken cutlets as desired.
- Place the cutlets directly over the hot coals on the grill.
- Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the cutlets. Adjust the cooking time accordingly to avoid charring or drying out the meat.
- Use tongs to carefully flip the cutlets once, and be mindful of flare-ups caused by dripping fat.
- To create a smoky flavor, consider adding wood chips or chunks to the charcoal for extra aroma. Soak the wood in water before adding it to the coals.
- As with the gas grill method, use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 162°F (74°C).
- Once cooked, remove the chicken cutlets from the grill, cover lighty, and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine or rice wine vinegar
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 tablespoons agave
- 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno (about 1/2 small)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake to blend. Taste and adjust salt or other ingredients to your preference. There will be more dressing than needed for this salad.
Keywords: agave, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes, Chicken, Chicken Breast, Chicken Cutlets, Corn, Fruit, Hot Peppers, Jalapeno, Lime, Main dish salad, Mango, mustard, Red onion, Salad, Tomatoes, Vinegar