Wild Rice & Kale Salad – This tasty main dish salad is a copycat from Cubby’s! It’s loaded with goodies and topped off with a tangy lemon balsamic cilantro dressing you’re bound to love! (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)
Do you ever try to recreate restaurant recipes at home? I don’t very often (I’d rather enjoy it at the restaurant!), but sometimes, there’s something I just can’t stop thinking about and I *have* to try making it at home. This Wild Rice Kale Salad with Chicken is one of those recipes. I tried it a couple years ago at the popular chain Cubby’s when I was visiting family in Utah, and basically haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Now, whenever I’m in town, I always make a trip over to get the big version of this Wild Rice Kale Salad. It’s packed with good-for-you goodies and topped with the most amazing lemon balsamic cilantro dressing that’s light and fresh, and somehow makes all the other goodies taste even better.
It’s the perfect recipe to roll into your New Year recipe rotation! Here’s what’s in it…
HERE’S WHAT I PUT IN MY WILD RICE & KALE SALAD WITH CHICKEN:
KALE. If you haven’t been a kale person in the past, this salad might change your mind. It’s the perfect power-packed base for this wild rice kale salad, and it gets the perfect texture thanks to a little trick I share in the FAQ below!
COOKED CHICKEN. This salad is the perfect way to use leftover chicken, whether grilled, roasted, poached, or rotisserie chicken. (Vegetarian? You can totally skip the chicken–see the FAQ!)
DICED APPLES. Fresh, sweet, crunchy apples make such a nice contrast in this salad. My favorites are Honeycrisp, but you can use whatever apples you love best.
DICED AVOCADO. I’ll put it in or on anything. Creamy avocado is delicious here.
TOASTED ALMONDS. If you can, don’t skip the toasting part! Toasted almonds have a deeper flavor that’s fabulous in this wild rice kale salad. (I put them in a dry pan on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly till they’re toasted.)
DRIED CRANBERRIES. Dried cranberries are like little sweet jewels in this salad! (Whole Foods sells unsweetened ones!) You can also swap in dried cherries or raisins.
LEMON BALSAMIC CILANTRO DRESSING. If that dressing sounds like a mouthful, it is. A mouthful of DELICIOUS! The fresh, bright dressing is light and bright and brings all the other flavors together beautifully.
(IF YOU WANT:) GOAT CHEESE. The original Cubby’s wild rice kale salad is finished with a few crumbles of goat cheese. I’m dairy free, so I’ve never had it with cheese, but if you want to stay true to the original, feel free to add it!)
HERE’S WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS WILD RICE KALE SALAD:
Since this wild rice kale salad has chicken and all sorts of other goodies, it’s largely a main dish salad that can stand on its own. If you want to fill out the meal a bit, we love pairing it with:
A CUP OF SOUP. Soup and salad are the perfect classic combo. Some of our faves are:
- Carrot Ginger Soup (another Cubby’s copycat!)
- Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
GLUTEN-FREE ROSEMARY FOCACCIA. I’ll eat this gluten-free rosemary focaccia with just about anything, let’s be honest here.
FAQ + TIPS & TRICKS FOR PERFECT WILD RICE KALE SALAD WITH CHICKEN.
GIVE IT A MASSAGE. REALLY. I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes a LOT at the idea of massaging a kale salad (1. Who has the time? 2. Isn’t that kind of fussy?), but I’ve really come around. It helps break down the kale a bit so it has a much nicer texture, and also mellows out the flavor a bit. If you’ve got 30-60 seconds (that’s really all it takes), I highly recommend it. (Plus, it majorly reduces the volume – I get 4 cups massaged kale out of 8 cups raw)
HOW DO YOU COOK WILD RICE? I recommend following the directions on your package for best results, but for a wild rice/brown rice blend, I typically use 1/3 cup dry rice (rinsed) + 2/3 cup water, bring to a simmer and cook 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and steam a few minutes before fluffing with a fork. You can also make wild rice in the Instant Pot and freeze extras for later!
CAN I USE SOMETHING BESIDES WILD RICE? Sure! I’ve done quinoa lots of times with great results. (Here’s a great tutorial about how to cook quinoa.) It’s a great way to save a little time since it cooks so much faster.
DON’T LIKE KALE? No worries. Any good leafy green base will do. Feel free to toss in a spring mix, spinach, etc. if that’s what you prefer. I don’t recommend iceberg or romaine for this salad since they don’t hold up very well longer-term.
VEGETARIAN? TRY THIS! You can absolutely leave off the chicken (which is what I do when I don’t have any leftovers to toss in). If you want to fill out the salad with a replacement, I usually add more wild rice + avocado, but you could totally go with another veggie or even some white beans.
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